Talking of Marriage and Relationships - overview
Within the Church, people have many views about human relationships and the nature and purpose of marriage. A major change to the law in 2014 enabled the introduction of same-sex civil marriage. Churches and other religious groups were given the legal option to opt-in to conduct weddings for same-sex partners. Following wide consultation, the Methodist Conference in 2014 agreed that more time was needed for careful reflection before deciding whether to look again at our understanding of marriage. Same-sex marriage is not the only consideration. There are wider issues in relation to human relationships in the modern world which may or may not lead the church to reconsider our definition of marriage. The Conference in 2014 urged the Methodist people to engage with each other honestly, prayerfully and graciously in a process of deep reflection and discernment about matters relating to marriage and human relationships.
This engagement will be in accordance with Methodist understanding of scriptural interpretation and reflection. Methodists traditionally use a fourfold approach to learn about our Christian faith and apply it to contemporary issues and to our Christian practice: Scripture, Tradition, Reason and Experience. See the Methodist quadrilateral
Importantly, Clause 4 of the Deed of Union states:
The doctrines of the evangelical faith which Methodism has held from the beginning and still holds are based upon the divine revelation recorded in the Holy Scriptures. The Methodist Church acknowledges this revelation as the supreme rule of faith and practice.
See 'A Methodist Statement on A Christian Understanding of Family Life, the Single Person and Marriage, 1992' (pdf) and the Conference Report 'Christian Preparation for Marriage', 1998 (pdf)
This page contains links to resources that will be useful in discussions across the Connexion on Marriage and Relationships. This page will continue to be developed. There is also a page with answers to Frequently Asked Questions about Marriage and Relationships
Resources recommended by the Marriage and Relationships Task Group
The following reports and study guides, are particularly important to the conduct of our discussions:
- Living with Contradictory Convictions (conference report)
- Living with Contradictory Convictions (study guide)
- A Lamp to my Feet and Light to my Path: The Nature of Authority and the place of the Bible in the Methodist Church (study guide)
A Worship Resource on Living With Contradictory Convictions has been published in association with ROOTS for Churches:
Showing respect in our discussions
The Marriage and Relationships Task Group has also prepared a model statement to support conversations where there are differing convictions.
The Equality Diversity and Inclusion Committee has produced a Definition and Guidance on Homophobia (pdf)
The Methodist Church of Southern Africa produced the following resources for its discussions on Christians and Same-Sex Relationships in 2003:
- Profession of unity in discussions on Christians and same-sex relationships (pdf)
- Discussion Guide on Christians and same-sex relationships (pdf)
The history of marriage in Methodism
The following extract is reproduced with permission from Revd David M. Chapman, and may be used within the Methodist Church subject to the following acknowledgement: "by David M. Chapman, from his book Born in Song: Methodist Worship in Britain (Church in the Market Place Publications, 2006), Chapter 8 'The Solemnisation of Christian Marriage', pp. 197-217"
The following timeline shows some of the points in Methodist history where matters of marriage and relationships have been considered. It includes highlights from the chapter (above) and information from Conference reports.
- History of Marriage Timeline (A3 size pdf)
Conference Workshop 2015
This presentation was used at The Methodist Conference, 2015, and can be adapted for discussions in districts, circuits or local churches. A suggested script is included in the presentation notes.
- Workshop Presentation (ppt)
A Conversation (MP4 Vodcasts)
The Revd Samuel McBratney and Revd Paul Smith talk about Marrriage and Relationships from different perspectives. The full Vodcast is included, and there are three short extracts.
- Where are we now? (mp4 vodcast, 48MB)
- Mission & Holiness (mp4 vodcast, 22MB)
- The Remit of the Task Group (mp4 vodcast, 46MB)
- Full length discussion (mp4 vodcast, 252MB)
Other resources that are not the official position of the Methodist Church
There are a number of additional resources that may be of use when holding these discussions. It must be noted that the following resources are not necessarily endorsed by the Methodist Church, but show a range of views on marriage and relationships.
From ecumenical partners:
Church of England:
Grace and Disagreement
The Scottish Episcopal Church:
The theology of marriage,exploring whether there is a case for change (pdf)
United Reformed Church
Resources for conversations about marriage and same-sex couples
One Plus One
Response to the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2014
- Bible Study on Living with Difference by Mike King
- Care for the Family: The Marriage Challenge
- Evangelical Alliance: Marriage Frequently Asked Questions
- The Lesbian & Gay Christian Movement