Methodist Church votes on same sex blessings

The Methodist Church will not formally bless same sex CivilPartnerships, although ministers will be allowed to offer informal,private prayers to couples. The Methodist Conference yesterdayvoted on the report on Pilgrimage of Faith, the Church's ongoingdiscussion about human sexuality.

After a long and careful debate carried out in a respectfulatmosphere, Conference confirmed the statement of good practiceissued by the Methodist Council last December. While Methodistministers may say private prayers with a couple in a CivilPartnership, the Church will not authorise a liturgy for blessingCivil Partnerships, and that Methodist premises cannot be used forany prayers for Civil Partnerships.

'As Christians we are naturally keen to mark all of the key momentsof life with prayer,' says the Revd Jonathan Kerry, member of theworking party and Methodist Co-ordinating Secretary for Worship andLearning. 'But earlier Conference resolutions make it clear that wecannot as a Church offer formal blessings for same sexpartnerships. This is difficult subject, but we are glad that thedebate has been conducted in a supportive and respectfulatmosphere.'

Conference also passed a resolution confirming that there is noreason why a Methodist cannot enter into a Civil Partnership. ButConference reaffirmed the Church's traditional teaching thatmarriage can only take place between a woman and a man, and itsrequirement that Methodists remain faithful within marriage andchaste without.

The Revd Paul Smith served as a member of the working party and isa member of Methodist evangelical group Headway. He said, 'As amember of the working party, I am pleased that the Conference feltable to accept the various proposals that we brought. Theyaccurately represent where the church is at the moment on thisdifficult issue and they make clear that the Methodist Church doesnot sanction the blessing of gay partnerships. However, they alsoencourage ministers and Church leaders to pray with anyone whorequests it at every opportunity. Of course this involves anelement of trust in that a minister praying with somebody shouldnot misrepresent the decisions of the Church. But trust lies at theheart of the Christian gospel and part of the Pilgrimage of Faithis learning more and more to trust one another.'

The Revd Cass Howes, member of the working party and a member ofOutcome (formerly the Methodist Lesbian and Gay Caucus) said 'Itbecame clear to me during the life of the working group, havinginitially said we would not revisit the Derby resolutions, that infact that is exactly what we needed to do. It is no good saying atthis stage that the church is willing to bless same sex couples ifthe culture of the church is not ready to receive those couples.Passing the resolution to consider revisiting the Derby resolutionsgives us an opportunity to listen to people's stories afresh, tocontinue the Pilgrimage of Faith and work towards a Church that istruly inclusive. Waiting for the culture of the Church to change ispainful but if we walk together for a bit longer my hope is thatthe Church will be a more accepting place.'