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After 33 years of debate, the Presbyterian Church has voted to change its constitution and allow openly gay people in same-sex relationships to be ordained as ministers.
Just two years ago, the majority of the church's regions voted against ordaining gay candidates.
This year's vote was 205 to 56, with three abstentions. According to The New York Times, 19 of the church's 173 presbyterys switched their votes from no to yes in the last few months.
"All of us are surprised," said the Rev. Gradye Parsons, the church's Stated Clerk, its highest elected official.
He said the change in tune can be attributed to the growing acceptance of gays and lesbians in the United States, and to church members growing tired of the conflict.
"We've been having this conversation for 33 years, and some people are ready to get to the other side of this decision," he said. "Some people are going to celebrate this day, because they've worked for it for a long time, and some people will mourn this day because they think it's a totally different understanding of Scripture than they have."
The Presbyterian Church is the latest in a line of mainline Protestant churches to vote to accept gay clergy members and church leaders, including the United Church of Christ, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and The Episcopal Church.
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