The 2018 Methodist Conference: Interim Report on marriage and relationships

21 May 2018

The Marriage and Relationships Task Group has explained in its Interim Report that it will not be presenting a draft Statement to the 2018 Methodist Conference, as it had previously hoped.

The draft will instead be presented to the 2019 Conference and the Task Group proposes that this be followed by a consultation lasting until the end of January 2020, enabling a vote on the Statement at the 2020 Conference, in line with the original timetable.

The draft Statement could potentially include a revised definition of marriage.

The Interim Report is included in Agenda Volume 2 which has been distributed to members of the 2018 Methodist Conference, the governing body of the Methodist Church which meets in Nottingham from June 28 – July 5.  The report is also is available to read online.

The Marriage and Relationships Task Group was established by the 2016 Conference to prepare a new Statement of the judgement of the Conference on marriage and relationships, and, as part of that process, to revisit the definition of marriage.

The task group consists of six ordained and two lay people and reflects the diversity of experience and range of views and beliefs among Methodists.

Although the group has made considerable headway, the complexity of the task and a number of unforeseen circumstances have prevented it from bringing the draft Statement to the 2018 Conference.

Workshops at the Conference will discuss sexual intimacy and cohabitation, marriage under the law and in the Church, heterosexual marriage and same-sex marriage.

The Conference will be asked to direct the consultation period for study, discussion and responses from the wider Church to run from the end of the 2019 Conference to the end of January 2020. This will allow time for the Faith and Order Committee to be fully consulted and for revisions before final submission to the 2020 Conference.
Chair of the Marriage and Relationships Task Group, and former President of the Conference the Revd Kenneth G Howcroft, said: “The group’s task is great while its timetable is short. The group has worked with commitment since the 2016 Conference and has engaged in a lot of thinking, praying, research and writing.

“However, the issues that we have to address have proved to be many, varied and highly complex. The Task Group has also contended with a change of Chair due to unforeseen circumstances, several bouts of significant ill-health and disruption caused by members changing posts. Therefore, it is with regret that we have been unable to bring a draft Statement to the 2018 Conference.

“We are aware that for some, the Church’s current exclusion of same-sex marriage and general reticence about sexual relationships, both same-sex and heterosexual, and also cohabitation, can be demeaning and excluding.

 “At the same time, some who cherish the traditional views and practices taught by the Church feel that their efforts in keeping to them are demeaned by suggestions that fresh understandings might be brought alongside them, and fear that they might be excluded by particular potential developments.”

The report observes that: “As with all matters of policy, any recommendations should be based on prayerful discernment; careful reading, interpretation and application of the Scriptures; and rigorous thinking. We have come to see that the key aspect in all relationships is the Christ-like quality of the way in which people relate.”

  • The full report can be downloaded or read online here
  • Watch a video by the Chair of the Marriage and Relationships Task Group, the Revd Kenneth G Howcroft, here
  • Listen to a podcast by the Chair of the Marriage and Relationships Task Group, the Revd Kenneth G Howcroft, here
  • Methodist Conference website: methodist.org.uk/conference