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A majority votes to change the policy in the synod of the big regional German Protestant Church, which claims 2.6 million members.
Same-sex couples will be blessed and given the same status as heterosexual marriages, the Rheinische Evangelische Kirche (Protestant State church in Western Germany) voted in its synod on January 15, 2016.
With a clear majority of votes, the 719 Protestant churches will bless gay marriages and register them as official unions. Past same-sex unofficial church blessings will also be officialised.
The decision leaves the possibility for priests to opt out, but same-sex couples will automatically redirected to other churches to be married.
The decision was criticised by some priests, including Wolfgang Sickinger (from the theologically conservative Evangelischen Sammlung im Rheinland), according to Idea news agency. The clear Biblical teaching on marriage was made invalid “just because the Rheinische Kirchen knows better”, Sickinger said.
The Rheinische Evangelische Kirche has lost 900,000 members since 1975, but still claims to have about 2.6 million members in their churches.
DEBATE IN OTHER PROTESTANT CHURCHES
The decision of this German Protestant denomination almost happened at the same time as last's week key Anglican Primates meeting, after which the historical Biblical doctrine of marriage was reaffirmed, and churches leaving the doctrine, suspended.