Methodist Church to review its understanding of marriage and relationships

A task group established to consider whether theMethodist Church's understanding of marriage and relationshipsshould be revisited has reported back to this year's MethodistConference.
Following a decision at the Conference in 2014, people fromacross the Methodist Connexion have been considering marriage andrelationships as part of a process overseen by the task group. Thediscussions show that there is a broad range of opinions held byMethodists on these matters.

The Church is to reconsider how its understanding of marriageshould be expressed. This does not necessarily mean that there willbe a change of definition, but that the Church wishes to re-examinethe definition through a period of theological and scripturalreflection.

The task group prepared guidance and other resources to helpmembers of the Methodist Church in their discussions on marriageand relationships.

The task group was established at the Methodist Conference in 2014to consider whether or not the Methodist Church should revisit itsdefinition of marriage and its understanding of family life,marriage and the single person. Its report, received by theMethodist Conference earlier today, 5 July 2016, is the result oftwo years consideration by the task group, along with reflectionand conversation within the Methodist Church. So far, at least8,000 members have taken the opportunity to participate inconversations across the Methodist Church, where a wide range ofviews were expressed. 

The Church's definition of marriage was one of those subjectsdiscussed. The task group considered the existing 1992 "Statementon Christian Understanding of Family Life, The Single Person andMarriage". In the Statement the Methodist Church reiterates itsview that marriage is "the lifelong union of one man and onewoman". However, whilst many Methodists support this definition asit stands, there is a range of reasons to revisit it. For example,some people feel the Church's definition should be extended toinclude the marriage of same sex couples. Some people feel that thedefinition only describes the status of marriage, not its purposeand responsibilities and revisiting the definition is importantpart of the process even if it remains unchanged. The Conferencedirected that a new Statement on marriage and relationships shouldnow be prepared and that, as part of that process, the definitionof marriage should be revisited.

The Methodist Children's Youth and Assembly, 3Generate, alsoconsidered marriage and relationships at the request of the youngpeople themselves. 3Generate recommended that youth workers andministers should be trained to create safe spaces to talk about allinterpretations of relationships to encourage discussions aboutsame sex marriage.

The Revd Graham Carter, Chair of the Marriage and RelationshipsTask Group commented; "It is essential to take time over this issuebecause the process of finding a way forward is as important asreaching a decision. Enabling people in the church to talk openlyabout their differing convictions and value their common commitmentto Jesus Christ is key to what it means to be a Christiancommunity.
"The decision of the Conference to establish a working partyon the matters of marriage and relationships is an important stepwhich comes from a widespread conversation in which people havelistened, respected each other's position and engaged in deepreflection together. The conversations will continue and we will goon responding to the challenges of interpreting God's love fortoday's society."

•The Methodist Conference is the annual gathering of electedministers and lay people that agrees policy for the MethodistChurch in Britain. For more information, live coverage and furtherpress releases from the Conference, please visit the website:/conference/conference-2016 

•For interviews Please contact Michael Ivatt onivattm@methodistchurch.org.uk or 07881 783 812 to arrange aninterview