The nation's largest Lutheran denomination, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, has decided to take a more liberal position on homosexuality.
Delegates of the church are meeting at a conference in Minneapolis, Minn., this week.
On Wednesday, the delegates voted in favor of a statement that acknowledges there are "differing views on homosexuality." The statement goes on to say the denomination is capable of staying together, despite conflicting opinions on what the Bible teaches about homosexuality.
The denomination is scheduled to vote Friday on whether to allow homosexuals in committed relationships to serve as clergy.
"For us, this isn't about sex," said Ryan Schwarz, a lay leader of a conservative group within the church that opposes the gay clergy. "It is a matter of the authority of the Word. The entire expanse of the Bible witnesses to God's plan ... which is the lifelong marriage of a man and a woman."
But members of the church who support the proposal say they aren't going against what the Bible teaches.
"There's no question about the authority of Scripture" in the Lutheran Church, said Phil Soucy of Lutherans Concerned, a pro-gay-rights group. "But we certainly can debate the interpretation of Scripture. ... The very idea that questioning someone else's interpretation of Scripture constitutes an assault on the authority of Scripture is nonsense."
Many church members believe the final vote will be close.