A historic vote on June 30 at the Methodist Conference in  Birmingham, UK resulted in a clear win for LGBTQ+ Methodists who have  long-fought for the right to be married within the Church. 

The final vote tally had 254 in favour of changing the Church’s definition of  marriage to 46 votes opposing. It is expected the first Methodist Church  weddings for same-sex couples will begin sometime in the fall of 2021. 

Methodism is the fourth-largest Christian group in the UK with 173,000  members and over 4000 churches. 

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Previously, the Church had defined marriage as a union between “one man  and one woman.” Following the historic vote, the Church will amend its  definition of marriage to read as “a life-long union in mind, body and spirit of  two people who freely enter into it.” 

Freedom of Conscience Clause

However, the Church included in its Standing Order a provision stating,  “Within the Methodist Church this is understood in two ways: that marriage  can only be between a man and a woman; that marriage can be between  any two people. The Methodist Church affirms both understandings and  makes provision in its Standing Orders for them.” 

This ‘Freedom of Conscience’ clause says,”Under no circumstances does  the conference require any person who is subject to the discipline of the  Church…to officiate at or participate in the marriage of a particular couple,  should it be contrary to the dictates of his or her conscience to do so.” 

Catholic Church and Church of England Prohibit Gay Marriages

Same-sex marriage is still prohibited by both the Roman Catholic Church  and the Church of England. The Methodist Church in Ireland is not subject to  the change and nor does it have any plans to abide by the decision. 

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Support for the decision was swift, with messages of support from as far  away as New Zealand. Tony Franklin-Ross, a Methodist minister from the  Methodist Church of New Zealand tweeted “with prayerful Thanksgiving from  the Rainbow Methodists of the Methodist Church of New Zealand. We know  something of this journey and so glad for the witness we can offer together  of queer-inclusive Methodism.” 

Sam McBratney, Chair of Dignity & Worth, tweeted “as well as giving hope to  British Methodists, we also touch the lives of LGBTQ+ siblings in other parts  of the world working for justice within their own Methodist churches.” 

The Rev. Sonia Hicks, who made history as the first Black woman President  of the Methodist Conference, spoke of the importance of inclusion in her  address to the Conference. “How do we acknowledge the place that others are entitled to at God’s table? What are we willing to give up in order to give  them space?…We are to find ways of issuing God’s invitation of acceptance  to those we meet on a daily basis. No ifs, no buts…the slight inconveniences  to us will make a big difference to those who are always at the back of the  queue.” 

 

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