LONDON, December 2, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The Methodist Church in the UK is undertaking a consultation of its members about whether the church should become the first Christian denomination in Britain to offer church “weddings” to same-sex couples.
Members of the approximately 5,000 Methodist congregations across Britain have been given until February 10, 2014 to express their views on same-sex “marriage,” when the results of the consultation will be assessed by the Methodist Conference, the church’s policy-making body.
The Methodist Church currently defines marriage as a “gift of God” that is “a lifelong union in body, mind and spirit of one man and one woman.”
However, the Methodist Conference has stated that this definition is now “at odds” with the terms of the UK's Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act, which comes into force next year.
In July the Methodist Conference set up a working group “to consider whether the Methodist Church's position on marriage needs revising in light of changes in society, undertaking this consideration with reference to scripture, tradition, reason and experience.”
The group will re-consider a previous ruling by the Conference “that blessing of civil partnerships should not take place on Methodist premises; and make recommendations for any changes in practice or policy.”
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Susan Howdle, chair of the Same Sex Marriage and Civil Partnerships Working Group, said in a press release, “The working party has begun its consultations by meeting a few pilot groups as well as having very lively conversations at 3Generate 2013 Children's and Youth Assembly. From this, we have begun to identify some of the key implications which the legislation poses for our Church. We are now embarking on wider consultation, trying to fulfill our brief to be as open and inclusive as possible.”
The Telegraph reported that a legal issue may arise for the Church of England if the Methodist Church changes its policy, as both churches work closely on a local level, including sharing buildings and the partial merging of some congregations.
Under the terms of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act, churches are not obligated to perform homosexual “marriage” ceremonies unless they actively opt-in as a group. The Anglican and Roman Catholic churches have stated their opposition to the practice.
“We do urge as many Methodists as possible to respond, thoughtfully and prayerfully, to the consultation in order to help us to gauge the mind of the Church. We hope the time scale will allow at least some of the responses to be from groups who have met for discussion, but individual responses are equally welcome,” Susan Howdle concluded.
Information about the consultation and the link to the survey is available here.
Methodists without Internet access can contact the help desk at Methodist Church House (Phone: 020 7486 5502) to ask for a copy of the consultation to be sent to them in the post.
The deadline for consultation responses is 9 am on Monday 10 February 2014.