British Methodists to study marriage

LONDON, England — The Methodist Conference, top law-making body of The Methodist Church, voted July 8 to appoint a working group to consider whether the denomination’s position on marriage needs revising in light of changes in society.

The conference, meeting here July 4-11, also agreed that the membership of the working group should take account of The Methodist Church's breadth of theology, age, ethnicity, gender and experience.

Recommendations for any changes in the denomination's practice or polity will also be made by the working party.

A report submitted to the conference by the Methodist Council asked for a working group to undertake this consideration with reference to "scripture, tradition, reason and experience." The working group will be tasked with considering the implications of any change in legislation with reference to the Church as a consequence of the Marriages (Same Sex Couples) Bill. Recommendations for any changes in the denomination's practice or polity will also be made by the working party.

The Secretary of the Conference and General Secretary of The Methodist Church, the Rev. Dr. Martyn Atkins, gave a response to the government's proposals on same-sex marriage in December last year:

Within The Methodist Church there is a spectrum of belief about sexuality; however the Church has explicitly recognized, affirmed and celebrated the participation and ministry of lesbians and gay men. The government has indicated that churches which do not wish to marry same-sex couples will have the protection of law. This is important.

However, in our response to the consultation we also stated that, while in the future we may or may not choose to affirm same-sex marriage, it would be unwarranted interference for the state to make that decision for us.

In April this year, the Methodist Council made proposals for the way in which The Methodist Church might want to respond to the Marriage (Same-Sex Couples) Bill. The Council noted that the Assistant Secretary of the Conference had given evidence to the House of Commons Bill Committee on Feb. 14 in respect of the Bill.

This evidence, given on behalf of The Methodist Church, stated that the Methodist Church considers marriage to be a life-long union in body, mind and spirit of one man and one woman.

Editor's note: The Methodist Conference is required to meet on an annual basis. The 2013 conference is being held at Methodist Central Hall, Westminster.

At last count, The Methodist Church had 267,257 members. There are over 800,000 people in Britain who have an active connection with The Methodist Church.

The Methodist Church of Great Britain is a member of The World Methodist Council, as is The United Methodist Church. The World Methodist Council consists of 77 Methodist, Wesleyan and related Uniting and United Churches representing more than 80 million people.

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