Britain's Quakers appear to be on the brink of a decision to approve same-sex marriage. This morning will see the final stage of their discussions on the issue at their Yearly Meeting in York.
As over 1,000 Quakers closed their session yesterday afternoon, it appeared likely that they would approve the rewriting of Quaker procedures in order to put heterosexual and same-sex weddings on an equal footing. It was agreed to continue discussions today, giving the clerks time to draft the appropriate wording overnight.
The Religious Society of Friends, as Quakers are more formally known, would then rewrite the marriage section of Quaker Faith and Practice, their “book of Christian discipline”.
However, the precise form that the decision will take is not yet clear.
Junior Yearly Meeting, representing Quakers aged 15-18 has already agreed that “To deny the spiritual aspect of marriage to committed couples, based on their sexuality, is unjust”.
If Quakers choose the most radical option today, they could end up challenging the law preventing religious communities which solemnise heterosexual weddings from doing the same for gay and lesbian couples.
About 20 Quaker Meetings have held celebrations of same-sex commitments since the 1990s. However, these have not been recorded in the Society's records in the same way as heterosexual weddings.
Britain's Quakers formally began a process of considering same-sex commitments in 1987. This culminated in detailed discussions over the last year and in this week's reflections and decision-making.