The Church of Scotland has voted in favor of allowing gay ministers into the clergy.
The decision to allow actively gay men and women to become ministers allows liberal parishes to opt out of Church policy that the only appropriate expression of sexual activity should be in a marriage between a man and woman, Australia's ABC reported.
However, at the same time as it opened the way for gay clergy, the General Assembly of the Kirk, as the church is known, pledged its commitment to the "current doctrine and practice in relation to human sexuality."
While Scottish gay rights campaigners praised the move, the Free Church of Scotland criticized it as "a fudge, hedged by get-out clauses and obscured in a procedural maze."
A spokesman for the Free Church, which split from the Church of Scotland in the 19th century, said.
"The winning motion says that it affirms the historic doctrine of the Church, which is of course opposed to the ordination of ministers in same-sex relationships. Yet at the same time the motion permits congregations to call ministers in same-sex relationships. The whole thing is totally confusing."
After six hours of what UPI described as "heated debate," Lorna Hood, moderator of the General Assembly, said:
"This is a massive vote for the peace and unity of the Church."
The plan, which does not take effect until 2015, follows years of debate between the liberal and traditionalist sides of the church.
The assembly has allowed a year in which to re-analyze the decision and draft new regulations in case it implements the change.
The proposal, put forward by the Very Reverend Albert Bogle, was carried with 340 votes in favor to 282 against.
It puts the Kirk at odds with the Church of England, which allows bishops to be gay, but only if celibate.