The Methodist church in Great Britain has voted to allow the marriage of same-sex couples on Methodist premises by Methodist ministers and other authorised officers.
The decision by the Methodist Conference follows 30 years of debate including discussion among the whole church in the past year under the title “God in Love Unites Us”.
The vote was 254 in favour and 46 against, but the conference debate revealed that opposition is so keenly felt that members have already left the church in anticipation of the vote.
The Rev John Izzard, from the Isle of Wight, said there is much disquiet at the proposal locally, with concern that the final report did not contain sufficient Biblical analysis. He said people have already left the church.
The Gornal and Sedgley circuit in Dudley, west Midlands, asked that the churches which could not agree should be allowed to leave the Methodist connection – the national body – with their buildings and financial reserves. The motion was rejected.
But some LGBTQI speakers were in tears as they spoke of how their own local churches had accepted them as gay, binary, or as the parent of a transgender child, and appealed for conference to approve the proposal.
In an effort to keep the church united, the Rev Ashley Cooper, principal of the Methodist Cliff College, Derbyshire, said he adhered to the conservative view of marriage between a woman and man, but the church is stronger together and he appealed to the evangelicals, who are split on this issue, to find a sense of unity and healing.
In America, the United Methodist church faces a split over same sex marriage, with a breakaway organisation, the Global Methodist Church, already in formation to oversee congregations opposed to same sex marriage. It will finally separate when the church in America votes on same sex marriage – a decision delayed because of Covid. It has global ambitions and claims support from Methodists in Africa, Europe, Eurasia, the Philippines, and the United States.
In Great Britain, the Methodist church has 164,000 members, steadily declining in the past decades, but retaining its standing as the fourth largest denomination int he UK.
The youth president, Phoebe Parkin (pictured), closed the debate asking the conference to consider what the church would look like in 100 years time and how she hoped it would be an organisation where people could live with contradictory convictions.
After the vote was taken, there was silence and then a prayer appealing for both sides to appreciate the pain of those who disagreed.