29 local synods, out of thirty, leant support to same-sex marriage resolutions ahead of Methodist Conference
Quakers have said that they are ‘overjoyed’ that the Methodist Church in Great Britain has decided to allow same-sex marriages. The church voted overwhelmingly to change the definition of marriage at the Methodist Conference last week by 254 to 46.
The move makes it the largest religious denomination in Britain to permit same-sex marriages. Writing on the Quakers in Britain Facebook page, Britain Yearly Meeting (BYM) noted that the church joins ‘a small but growing group of faith groups who offer same-sex marriage, including Quakers in Britain, the United Reformed Church (URC) and Liberal Judaism’.
Chloe Scaling and Mike Jones of Quaker Gender and Sexual Diversity Community (QGSDC) said they send their ‘warm congratulations to Methodists as they make this prayerfully-considered step. While Quakers, Unitarians, URC, the Scottish Episcopal Church and now the Methodists have embraced equal marriage, we know that LGBTQI Christians contribute hugely to Anglican, Catholic and evangelical worshipping communities, and we continue to support full recognition of marriage for all Christian couples, in denominations burdened by inequality’.
‘Through the global pandemic and, as the climate emergency worsens, societies all over the world are facing times of increasing uncertainty and fear. It is in such times that the rights of minorities are challenged. In Britain and elsewhere in Europe we are already witnessing attempts to roll back the newly-won freedoms of LGBT+ people. So the decision by Methodists to move ahead with equal marriage will encourage Friends not to let up on working for justice and equality for all.’
The Methodist Church is Britain’s fourth-largest Christian denomination with about 164,000 members across more than 4,000 churches.
Ministers will not be forced to conduct the weddings, due to ‘freedom of conscience clauses’. Church officials hope the first same-sex weddings in Methodist chapels will take place in the autumn.
Sam McBratney, chair of the Dignity and Worth campaign group, said it was a ‘momentous step on the road to justice’ after many years of ‘painful conversations’.
‘Some of us have been praying for this day to come for decades, and can hardly believe it is now here,’ he said. Carolyn Lawrence, a former vice-president of the Methodist Conference, warned there was a ‘significant minority’ of Methodists who were ‘planning on leaving or resigning their membership’ as a result of the vote.
The Methodist Church now holds a dual definition of marriage in what is thought to be an attempt to protect ministers from discrimination charges if they refuse to marry same-sex couples. One position says ‘marriage can only be between a man and a woman’ and the other that ‘marriage can be between any two people’.
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