The joint synod of Italy's Waldensian and Methodist Protestant churches has, as the denominations' highest governing body, agreed to authorise the blessing of same-sex couples in church under certain conditions.
The Synod president, Marco Bouchard, described the 26 August decision as "a clear and firm step forward that needs to be placed into a context that will be better defined, especially the relationship between churches and homosexual couples".
The synod statement said, "The words and practice of Jesus, as seen in the Gospel, call us to welcome each experience and each choice marked by God's love, freely and consciously chosen."
Before the synod, a group of Waldensians including a member of the Italian parliament, Lucio Malan, took out a paid advertisement in the Protestant weekly newspaper Riforma, warning that same-sex blessings risked splitting the churches, and affecting ecumenical relationships.
But a majority of the two Protestant denominations felt that their action is fulfilling the Gospel message.
Meanwhile, in the USA, a retired California Presbyterian minister, rebuked on charges that she violated her ordination vows by marrying same-sex couples, plans to appeal against a ruling that she said sent contradictory messages about the church's support of gay rights.
"Who does the Presbyterian Church think we are?" said the Rev Jane Adams Spahr, who is a lesbian. "We are they, they are us."
The 27 August 2010 ruling by a court of the Redwoods Presbytery, a church district of the Presbyterian Church (USA) in Napa, California, rebuked Spahr for violating church policy on same-sex marriage by conducting marriage ceremonies for couples between June and November 2008.
Same-sex marriage was already legal in California then. Still, the court commended Spahr for "her prophetic ministry that for 35 years has extended support to 'people who seek the dignity, freedom and respect that they have been denied'".
The court called upon the Presbyterian Church "to re-examine our own fear and ignorance that continues to reject … inclusiveness" and it noted that the denomination's own rules offer "conflicting and even contradictory rules and regulations that are against the Gospel".
With acknowledgments to ENI - www.eni.ch