The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) ratified an amendment to the church’s constitution Tuesday that removes a provision flatly prohibiting the ordination of openly gay men and women in same sex relationships.

"Clearly what has changed is that persons in a same-gender relationship can be considered for ordination,” General Assembly Stated Clerk Gradye Parsons told the Presbyterian News Service.

"The gist of our ordination standards is that officers submit to the Lordship of Jesus Christ and ordaining bodies (presbyteries for ministers and sessions for elders and deacons) have the responsibility to examine each candidate individually to ensure that all candidates do so with no blanket judgments."

Just two years ago, the 2.8 million-member church voted against ordaining openly gay and lesbian candidates. The constitution required clergy to live "in fidelity within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman, or chastity in singleness."

The change in the constitution will go into effect in July 2011.

"As Presbyterians, we believe that the only way we will find God’s will for the church is by seeking it together ― worshiping, praying, thinking, and serving alongside one another," the leaders of the church wrote in a churchwide letter, noting that "some will rejoice while others will weep" because of the change.

The Presbyterian Church in America, the second largest Presbyterian denomination, still prohibits the ordination of women and openly gay candidates.

Image courtesy of Daniel Case