Methodist response to proposals on same-sex marriage

Statement from the General Secretary of the Methodist Church,the Revd Dr Martyn Atkins, in response to the Government'sproposals on same-sex marriage:

"The Government has announced that it will proceed with a Billto make provision for the marriage of same-sex couples, includingmarriage in Churches which "opt in".  This decision raisesboth issues around the nature of marriage, and also about religiousfreedom.

"The Methodist response to the consultation on Equal CivilMarriage, drawn up by members of Faith and Order and the MethodistCouncil, stated that 'The Methodist Church, in line with scriptureand traditional teaching, believes that marriage is a gift of Godand that it is God's intention that a marriage should be alife-long union in body, mind and spirit of one man and onewoman.'

"Within the Methodist Church there is a spectrum of belief aboutsexuality; however the Church has explicitly recognised, affirmedand celebrated the participation and ministry of lesbians and gaymen.

"The Government has indicated that Churches which do not wish tomarry same-sex couples will have the protection of law. Thisis important. However, in our response to the consultation wealso stated that, while in the future we may or may not choose toaffirm same-sex marriage, it would be unwarranted interference forthe State to make that decision for us. For the purpose ofreligious freedom, if the Government allows marriage of same-sexcouples in civil venues, then it must allow religious bodies tomake the same choice. Whilst we recognise that most ChristianChurches will probably choose not to offer same-sex marriages, theprinciple of religious freedom is an important one as it would itwould leave with the Church the ultimate authority and autonomy tochose whether or not to do so."