The Anglican Church has agreed to look at ways same-sex relationships can be part of church life, but will not marry gay couples.
The church's General Synod, held at Waitangi this week, has decided to uphold the "traditional doctrine of marriage" but work towards ways to recognise committed same sex relationships.
In a statement, the church said the Synod recognised the pain to the LGTB community, and apologised unreservedly for the times the church had contributed to that pain.
A working party will now be appointed to look at options for same gender blessings, while mindful gay marriage is still unlawful in some Pacific countries.
The party will report back in 2016, but any changes would take at least four years.
In the meantime, gay couples in a civil union or marriage could be recognised by the church, but not blessed or married.
Archbishop Philip Richardson told Radio NZ yesterday that meant the couple could be "celebrated by the community, they can be prayed for and their marriage acknowledged under law, but recognising that this is not a Christian marriage and nor can it be blessed in that sense."
He said there were two divergent views within the church, including those who held deeply to the view that marriage can only be between a man and a woman.
"I'm committed to the process that we've put in place at this general synod, which is saying that we wish to move towards the ability to bless same committed same sex relationships but that we need to find a way in the context of our church to hold two completely divergent views with their own integrity," he said.
"The church has held to its current teaching and doctrine for hundreds and hundreds of years you don't change that doctrine lightly or overnight.
"We're not prepared to abandon either perspective, either group of people. We are committed to holding everyone in the church."
Earlier this week the Vicar of St Matthew-in-the-City, Reverend Dr Helen Jacobi, had urged the church to move forward by allowing gay marriage and ordination.
"We call today on our leaders to step up, to be without fear and to allow the voice of the Shepherd to call them forward. The time of waiting is over, we will wait no longer," she said on Sunday.