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The largest churches in Northern Ireland have said they’re not prepared to carry out same-sex marriages

Emma Powys Maurice October 23, 2019

Same-sex marriage is now legal in Northern Ireland, but few of the country's churches will celebrate the unions (Thomas Samson/AFP/Getty)

Three of the largest churches in Northern Ireland have explicitly stated they will not perform same-sex marriage ceremonies after marriage equality was passed yesterday.

As Northern Ireland celebrated the new legislation, The Church of Ireland, the Methodist Church of Ireland and the Presbyterian Church in Ireland confirmed that they will only perform marriages between a man and a woman.

A Church of Ireland spokesperson told the Belfast Telegraph: “The Church of Ireland affirms, according to our Lord’s teaching, that marriage is in its purpose a union permanent and lifelong, for better or worse, till death do them part, of one man with one woman, to the exclusion of all others on either side.”

When approached by the paper, the Catholic Church expressed its concerns at the “redefinition” of marriage in Northern Ireland, but did not comment directly on whether it would hold same-sex wedding ceremonies.

Thousands of people take part in a Belfast march and rally calling for legislation for same-sex marriage (Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)

The Free Presbyterian Church of Ulster offered no comment, although it has previously expressed its opposition to same-sex marriage.

However, All Souls Church, a Presbyterian Church based in south Belfast, confirmed it will provide the opportunity for same-sex couples to have their marriage solemnised.

The Church’s moderator, Reverend Chris Hudson, warmly welcomed the new legislation on same-sex marriages and confirmed that he personally will host the weddings.

His is one of a few religious denominations in the UK to permit same-sex marriages, including the Scottish Episcopal church, the Quakers, the Unitarian church, Liberal Judaism and The United Reformed Church.

Jamie Wallace and Ian McDowall lighting a candle together.
Jamie Wallace and Ian McDowall lit a candle during their wedding ceremony, which was featured on Songs of Praise (BBC)

The United Reformed Church recently hosted an episode of Songs of Praise in which a gay couple was married in one of its churches. The show received hundreds of congratulations, alongside hundreds of complaints.

The UK Methodist Church and Church of Scotland are among other religious groups reviewing changes that would open the door to permitting same-sex weddings.

The first same-sex marriages in Northern Ireland will take place on Valentine’s Day 2020.

More: church weddings, Equal Marriage Northern Ireland, Northern Ireland, same sex marriage, united reformed church

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