Despite not allowing same-sex marriage, same-sex spouses working at any general agency of the United Methodist Church will be entitled to state benefits.

The decision was made at a meeting last week by the church’s Judicial Council in Little Rock Arkansas, and takes into effect a decision from October which extended the definition of the word “spouse” to include same-sex spouses and partners.

The church is split on same-sex unions, with many United Methodist pastors threatening to break the rules and officiate at same-sex weddings.

The change of policy does not extend benefits to same-sex spouses or partners of those who live in states which do not recognise same-sex marriage.

As well as the benefits to same-sex partners and spouses, the church decided that candidates for clergy should be allowed to have a job interview regardless of sexual orientation.

The UMC does not currently allow noncelibate gay clergy.