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Methodist church to permit same-sex marriage after 'historic' vote

A vote at the Methodist conference this week changed the definition of marriage to be "a lifelong union in body, mind, and spirit of two people who freely enter it."

Methodist church to permit same-sex marriage after 'historic' vote
Representative Image Source: Getty Images/Hinterhaus Productions

On Wednesday, the Methodist Church became the largest religious denomination in Britain to permit same-sex marriages after a vote to change the definition of marriage overwhelmingly passed by 254 in favor with 46 against. According to The Guardian, this move puts the Methodist Church — Britain's fourth-largest Christian denomination with about 164k members across over 4000 churches — at odds with the Church of England which does not welcome same-sex marriages. Freedom of conscience clauses will allow ministers to opt-out of conducting such weddings if they oppose the move.



 

Rev Sonia Hicks, newly elected as the Methodists' first Black female president, said the vote was a "historic day for our church" and urged people "to support each other respecting our differences." Meanwhile, according to BBC, Rev Sam McBratney — chair of the Dignity and Worth campaign group — called it 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. "We are so grateful to our fellow Methodists for taking this courageous step to recognize and affirm the value and worth of LGBTQ+ relationships. We reassure those who do not support this move that we want to continue to work and worship with you in the Church we all love."



 

The vote at the Methodist conference this week changed the definition of marriage to be "a lifelong union in body, mind, and spirit of two people who freely enter it." The conference also voted to recognize, accept, and celebrate the love and commitment of unmarried cohabiting couples. Now, church officials hope the first same-sex weddings in Methodist chapels will take place in the autumn. Ben Riley and Jason McMahon, a same-sex couple who have been together for 12 years, might be one of the first to do so. They've been putting off marriage all these years as they want to have a church wedding.



 

The church's latest decision "means so much," said Riley, adding that they now hope to marry in their local Methodist church in Preston. McMahon, who is training to be a Methodist minister, described it as a "very emotional day" as "to be told by the Church that you are worthy, that we accept you, and that you can be married in the eyes of God in the church you call home with friends and family - it means a great deal. It has really helped me feel truly at home within a Church that is able to embrace anybody." He added that while waiting for same-sex weddings to be permitted had been "painful," he hopes the Methodist Church can now "begin to look outwards."



 

While these progressive changes have been praised by many, Carolyn Lawrence, a former vice-president of the Methodist Conference warned that there was a "significant minority" of Methodists who were "planning on leaving or resigning their membership" as a result of the vote. "Today is a line in the sand for many people and seen as a significant departure from our doctrine," Lawrence added.



 

Responding to the Methodist Church's support for same-sex marriages, Andrea Minichiello Williams of the conservative group Christian Concern, underlined the divisions within the C of E on sexuality. "God's plan for sex is one man, one woman marriage... Every church denomination – including Methodists and the C of E – should confidently proclaim this vision, rather than mirror the zeitgeist," Williams said. Following the new changes, the Methodist Church now holds two parallel definitions of marriage. While one position says "marriage can only be between a man and a woman" and the other says that "marriage can be between any two people". Church officials hope the dual definition will persuade conservative churches not to leave the denomination and also protect ministers from discrimination claims if they refuse to marry gay couples.

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