The Methodist Conference voted yesterday, 30 June 2021, by an overwhelming majority, to allow the marriage of same-sex couples in Methodist churches and by Methodist ministers.
This is the last stage of a long process of exploration and discussion in the Methodist Church of Great Britain. The resulting report on marriage and relationships, ‘God in Love Unites Us’, was received by the Conference in 2019 and was referred back to the 30 District Synods for confirmation; all but one synod voted in favour, and so the report came back to Conference in 2021 for final decision. It was passed by a fraction under 85% (254 to 46). The relevant resolutions (a long and detailed document) are here.
The Conference debate was conducted in a remarkable spirit of grace and mutual respect, despite the differences in deeply-held convictions as to the nature and scope of marriage. Videos of the two sessions can be viewed here (Wednesday 30 June Sessions 1 and 2).
The Methodist Church’s report of this ground-breaking debate and decision can be read here. It has also been widely reported in the media.
It is hoped that the first weddings of same-sex couples in Methodist churches will happen in autumn 2021.
This will inevitably have significant consequences for the Church of England, which is linked with the Methodist Church by the Anglican–Methodist Covenant as well as by many Local Ecumenical Partnerships (LEPs) between the two churches (and sometimes also with another denomination). In 2014 a Covenant report setting out a roadmap for closer cooperation and unity between the Methodist Church and the Church of England, including shared recognition of ministry, was decisively agreed by both churches.
The Equal Campaign is of course delighted by this outcome, and we rejoice with our Methodist brothers and sisters who have worked long and hard to achieve it – in particular our sister organization Dignity and Worth. We have issued a press statement and have sent a letter to the Church Times.
May the Church of England learn to resolve its differences over equal marriage and the affirmation of LGBTQIA+ people in the same spirit of prayerful love and grace that the Methodists have found. Equal are more than willing to help and encourage the Church and its leadership to do so.