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URC votes to allow churches to hold civil partnerships

13 July 2012

THE United Reformed Church (URC) has become the first Christian denomination in the UK to allow the registration of civil partnerships in its churches.

The URC's General Assembly passed a resolution on Saturday, which took effect immediately. A statement from the URC said that a "decision about applying to register as a legal place for civil partnerships will be in the hands of each local church meeting". It said that it did not know how many URC churches would register, but "several . . . have made it known that they will be seeking registration."

They include City United Reformed Church in Cardiff, whose minister, the Revd Adrian Bulley, said that the church had "for many years" hosted services of blessing for same-sex couples entering civil partnerships.

The Revd Kirsty Thorpe, immediate past Moderator of the United Reformed Church, said: "There are other congregations in the United Reformed Church for whom the possible recognition in church of same-sex relationships would be a total contradiction of their theological understanding and identity. I hope and pray that we can continue to respect one another's diversity on this matter."

On Sunday, the Unitarian Chief Officer, Derek McAuley, said that the URC's decision was "another step towards full inclusion of LGBT people within the churches".

On Thursday of last week, the Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, said, in an interview with the Evening Standard, that churches should not be prevented from conducting same-sex marriages. He said: "This is a personal view at the moment, but I think that in exactly the same way that we shouldn't force any church to conduct gay marriage, we shouldn't stop any church that wants to conduct gay marriage."

The Coalition for Marriage said that Mr Clegg's statement went "much further than the plans announced by the Government earlier this year". The campaign's director, Colin Hart, said: "The hollow and meaningless statements that changing the law would only affect civil marriage are being shown to be completely misleading and false."

On Saturday, Christians joined the World Pride march in London, under the banner "Christians Together at Pride". The event took place without the traditional floats.

The chief executive of the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement (LGCM), the Revd Sharon Ferguson, said: "With the wonderful changes we have seen in the past few years to equality legislation in the UK, it is easy to become complacent and believe that there is no longer a need for campaigning."

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