United Reformed Church moves towards same-sex marriage

On 6 July the General Assembly of the URC passed the following resolution by agreement:

“A clear majority of members of Assembly expressed the view that local congregations should be permitted to offer same-sex marriage to those who seek that opportunity. However, because our decision-making process is based on the seeking of full consensus, Assembly was unable to reach agreement.

Assembly therefore resolves to pursue this discussion in the most constructive and consultative way that it can, as follows:

(1) to invite synods and local congregations (a) to reflect on the report of the Facilitation Group, (b) to discuss whether they would wish a future meeting of the Assembly to authorise local church meetings to offer same-sex marriage services, and (c) to report their views to the General Secretary by 31st March 2015.

(2) to authorise the officers of Assembly to furnish these discussions with appropriate resources, including an offer of the support of facilitators”.

A minority continues to have reservations, insisting that to conduct same-sex wedding ceremonies would constitute a redefinition of the traditional understanding of marriage. However, the BBC reported that a member of the Assembly (unnamed)  said that it was “hurtful” for same-sex couples to be asked to wait to marry within their church, while the Revd Fiona Bennett of the Augustine United Church in Edinburgh told members that she was “… asking for grace. By allowing churches to opt in, we create space for diversity to hold our unity”.

So it looks as if the URC may be the first major denomination to allow its congregations to opt in to conducting same-sex weddings – but not, presumably, earlier than about September 2015.

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