The largest Protestant Church in Belgium has voted to allow openly gay and lesbian people to become clergy.
The United Protestant Church of Belgium had already allowed female ordination for several years and for priests to bless same-sex couples when they marry but until now being gay had been a barrier to ordination.
Delegates to the church’s Synod debated the issue and voted to send a recommendation to all United Protestant Church of Belgium congregations to let them know the change in policy.
‘I hope that everyone realizes that we are talking about human beings like you and me,’ church president Steven Fuite told the Synod, according to Welfare Society Territory.
‘I am proud of my church as well as the openness and respect in which the hearing took place,’ he later told La Lire.
The United Protestant Church of Belgium was created in 1978 through the merger of three Protestant denominations – the Protestant Evangelical Church, the Reformed Church and the Reformed Churches.
Since allowing women into the priesthood they now make up around 15% of the church’s pastoral body.
Belgium became the second country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage in 2003 and homosexuality has been legal within its borders since 1795.
Belgian voters elected openly gay Elio Di Rupo as their Prime Minister in 2011 – making him only the second openly gay person to lead a country after Iceland’s Prime Minister JÃ³hanna SigurÃ°ardÃ³ttir.