The URC’s General Assembly voted in favour of the resolution by 240 to 21 votes.

The decision whether to hold gay marriages will be left to each individual church within the denomination.

With 56,000 members in Britain, the URC is the largest church to change its rules on the subject of gay marriage. It joins the Quakers and independent groups, such as Steve Chalke’s Oasis churches, in allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry. 

The URC’s decision came just hours before the Church of England’s ‘shared conversations’ on sexuality began. A statement released following the two days of talks, which were conducted behind closed doors, said General Synod members ‘have listened and been heard as they have reflected together on scripture and a changing culture in relation to their understanding of human sexuality’.

The conversations aimed to avoid a split in the Church over gay marriage and could lead to a more formal discussion at a future synod.

In related news, attendees of the Methodist Church’s conference have voted to reassess its position on same-sex marriage. Its current definition says that marriage is ‘intended to be a permanent relationship between a man and a woman.’

But Rev Graham Carter said that there was ‘a clear mandate’ to ‘revisit’ the Church’s definition of marriage through ‘a theological reexamination’.

A two-year task group will now explore how this process takes shape before it reports back to the 2018 conference.