MARION, IL (KFVS) - The definition of marriage could change in the largest Presbyterian denomination in the U.S. impacting almost 2 million church-goers across the country.
On Thursday, the U.S. Presbyterian Church voted to allow pastors to perform gay marriages in their congregations effective immediately. With just two words, the meaning of marriage could be rewritten to read, "two people," instead of "between a man and a woman."
It's a historic vote, which a local pastor said could upset some of his members, but hopes it will only bring them closer together.
Pastor Wade Halva said everyone deserves to have the same rights.
But he said the challenge for him is getting the members of the church at First Presbyterian Church in Marion, Illinois to feel the same.
"I think if we focus on what we do together instead of where we are different we may do a lot better," Pastor Halva said.
Come Sunday, his years of experience will be put to the test as he will have try to explain the change and what this means for the 80 members moving forward.
"The reality for us is that the process is still the same, if a couple wants to be married they'll ask me and we will talk with the session and we will make a decision based on what god is leading us to do," he said.
He worries about the differences in opinion, but said this is also a time to celebrate.
The church's congregation includes same-sex couples, who will now be able to exchange vows in their own church. Something that didn't change along with the state of Illinois' definition of marriage less than three weeks ago.
"I think the thing that people should take home is to visit their local Presbyterian congregation and see if they hear god speaking and its work and its words to them and if they want to be a part of it," he said.
Pastor Halva said this isn't just a debate in the Presbyterian Church, but in the Methodist church too and that this decision could influence other Christian groups.
The definition of marriage, passed with 71 percent, but still has to gain majority approval from local branches before it takes effect.