Methodist Church in Ireland maintains marriage definition after GB counterpart embraces same sex unions
A decision by the Methodist Church in Britain to approve same sex marriage has prompted the denomination in Ireland to clarify that it is not changing its position.
The Methodist Church in Britain voted to change the definition of marriage this week at the British Methodist Conference, by 254 to 46.
However, the move prompted the Methodist Church in Ireland, an autonomous body, to issue a proactive statement to clarify its position.
Rev Dr Heather Morris, General Secretary and Secretary of Conference for the Methodist Church in Ireland, said: “The Methodist Church in Britain has been carefully reflecting on human sexuality for many years and have made their decision today with grace and integrity.
“The Methodist Church in Ireland is a separate and autonomous body which continues to affirm that marriage is between one man and one woman. We too continue to deliberate on these issues, deeply mindful that this is an area on which Christians disagree and that this deliberation profoundly affects the lives of many people within and beyond the Church.”
It is understood there has been no formal debate on the matter in the Methodist Church of Ireland in recent times. The denomination has 54,000 members across the island.
The first same-sex church wedding in Northern Ireland took place in December after Westminster changed the law here. At present NI churches cannot be “compelled nor prevented” from offering same-sex weddings.
Although same sex marriage has been legalised in the Republic of Ireland and NI, the four largest denominations on the island still do not permit it.
The Presbyterian church, with a membership of 191,000, said it “upholds the historic and Christian understanding that marriage is exclusively between one man and one woman” which is “also held by the vast majority of churches worldwide”. It added that there has been no formal attempt to change this through its General Assembly.
The Church of Ireland considered a motion to blessing same-sex relationships at its General Synod in 2017, which did not pass. An internal census in 2013 indicated that the church is in pastoral contact with 293,000 people.
Aisling Twomey, Policy and Advocacy Manager of the Rainbow Project, welcomed the decision by the Methodists in Britain, which she said is “the start of a bigger shift in faith organisations across the UK”. However many LGBTQIA+ people are “still frustrated” they are denied a church wedding, she said.
“We hope that the Methodist Church in Ireland can reflect on the decision made by their English counterparts and move to make for better inclusion for LGBTQIA+ who simply wish to affirm both their faith and their relationships,” she added.
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