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Malaysian Methodists bitterly reject UK church’s historic backing of same-sex marriage

Emma Powys Maurice July 6, 2021
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Malaysia Methodist

A Methodist service at a church in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (Syaiful Redzuan/Anadolu Agency/Getty)

The Methodist Church in Malaysia has broken ranks with its British counterpart by stubbornly refusing to perform or support same-sex marriage.

The Methodist Church in Britain made history last week when it voted 254-46 in favour of changing the definition of marriage to a union between “two people” rather than “one man and one woman”.

The momentous decision from Britain’s fourth-largest Christian denomination means same-sex weddings can now be conducted in its churches, which number more than 4,000.

The news was bitterly received in Malaysia, where the Methodist Church’s Council of Bishops issued a statement stressing that it is an autonomous entity and is not bound by the UK.

“Our Lord Jesus affirmed the institution of marriage as it should be between a man and a woman. Heterosexual marriage is God’s created order for humankind, and it is not something based on any culture of the past,” the statement said.

“It is a divine institution meant for all cultures of all times. Same-sex marriage does not find support in the Bible. The Bible is not only unsupportive of same-sex intercourse but it is against any sexual relationship that deviates from the one man-one woman sexual act within the context of marriage.”

Homosexuality is strictly taboo in Malaysia and enforced by corporal punishment and up to 20 years in prison.

Although laws and social attitudes are largely shaped by the official state religion of Islam, approximately 9.2 percent of Malaysians are practising Christians. Of these, around 200,000 people belong to more than Methodist 1,034 congregations, representing the country’s largest Protestant denomination.

In spite of their opposition to same-sex marriage, the Council’s of Bishops’ statement sought to position the Malaysian Methodist Church as welcoming place for people of all sexualities.

“We affirm our love for our neighbours,” it said. “The doors of our hearts and the doors of our churches are open to anyone who will come to be ministered to and be on the way to being a true disciple of Jesus Christ our Lord.”

However, they cautioned that they aren’t so accepting as to allow queer Christians to perform any official functions in the church, saying they consider “the practice of homosexuality to be incompatible with Christian teachings”.

“We believe that individuals who are confused about their sexual identity need the healing and transforming power of God’s grace rather than sex-change operations,” they added.

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