The Lutheran Church of Norway has voted in favor of allowing members in same-sex partnerships to serve in ordained ministry.
The 50-34 vote on Friday came near the end of a difficult week of debate on the issue during the church body's General Synod, held last Tuesday to Saturday.
The Church of Norway, to which 83 percent of Norwegians are members, remains deeply divided over homosexuality, with many feeling that the acceptance of homosexuals as clergy goes against Scripture.
Last Friday's compromise vote was a testimony of the lack of clear consensus over homosexuality within the state church of Norway.
General Synods in 1995 and 1997 had established general guidelines that members living in registered same-sex partners were allowed to hold some positions in the church body, but not positions of ordained ministry.
In September, however, the Church of Norway's National Council told the General Synod, the highest decision-making body, that the split on homosexuality was so close that it now found it "difficult" to uphold earlier Synod decisions maintaining an outright ban and therefore recommended that general guidelines on appointments no longer be issued from the center to bishops or appointing bodies.
This, ultimately, led to last Friday's vote in favor of admitting homosexuals to ordained ministry.
Reactions to the vote remain mixed. Marit Tingelstad, head of the Bishop's Council for southeastern Norway's Hamar district, told Norwegian radio network NRK: "This will create peace in the Church, and security for homosexual clergy."
Bishop Ole D Hagesaeter of the Bjoergvin district was quoted by the International Herald Tribune as saying, "This is a sad day for the Church. It will be a splitting factor and lead to many feeling homeless in the Church."
While the long-standing absolute ban on employing homosexuals in the clergy has been lifted, the ultimate decision on whether or not to appoint them has been left for individual bishops to make.