The Presbyterian Church in Ireland has voted in a new policy that prevents anyone in a same-sex relationship from becoming a full member, and keeps their children from baptism.
Today’s vote at the decision-making General Assembly in Belfast comes after it voted on Wednesday for the Church to cut ties from the Church of Scotland over its more progressive stance on the issue, as it moves closer to allowing clergy to marry same-sex couples.
The vote to keep same-sex couples from full membership was hotly debated, lasting over an hour with more than 20 people speaking, the BBC reports. Several spoke out against the proposal, including Rev. Cheryl Meban, a chaplain at Ulster University, and Rev. John Dunlop, a former moderator who called the the issue “highly sensitive.”
Others, like Rev. Stafford Carson, another former moderator, said it was important for the Church to express its objection to same-sex relationships.
The Church has stressed that its exclusion of full membership doesn’t mean those in same-sex relationships can’t attend Church, but they will not be treated equally.
“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 reads.
“We believe that their outward conduct and lifestyle is at variance with a life of obedience to Christ,” The Church said of its LGB members.
A motion to shelve the report was defeated in a vote by show of hands.
The Presbyterian Church is the largest Presbyterian denomination in Ireland and Northern Ireland, with more than 220,000 members.
Marriage equality came to Scotland in 2014 and to Ireland in 2015. Same-sex marriage are still not recognized in Northern Ireland.