The Episcopal Church has approved transgender clergy and a blessing rite for gay and lesbian couples who wish to wed.

The Church deliberated the proposals at its General Convention, which started Thursday in Indianapolis.

At its last convention in 2009, the church approved language encouraging bishops in states where gay nuptials are legal to “provide generous pastoral response” to gay couples, and okayed the creation of the rite approved on Tuesday.

The rite, titled The Witnessing and Blessing of a Lifelong Covenant, is not a sacrament and does not confer “marriage.” The Episcopal Church defines marriage as a heterosexual union.

On Monday, the Church's House of Deputies approved a proposal allowing transgender men and women the right to become ministers.

The measure adds “gender identity and expression” to the Church's “non-discrimination canons.” That is, transgender people could not be excluded as candidates to ministry.

The move comes sixteen years after the 2-million member Episcopal Church approved the ordination of openly gay clergy and nine years after it approved its first openly gay bishop, the Rev. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire.

Robinson's ordination created a deep divide between the 77 million-member Anglican Communion and its more liberal American branch, the Episcopal Church. The elevation of a second openly gay bishop, Assistant Bishop Mary D. Glasspool, last year further divided the two churches.

(Related: Gene Robinson to retire in 2013.)