The Presbyterian Church U.S.A. has officially cleared the way for openly gay men and women in same-sex relationships to be ordained as clergy.

The new policy goes into effect today after the church’s assembly and 97 of the denomination’s 173 presbyteries approved the change within the church’s constitution. The move represents a major change in the history of the 2.8 million-member Presbyterian denomination.

“The new policy for the Presbyterian Church becomes official on Sunday and a number of churches will mark the moment with prayer and rejoicing in their Sunday services,” according to a press release from the members of the More Light Presbyterians.

During the past several years, the debate has rambled on with a majority of church members previously rejecting changes that would allow noncelibate gays and lesbians to be ordained.

More than 100 of the 11,000 Presbyterian churches in the United States have already left the denomination over the issue.

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