Chairman of the Council of the Protestant Church in Germany, Nikolaus Schneider, said that while "the marriage of man and woman with children" was the desirable model, the qualities of union, commitment, equality and mutual care were more important.
He also pointed out that marriage was not a sacrament in the Protestant Church, but rather - to quote Martin Luther - "a worldly thing."
But the Catholic Church responded on Thursday with a caution against placing marriage and family on equal footing with "other lifestyles." Alois Glück, president of the Central Committee of German Catholics, said the comments made by the Protestant Church gave the impression that "everything is possible and somehow equal."
The 160-page document published by the Protestant Church is titled "Between autonomy and dependence - strengthening family as a reliable community." It acknowledges homosexual couples and unmarried parents as worthy of respect and inclusion in the church.
The document is the result of consulting process over a period of three years led by former Social Democrat Family Minister Christine Bergmann. While Schneider presented the new outlook as part of an official document, he maintained it should be viewed as "direction" rather than an order.
While the document described the "ideal" scenario as a man and woman marrying with the intention of having children, it acknowledged that things didn't always work out that way - and that this did not necessarily represent a "deficiency."