Methodist Church Conference commends proposals to allow same-sex marriages

(Photo: Methodist Church)

The Methodist Church in Britain has moved a step closer to allowing same-sex marriages in its chapels.  

The Church's annual Conference, meeting in Birmingham this week, has commended the report "God in Love Unites Us" for consideration by regional synods. 

The report departs considerably from the Church's current position on marriage in proposing that Methodist ministers be allowed to conduct same-sex marriage ceremonies.

The recommendations include drawing up new liturgy to offer prayers for when marriages end in divorce and, controversially, also suggest that celibacy before marriage is no longer a requirement by proposing that churches can "offer thanks for and bless" cohabiting couples who are not married. 

Specifically, Resolution 10/8 said: "The Conference consents in principle to the marriage of same-sex couples on Methodist premises throughout the Connexion and by Methodist ministers, probationers or members in so far as the law of the relevant jurisdiction permits or requires and subject to compliance with such further requirements, if any, as that law imposes."

It was carried 247 for to 48 against. 

After being commended by Conference, the proposals will now be debated in the District Synods in the coming months, with final resolutions on the proposals to be put before the Conference when it next meets in summer 2020.

Conference President, the Rev Dr Barbara Glasson, said: "The debate was full of grace and prayerful thought. There were many personal, often painful, stories shared and representatives listened with great care and attention.

"My prayer is that this spirit of generosity and love shown today will be reflected as the proposals are discussed across the Church."

Any change in the Church's position on sexuality is strongly opposed by evangelicals.  The Methodist Evangelicals Together network has issued repeated calls to the Methodist Church to retain its traditional understanding on marriage and sexuality.

The current Methodist Church position on marriage is set out in Standing Order 011A (1), which states: "The Methodist Church believes that marriage is a gift of God and that it is God's intention that a marriage should be a life-long union in body, mind and spirit of one man and one woman."

MET said: "The report represents a watershed moment in the life of the Methodist Church in Britain. If its resolutions are adopted, the approach of the Methodist Church to marriage and relationships will be fundamentally changed," it said.

"The Church is called to remain faithful to the biblical teaching on sexuality, and yet the revisions to the Church's view proposed in the report radically change this teaching in a number of ways."