ATLANTA (AP) – A committee of United Church of Christ representatives approved a resolution Sunday that moves the church one step closer to becoming the largest Christian denomination to endorse same-sex marriage.

The resolution supported by the UCC’s president, John H. Thomas, drew overwhelming support and was recommended for approval when the General Synod votes on it Monday.

It would specify that bisexual and transgender persons merit the same support and protections as gays and lesbians. The wording was revised Sunday, however, to included the “recognition that this resolution may not reflect the views or current understanding of all bodies within the gathered church.”

UCC churches are autonomous, meaning the leadership does not create policy for its more than 5,700 congregations.

Still, members of the committee acknowledged Sunday that some congregations could pull out of the church entirely if the same-sex resolution is approved as written.

“There are churches and individuals who will be deeply, deeply wounded by this decision,” said committee member Emily Jean Gilbert of Allentown, Pa. “I ask you to treat these people with respect and honor their feelings.”

Sunday’s debate and votes continued the church’s tradition of support for gays and lesbians.

In the early 1970s, the UCC became the first major Christian denomination to ordain an openly gay minister. The church declared itself to be “open and affirming” of gays and lesbians 20 years ago.

In addition to the same-sex resolution, which was submitted by the Southern California and Nevada Conference, the committee of about 50 church representatives voted against adopting a resolution declaring marriage to be between one man and one woman.

Some argued the same-sex resolution contradicts Biblical instructions.

“Throughout the Scriptures, marriage is always defined as being between one man and one woman,” said the Rev. Brett Becker, pastor of St. Paul United Church of Christ in Cibolo, Texas.

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