Working party to consider Church's position on marriage

The Methodist Conference has voted to appoint a working group toconsider whether the Methodist Church's position on marriage needsrevising in light of changes in society. It also agreed that themembership of the working group should take account of theMethodist Church's breadth of theology, age, ethnicity, gender andexperience.

A report submitted to the Conference by the Methodist Councilasked for a working group to undertake this consideration withreference to "scripture, tradition, reason and experience". Theworking group will be tasked with considering the implications ofany change in legislation with reference to the Church as aconsequence of the Marriages (Same Sex Couples) Bill.Recommendations for any changes in the Church's practice or politywill also be made by the working party.

The Secretary of the Conference and General Secretary of theMethodist Church, the Revd Dr Martyn Atkins, gave a response to theGovernment's proposals on same-sex marriage in December last year."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," he said. "The Government has indicated that Churches which donot wish to marry same-sex couples will have the protection of law.This is 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."  

In April this year, the Methodist Council made proposals for theway in which the Methodist Church might want to respond to theMarriage (Same-Sex Couples) Bill. The Council noted that theAssistant Secretary of the Conference had given evidence to theHouse of Commons Bill Committee on 14 February 2013 in respect ofthe Bill. This evidence, given on behalf of the Methodist Church,stated that the Methodist Church considers marriage to be alife-long union in body, mind and spirit of one man and one woman.