Thinking Anglicans

UK Methodists review marriage understanding

The Methodist Church in Britain has taken a further step towards changing its understanding of marriage. This press release has been issued:

Methodist Church to review its understanding of marriage and relationships

A task group established to consider whether the Methodist Church’s understanding of marriage and relationships should be revisited has reported back to this year’s Methodist Conference.

Following a decision at the Conference in 2014, people from across the Methodist Connexion have been considering marriage and relationships as part of a process overseen by the task group. The discussions show that there is a broad range of opinions held by Methodists on these matters.

The Church is to reconsider how its understanding of marriage should be expressed. This does not necessarily mean that there will be a change of definition, but that the Church wishes to re-examine the definition through a period of theological and scriptural reflection.

The task group prepared guidance and other resources to help members of the Methodist Church in their discussions on marriage and relationships.

The task group was established at the Methodist Conference in 2014 to consider whether or not the Methodist Church should revisit its definition of marriage and its understanding of family life, marriage and the single person. Its report, received by the Methodist Conference earlier today, 5 July 2016, is the result of two years consideration by the task group, along with reflection and conversation within the Methodist Church. So far, at least 8,000 members have taken the opportunity to participate in conversations across the Methodist Church, where a wide range of views were expressed.

The Church’s definition of marriage was one of those subjects discussed. The task group considered the existing 1992 “Statement on Christian Understanding of Family Life, The Single Person and Marriage”. In the Statement the Methodist Church reiterates its view that marriage is “the lifelong union of one man and one woman”. However, whilst many Methodists support this definition as it stands, there is a range of reasons to revisit it. For example, some people feel the Church’s definition should be extended to include the marriage of same sex couples. Some people feel that the definition only describes the status of marriage, not its purpose and responsibilities and revisiting the definition is important part of the process even if it remains unchanged. The Conference directed that a new Statement on marriage and relationships should now be prepared and that, as part of that process, the definition of marriage should be revisited….

Media reports on this:

Christian Today Mark Woods Britain’s Methodist Church to consider same-sex marriage

Premier Alex Williams Methodist Conference votes to re-examine definition of marriage

Ekklesia Savi Hensman Methodists welcome LGBT people and review understanding of marriage


  • Kate says:

    So much more adult than CofE so long as everything is on the table.

    I don’t however agree with their definition of homophobia.

  • robert ian williams says:

    And they chucked my grandfather out because he liked a drink!

  • Father David says:

    Looks to me as though Andrea Leadsom is at ecumenical odds with the Methodists with regard to her far right wing views on same sex marriage. Surely in these times of political turmoil and economic chaos we need a Prime Minister who will forge unity not division within the current highly Disunited Kingdom?

  • Kate says:

    Father David, Andrea Leadsom has claimed her position against gay marriage is not personal but reflects the position of the many Christians who have written to her. If one believes her, that shows how important it is for the main churches to unequivocally back same sex marriage.

  • NJ says:

    How can Andrea Leadsom be described as having far right wing views on same sex marriage? In the vote in 2013 she abstained, voting both ways because she said she personally believes in SSM, but wanted to recognise the many of her constituents who didn’t. In her latest interview, reported in the Independent, she said she doesn’t agree with Christians about marriage being between a man and a woman, but she is keen that churches are not forced into anything.

  • Father David says:

    We really shall have lost the plot completely if the inexperienced Mrs. Leadsom with her extreme right-wing views becomes our next Prime Minister. I heard this morning that one newspaper described her as “Ukip in a skirt”. Surely after such a vile EU Referendum campaign we, as a nation, haven’t sunk so low? The columnist Matthew Parris has declared that for the first time in his life he is ashamed to be British. Surely the 150,000 members of the Conservative Party will see sense and follow the strong lead given by the vast majority of Tory MPs and vote for the Vicar’s daughter?

  • Mark Wharton says:

    Rev David,
    Do you really believe that anyone who believes that marriage is an indissoluble union between a man and a woman for life is guilty of being far right?

  • Fr Andrew says:

    A bit of a ‘which is the scariest Halloween costume’ contest. It’s really come to something when Theresa May looks like the preferable candidate for PM. Not something I would have imagined myself saying, ever…

  • Father David says:

    Mark, I think we ought to take the wider view of Mrs. Leadsom’s views and beliefs and a quick glance at her Brexit bedfellows would quickly shew how far to the right of centre this woman actually is. To vote for her would be taking an enormous risk with the future stability of our nation.

  • Cynthia says:

    “Do you really believe that anyone who believes that marriage is an indissoluble union between a man and a woman for life is guilty of being far right?”

    Don’t know about Father David, but yes. It’s pretty far right to assume the power to oppress others. If gay couples feel called to the sacrament of marriage, it is nothing short of oppression that refuses us.

  • Cynthia says:

    “I don’t however agree with their definition of homophobia.”

    Me neither. In fact, it seems in danger of institutionalizing an entitlement and an invitation to spiritual abuse. “I’m not homophobic, I just think your marriage is wrong…” “I’m not homophobic, but I can’t welcome you and your spouse as sisters/brothers in Christ.” I’m not homophobic, I just need to insist that the church withhold sacraments from you.” I’m not homophobic…

    It is never a good idea to embolden prejudice. Part of the definition of homophobia is “discriminating against LGBTQI persons because of who they are.” Same as racism, sexism, xenophobia. Exclusion is discrimination. It most certainly does not recognize gay people fully as Children of God, created in the Image of God. It is unaffiming, and robs us of dignity.

    It is a way of giving conservatives license to torment gay people for a long time to come.

  • Savi Hensman says:

    Cynthia, your attack on the Methodist Church as it moves to making homophobia a disciplinary offence does not seem to take account of the actual wording, which may not be perfect but is hardly a ‘license to torment gay people’:

    Taking into consideration the Methodist Church’s history, our context and our reading of Scripture:

    Homophobia is any statement, policy or action which denies the image of God in another person due to their actual or perceived sexual orientation; which is, treating someone in a discriminatory manner because of their actual or perceived sexual orientation.

    Homophobic attitudes, words, and behaviours are inconsistent with the nature of Christian conduct and a violation of the worth and dignity of all people.

    Homophobia can be experienced in a number of ways, including:
    o physical violence or emotional or psychological abuse, including the threat of or incitement to such behaviour (which may also be deemed hate crimes in law)
    o applying stereotypes and assumptions to people based on their sexual orientation
    o using language that is hostile, hurtful or offensive in its intent
    o abusive or coercive ‘spiritual practices’ (ie demanding or requiring repentance or participation in healing or other types of service).

    Having defined what we believe homophobia to be, it is important that we also confirm what it is not. As a Church we would want to affirm that it is not homophobic to:
    o disagree on matters of scriptural interpretation or to hold and express a view that same sex activity is wrong (provided that is not repeatedly targeted at an individual because of their sexual orientation).
    o have lots of questions to ask; although the boundaries of personal space should be respected
    o ‘get the language wrong’ when talking about sexual orientation; it is more important to speak honestly and respectfully about our feelings

  • Richard Ashby says:

    Mrs Leadsom seems to think that all marriage is ‘Christian’, forgetting that civil marriage is expressly non religious and that religious sentiments in music or words and reference to God are forbidden. And when was there any suggestion that churches should be compelled to undertake same sex marriage. It’s scaremongering based on nothing.

  • Cynthia says:

    Savi, I am not attacking the Methodist Church. I am pointing out that their definition of what is homophobic and what isn’t, is flawed in potentially hurtful ways. It gives examples following the definition; I mirror these examples in harsher language, because that is how I would hear them – as would many vulnerable LGBTQI people, like teens. In the example, they give license for people to express their reservations to a gay person. I’m sorry, but if you replaced gay with race, it would be clear just how awful it is.

    I appreciate that they are trying hard to be inclusive. But there simply is no way to simultaneously tell people “you’re OK, mostly, to some of us but not others,” and have it be healthful. It is still an attack on the well being of LGBTQI people, some of whom will be more impacted than others. The hurt is exacerbated if the institutional church has discriminatory policies. In TEC, the national policy is inclusion, but local priests and parishes can opt out of marriage and inclusion. The exclusion still hurts, but at least the national policy is inclusive.

    There are good reasons to question their definition, the examples they give, and express concern that if adopted they may institutionalize a license for spiritual harm. That is not an “attack on the Methodist Church” and I don’t appreciate the characterization. Yes, I unpack things like that with great vigor, but it’s not honest to call it a broad attack.

    Very recently, and it is very raw, a family in our community suffered the suicide of a gay teen. Intolerant religion contributed. This happens a lot, but this one hit close to home. I would love to see the LGBTQI discussion focus more on these vulnerable kids, rather than characterizing legitimate criticism as an “attack” and thus deflecting the very real pain of very real people with “tone policing.”

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