Presbyterians clear way for gay clergy

The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has struck down a requirement that unmarried clergy remain celibate, removing a key barrier for gays and lesbians who want to be ordained.

Presbyterians endorsed the new policy last year at their general assembly, but needed ratification from the majority of its 173 presbyteries, or regional districts. The Presbytery of the Twin Cities Area in Minneapolis provided the key 87th vote Tuesday night.

Differences over the Bible and homosexuality have divided mainline Protestant groups nationwide and around the world.

A small number of Presbyterian churches broke away from the denomination ahead of Tuesday’s vote, but no major split is expected right away.

The new policy takes effect July 10.

The Presbyterian Church is based in Louisville, Kentucky and has about 2 million members.