The Methodist Church has announced that same-sex couples will be permitted to get married on its premises, in a move that has been hailed by campaigners as a “momentous step on the road to justice and inclusion”.
Following debates on the topic at the Methodist Conference on Wednesday 29 out of the 30 Methodist Synods in Britain confirmed they were in support of provisional resolutions to allow the practice.
The current membership of the Methodist Church of Britain is 164,000, making it the fourth largest denomination of Christian Churches in the UK.
The vote in favour of the resolution was passed by the Conference with 254 votes in favour versus 46 against.
During proceedings the Reverend Dr Jonathan Hustler acknowledged the “depth of feeling, pain and anxiety that there is”.
On the topic of same-sex cohabitation it was noted that “there was a general view that the church cannot close its eyes to what is happening in society”.
Campaign group Dignity & Worth, which champions the LGBTQ+ community in the Methodist Church, said: “Today the Methodist Conference has taken a momentous step on the road to justice and inclusion.
“After many years of, sometimes, painful conversations, the church has now agreed to allow local congregations to open their buildings to host the marriages of same-sex couples.
“The members of Dignity & Worth have been working and praying hard to see this day, recognising that the hard work of implementing this decision still lies ahead of us.”
Reverend Sam McBratney, chairman of Dignity & Worth, praised the “courageous step” taken by the church.
“Some of us have been praying for this day to come for decades, and can hardly believe it is now here,” he said.
“We are so grateful to our fellow Methodists for taking this courageous step to recognise and affirm the value and worth of same-sex relationships.
“And we reassure those who do not support this move, that we want to continue to work and worship with you in the church we all love.”
The conference also agreed to strong safeguards for ministers who theologically oppose the resolutions and said they would not be forced to carry out same-sex services.
Following the vote the Rev Sonia Hicks said: “The debate today and our wider conversation has been conducted with grace and mutual respect.
“As we move forward together after this historic day for our church, we must remember to continue to hold each other in prayer, and to support each other respecting our differences.”