The Presbyterian Church in Ireland has voted to adopt a new policy that prevents anyone in a same-sex relationship from being a full member of the church, and keeps their children from baptism, according to BBC News.
The vote comes in the wake of the church breaking ties with the Church of Scotland due to its more liberal attitude to same-sex relationships, as it moves closer to allowing clergy to marry same-sex couples.
There was a lengthy debate on Friday morning at the annual meeting in Belfast of the decision-making General Assembly. The debate lasted more than an hour and more than 20 people spoke. The Reverend Cheryl Meban, a chaplain at Ulster University, urged the Church not to adopt the policy. The Rev John Dunlop, a former moderator, said it was a "highly sensitive" issue and cautioned against adopting any formal rules on the matter. However, another former moderator, the Rev Stafford Carson, argued that the Church needed to make its position clear that it was not in favour of same-sex relationships.
"In light of our understanding of Scripture and the Church's understanding of a credible profession of faith, it is clear that same-sex couples are not eligible for communicant membership nor are they qualified to receive baptism for their children," the policy states.
In a response to the vote from the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, Corrymeela, a peace and reconciliation organization based in Northern Ireland, affirmed the LGBT community as "a gift of God to our society."
"Today we are aware of the pain and hurt caused to many people as a result of the language, tone and outcome of the decision," the statement reads. "We assert: You are dignified, welcome and safe. Your faith, families and relationships are honoured. We say this not in spite of our own belief in faith and reconciliation but because of it."
The Presbyterian Church has more than 220,000 members in Northern Ireland and the Republic.
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