The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America decided today to join the Episcopal Church and United Church of Christ in allowing the ordination of non-celibate gays and lesbians. According to the Associated Press:

Leaders of the nation’s largest Lutheran church voted Friday to allow sexually active gays and lesbians in committed relationships to serve as clergy.

Gays and lesbians are currently allowed to serve as ministers in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America only if they remain celibate. The proposal to change that passed with 68 percent approval.

At 4.7 million members and about 10,000 congregations in the United States, the ELCA is one of the largest yet to take a more gay-friendly stance on clergy.

The final decision on whether to hire gay clergy in committed relationships will lie with individual congregations.

Some critics of the proposal have predicted its passage could cause individual congregations to split off from the ELCA, as has been the case with other Christian denominations, including the Episcopal Church.

Two predictions: 1) Membership loss in the ELCA, which has already cost the denomination more than 10% of its membership and over 700 congregations since it was formed in 1987, and which has accelerated since 2002, will get even worse in the years ahead; and 2) there will be deafening silence after the president of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod speaks tomorrow.

UPDATE: According to the Living Church Foundation, they’ve also approved same-sex blessings.