The US-based Mormon Church has repealed rules banning the baptism of children of gay parents. But it still considers same-sex marriage as a "serious transgression."
The Mormon Church on Thursday announced an unexpected change in its policy toward LGBTQ people, saying it would now allow children of same-sex parents to be baptized and no longer considered such relationships as "apostasy."
The new policy, described as "effective immediately" in a statement, repeals rules laid out in November 2015 that had prohibited baptisms for children living with gay parents until the children reached 18 and disavowed same-sex relationships. Under the new rules, such children can be blessed as a baby and baptized at the age of 8.
The changed doctrine was decided upon by the church's top leadership body, called the First Presidency, after what the statement called "fervent, united prayer to understand the will of the Lord on these matters."
"We want to reduce the hate and contention so common today," the statement said, but added that "[t]hese changes do not represent a shift in church doctrine related to marriage or the commandments of God in regard to chastity and morality."
Still a sin
Reflecting this continued conservatism, the church said it still considered same-sex marriage "to be a serious transgression" despite no longer classing such unions as "apostasy" — a term the Mormon religion uses to describe acts publicly going against guidance from church leaders. Apostates are seen as having renounced their faith and can be kicked out of the church.
LGBTQ church members have called the change in policy an important step forward for the faith.
The Mormon Church, also know as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is based in Salt Lake City in the western US state of Utah. Founded in 1830, it has 6.6 million members in the US and 16 million members worldwide, according to church statistics. Membership growth has declined in recent years.
The church famously advocated polygamy in its early years, but this was finally and officially disavowed by the central church in 1904, though some fundamentalist groups have been known to continue the practice.
tj/jil (dpa, AP)