Talking of Marriage and Relationships - frequently asked questions
What is the current guidance on same-sex marriage for Methodist churches?
At present, same-sex marriages may not be solemnized in local Methodist churches. This will be the case unless the Conference decides to change its understanding of the nature of marriage.
What is the attitude of the Methodist Church to same sex marriage?
Within our Church there is a spectrum of views on human sexuality. The current Methodist Standing Orders state our belief, "that marriage is a gift of God and that it is God's intention that a marriage should be a life-long union in body, mind and spirit of one man and one woman." At the same time we have since 1993 explicitly recognised, affirmed and celebrated the participation and ministry of lesbians and gay men, and been committed to a pilgrimage of faith to combat discrimination and give dignity and worth to people whatever their sexuality. The Conference in 2014 confirmed that there was no reason why Methodists may not enter legally formed same sex marriage (e.g. civil marriage or marriage in another denomination) or form a civil partnership.
The Marriage and Relationships Task Group has published its report in which these issues are re-examined. That report will be presented to the Conference of 2019.
What about civil partnerships? Can they take place in Methodist Churches?
The Methodist Conference has not consented to civil partnerships taking place on Methodist Church premises.
What about blessing of same sex relationships? Can Methodist ministers conduct services of blessing?
The Conference in 2014 considered a report from the Marriage and Civil Partnerships Working Group. Amongst a number of resolutions, the Conference in 2014 stated that there was no reason why a Methodist could not enter a legally formed same-sex marriage (be that civil marriage or a marriage in another denomination) but that further work was needed before considering whether or not the Methodist understanding of marriage should be reviewed.
As part of this, the Conference clarified that, whilst there is no formal Methodist liturgy or Methodist resources for the blessing of civil partnerships or same-sex marriage, appropriate pastoral responses may be given to same-sex couples who are entering civil partnership or legal same sex-marriages.
Methodist Standing Orders on blessing same sex relationships can be found in Book VII Part 10 of the Constitutional Practice and Discipline of the Methodist Church. In brief, it says that if a request is received to conduct prayers for a same sex couple the person approached should respond pastorally and sensitively and with due regard to established good practice. No minister is required to act contrary to his or her own conscience. "The Conference trusts and respects the integrity of those responsible for responding to couples requesting prayers or a 'service of blessing' ... however nothing should be said or done which misrepresents the Church's beliefs or discipline, and for this reason Methodist premises may not be used for the blessing of same-sex relationships."
In other words, prayers of thanksgiving or celebration may be said, and there may be informal services of thanksgiving or celebration. However, the church council needs to agree in advance what the local church's policy should be on that (i.e. to consider whether such prayers, thanksgivings etc may be said on the premises). "Blessings" would be a formal liturgy, and are not permitted on Methodist premises.
I am a minister of a local Church and have been asked to officiate at a marriage between a couple who are now opposite sex but where the man was born a woman. Can I marry this couple on Methodist premises?
Yes. The Gender Recognition Act 2004 is clear that transgender people who transition gender must be fully, socially, medically and legally recognised in their 'new' gender, have a new birth certificate, and are permitted to marry a person of the opposite gender under current marriage law. Gender identity is a complex area of medical and social science. It will often not be known whether or not a person is transgender.
There is no clear theological or Scriptural position on matters of gender reassignment.