Methodists welcome LGBT people and review understanding of marriage

By Savi Hensman
July 7, 2016

The Methodist Church in Britain will revisit how marriage is defined and understood (http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/23232). This is a welcome step towards including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people more fully.

There was a thoughtful and often moving discussion at the Methodist Conference in London on 5 July 2016, arising from a Marriage and Relationships Task Group report. Local conversations on this topic had been encouraged.

Several delegates shared their views and experiences. Young and older, heterosexual and LGBT, black and white people spoke.

There were contributions from representatives of other churches also considering their stance on marriage of same-sex couples. Methodists are part of various ecumenical partnerships at local and national level. A few of those who came up to speak argued against change, afraid that biblical truths were being diluted. But most took a different approach to the Bible or focused on pressing pastoral need.

A series of motions arising from a Marriage and Relationships Task Group report were passed. This included defining homophobia and indicating that it should be a disciplinary matter.

The Methodist Council was directed to consider whether new marriage preparation resources were required. It was also asked to identify issues to be addressed to ensure that intersex and transgender people are fully included.

The Conference also agreed "that a new Statement of the judgment of the Conference on marriage and relationships shall be prepared and that, as part of the process, the definition of marriage should be revisited."

This will be prepared by a new task group, reporting to the 2018 Conference. If a new definition is adopted then, it may become possible for same-sex couples to marry in church if ministers and congregations so wish.

There was also a call for districts and circuits to support Methodists in Bible study and scriptural literacy.

While there is still some distance to travel, it is clear that attentive listening has been taking place, not only to those hesitant about change but also to people who have felt excluded. In what could have been a difficult discussion, there was also an impressive sense of prayerfulness and sensitivity to others.

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© Savitri Hensman is an Ekklesia associate and respected commentator on welfare and other issues. She is author of the book Sexuality, struggle and saintliness: same-sex love and the church (Ekklesia, 2016): http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/2261

Although the views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Ekklesia, the article may reflect Ekklesia's values. If you use Ekklesia's news briefings please consider making a donation to sponsor Ekklesia's work here.