The Church of Scotland has voted to lift a ban which barred congregations from appointing openly-gay ministers.

The move, however, only affects gay ministers who were already ordained before the ban was imposed in May 2009. They are now allowed to apply for positions with congregations.

The issue of future ordinations of gay clergy remains in limbo until a report on the matter is finalised, which is only expected to be debated in two years’ time.

Delegates at the Church of Scotland’s General Assembly voted 351 to 294 votes in favour of lifting the ban following a six hour debate on Monday in Edinburgh.

“I am conscious that this has been a matter of contention for some time and many people on all sides hold their beliefs very firmly. It is, of course, too early to say what the impact of today’s decision will be,” Rev. David Arnott, Moderator of the General Assembly, told journalists.

“The Church has agreed to embark on a path that will allow us in two years’ time to consider lifting the moratorium on acceptance for training and ordination of people in a same-sex relationship.”

The ordination of gay clergy is a divisive one, with thousands of members of the Church threatening to quit if this is allowed.

The ban was first imposed two years ago when openly gay Scott Rennie was appointed as minister by a congregation in Aberdeen. He was allowed to keep his position but other gay clergy were barred from bring ordained.

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