The Church of Scotland has voted in favour of allowing people in same-sex civil partnerships to be called as ministers and deacons.
The decision was made by the General Assembly on the Mound in Edinburgh on Saturday, where the motion was passed by 309 votes in favour and 182 against.
The outcome is the culmination of years of deliberation within the Church.
The move was endorsed by 31 of the Church’s presbyteries, while 14 opposed it.
It means the Church has adopted a position which maintains a traditional view of marriage between a man and woman, but allows individual congregations to “opt out” if they wish to appoint a minister or a deacon in a same-sex civil partnership.
Because the debate predates the legalisation of gay marriage, the proposed change mentions only civil partnerships, not same-sex marriages.
The Assembly will be asked on Thursday to consider amending the new Church law to include ministers in same-sex marriages.
A Free Church spokesman said: “We are very sorry to hear the result of the vote. If the national Church continues to follow the path of political correctness rather than the Bible, it can be no surprise that the Church of Scotland is jeopardising its own future.
“Thousands of people will be considering whether they can remain in fellowship with, and also contribute financially to the work of, a denomination which is clearly going against the word of God on a number of issues.”