Uniting Church ministers will soon have the right to decide whether or not they would like to conduct same-sex marriage ceremonies.

After their first meeting since the postal survey, the church’s national assembly agreed to give individual ministers the right to decide themselves, according to the ABC.

The decision was discussed at a contentious Sunday morning service at the St Andrews Alphington Fairfield Uniting Church.

“It was a compromise, not going far enough for many and going beyond the pale for others,” said Reverend Alexandra Sangster.

“At points during the debate it seemed impossible. But the decision of the assembly has opened the final official door.”

The 265-member assembly approved a broader definition of marriage between two people, which will now exist alongside the traditional definition of marriage between a man and a woman.

“We accept the diversity in our midst and we are allowing our members the freedom to decide on whether they conduct same-sex marriages or not,” Uniting Church president Diedre Palmer said.

“No minister will have to conduct same-sex marriages if it conflicts with their beliefs.

“We already have many LGBTI members in the Uniting Church… we hope that this will be an opportunity for them to feel more embraced and welcomed by our church.”

Greens Senator Janet Rice said Uniting Church’s move to allow ministers to marry same-sex couples was a great step forward.

“I would like to extend my thanks and congratulations from the Australian Greens,” she said.

“Love is at the heart of Christianity — this decision from the Uniting Church is a reflection of that and will be welcomed by thousands of LGBTI Uniting Church members and the broader community.

“I hope that other faith institutions follow the Uniting Church’s lead and allow two people who love each other to marry, regardless of their gender.”

Same-sex couples will likely be able to start getting married at the Uniting Church before the end of the year.

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