The Protestant State church in Western Germany, the second largest denomination in the country with more than 700 parishes, has overwhelmingly voted to allow same-sex marriage and register them as official unions.
Rheinische Evangelische Kirche, which claims to represent 2.6 million members, said in a press release posted on its website that the denomination has voted "with a very large majority" to recognize the "equality of homosexual and heterosexual couples."
The denomination will also recognize and legitimize marriage ceremonies held prior to the decision, it said, according to Christian Today.
During the general synod, some clergy declared they do not believe gay unions are compatible with the Bible, and the denomination will allow them to refuse to conduct same-sex marriage. However, the gay couple will then be sent to another church where the priest is willing to perform that ceremony.
According to Evangelical Focus, the Rheinische Evangelische Kirche has lost 900,000 members since 1975, but it still claims to have 2.6 million members in their churches.
Last year, the biggest Protestant denomination in France, Eglise Protestant Unie de France, took a similar decision.
The National Council of Evangelicals of France reacted to the decision taken by the Reformed and Lutheran Church, calling it "questionable."
"The decision is promoting cheap Grace which is far away from the Gospel of Jesus Christ and His demands regarding the ethics of life," it said.
Archbishops of the worldwide Anglican Communion recently voted to temporarily suspend the U.S. Episcopal Church from key decision-making positions after it endorsed same-sex marriage.
"The traditional doctrine of the church in view of the teaching of Scripture, upholds marriage as between a man and a woman in faithful, lifelong union," the Communion said in a statement. "The majority of those gathered reaffirm this teaching."
Evangelist Franklin Graham praised the Communion's decision.
"They [Episcopal Church in the U.S.] deserve to be called out for this — it is wrong and is against what Almighty God clearly teaches in His Word," wrote Graham, who heads the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, in a Facebook post. "I hope this will cause the Episcopal Church here in America to realize the seriousness of the steps they've taken contrary to the Bible and cause them to turn back to following what God's Word tells us."