The Episcopal Church just became the largest denomination to sanction same-sex unions, a decision made at its national convention in Indianapolis.
While the move stopped short of endorsing same-sex marriage, it is a formal acceptance of homosexual couples in the church.
Episcopal Church leaders, including Doug McCaleb of Miami's Trinity Cathedral, said what they approved is a blessing of same-sex unions. They are careful not to call it marriage.
"Marriage is a legal decision and done by the states. The church simply said, 'We believe that two people who are committed to one another have the right to have a blessing in the church, as other people do, as well," McCaleb said.
Semantics aside, it may not be legally binding, but the service would look a lot like a church wedding, which could offend those who believe scripture does not support same-sex unions.
"The school of biblical interpretation is up to great discussion constantly," McCaleb said.
The new policy came after the church has already said homosexual Episcopalians could be ordained as priests and nine years after it elected an openly gay priest as a bishop.
That explains why some priests at the national convention argued that people who do not support homosexuals in a house of worship probably left the Episcopal Church a long time ago.
"'The Episcopal Church welcomes you.' That's kind of the motto. You see the blue and red signs outside. There's not an asterisk there. It doesn't say, 'The Episcopal Church welcomes you if…'" McCaleb said.
Each bishop will have discretion on how to implement the blessing of the unions in practice in his or her diocese. It does not take effect until Dec. 2.
This will be a trial run; the Church said it will decide whether to make the blessing service permanent in three years. The church has also decided to allow transgender people to be ordained as priests.