The General Assembly of the Church of Scotland on Saturday voted to allow gay ministers who are married to continue to serve.

With a 339-215 vote, commissioners gathering in Edinburgh approved the change.

However, gay and lesbian couples remain barred from marrying in the church. A debate on whether to support such unions is expected next year.

“We had a debate which made very clear that we were not interfering with our theological definition of marriage and were not going to the place where ministers or deacons could themselves be conducting same-sex marriages,” the Very Rev John Chambers said.

LGBT rights activists praised the move.

“Today's result is great news for the Kirk and a progressive move forward,” said Stonewall Scotland Director Colin Macfarlane. “Empowering ministers to live their lives with honesty and integrity sends a powerful signal to faith communities and society as a whole.”