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Methodists may bless but not marry same-sex couples

11 July 2014


Mantle: Dr Daleep Mukarji hands over the vice-presidency of the Methodist Conference to Gill Dascombe, a preacher since 1987

Mantle: Dr Daleep Mukarji hands over the vice-presidency of the Methodist Conference to Gill Dascombe, a preacher since 1987

METHODIST ministers who marry a person of the same sex will not risk disciplinary proceedings, after the Methodist Conference agreed to extend the existing policy on civil partnerships to include same-sex marriages.

In addition, churches will be free to offer public blessings for same-sex marriages.

But, in a series of motions, the Conference confirmed that it was not changing its teaching or definition on marriage, and would not seek authorisation to conduct same-sex marriages.

Instead, the Conference set up a working party to oversee a process of "deep reflection and discernment" before reporting back to the Conference in 2016 with recommendations about whether the definition should be revised.

After the debate, the Vice-president of the Methodist Conference, Gill Dascombe, described the discussions as "a momentous step on the journey we began in 1993".

The most passionate debate at the Conference was on issues connected with Israel and Palestine. There had been numerous attempts in recent years to persuade the Methodist Church to subscribe to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel; and this year the Methodist Council proposed a two-year moratorium on similar proposals coming before the Conference, "mindful of the demands made by this work upon the Connexional Team and the resources of the whole Church".

The Conference agreed to "encourage" such a moratorium among "the Methodist people", while commending its BDS briefing for "study, reflection, and prayer".

The Conference did not rule out supporting the BDS campaign in future, but recommended that Methodists "take pro-active action in the region by engaging in projects and programmes that improve livelihoods, and encourage greater interaction between divided communities through promoting justice and peace".

"The situation here is urgent; Palestine is under threat," Patrick Darnes, from the Chester and Stoke District, said. "If we wait, there may not be a Palestine left in three years' time."

The Board of Deputies of British Jews welcomed the debate, describing the outcome as a "clear decision . . . to export peace rather than import conflict.

"The debate was far more balanced than some we have heard in previous years," its Vice-president, Jonathan Arkush, said.

The Conference also endorsed the "No More Page 3" campaign, which is urging The Sun to stop its tradition of printing photos of topless women.

Page 3 was the "most prominent picture of a woman in the newspaper", Rachel Allison, who proposed the motion, said. "This sends a clear message that men in suits run the country, and excel at all areas of life, while women are to be looked at and seen as purely sexual objects with a set place in society. This is not the message I want society to send to young women in the world."

The Revd Steve Wild and Dr Jill Barber were elected President and Vice-president of the 2015 Conference. They will begin their term of office when it next meets, in Southport, on 27 June 2015.

The General Synod will debate the latest report from the Anglican-Methodist Covenant Joint Implementation Committee in November or February, and not at this month's meeting in York, as incorrectly reported last week. Also, the Revd Peter Hancock was incorrectly identified as Peter Howdle in our report. We apologise for the errors.

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