UK Methodist Church overwhelmingly votes to move towards same-sex unions
The UK’s Methodist Church has taken a step closer to embracing equal marriage, after members overwhelmingly backed a measure that opens the door to same-sex unions.
On Wednesday (July 3), church members at the Methodist Conference in Birmingham voted overwhelmingly in favour of a policy that could lead to the church embracing same-sex unions.
Methodist Church ‘consents in principle’ to same-sex unions
The motion, which passed by 247 votes to 48, “consents in principle to the marriage of same-sex couples on Methodist premises… and by Methodist ministers, probationers or members.”
The vote does not automatically mean same-sex weddings are permitted, however, as the proposal will require a second vote at the July 2020 conference.
The Methodist Church is the UK’s fourth-largest Christian denomination, with around 180,000 members.
Dignity & Worth, a pro-LGBT group within the Methodist Church, has backed plans that would allow individual Methodist communities to decide whether to permit same-sex unions or not.
The group said in a blog: “[We] understand the desire of some in our movement to want our Church to move completely and unequivocally to affirming LGBTQI+ relationships, including marriage, such a position would alienate a substantial number in our churches and would, in effect, be disingenuous.
“We are a diverse Church and need to become more comfortable with that reality.”
Dignity & Worth added that if equal marriage is agreed in 2020, “our work will then turn to encouraging and equipping local church councils to register for same-sex marriages as soon as possible.
“That will involve more care-filled conversations and decisions at a local level with people.”
Few religious groups permit same-sex unions
Although England, Wales and Scotland permit religious same-sex unions in theory, nearly all of the largest religious denominations continue to ban same-sex unions from taking place.
A number of smaller inclusive church groups have embraced equality, however, including the Scottish Episcopal church, the Quakers and the United Reformed church.
The Church of England continues to reject same-sex unions despite pleas from LGBT+ members, with Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby recently attracting anger for barring gay spouses from an upcoming global Anglican conference.
Welby has also previously handed rebukes to the US and Scottish churches for embracing same-sex weddings.
Permitting same-sex marriage in Church of England parishes would require a change in the law, as the 2013 Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act explicitly barred the Church of England and the Church in Wales from conducting same-sex marriages as part of a ‘quadruple lock’ to appease religious opponents of same-sex marriage.