Snail-paced progress toward Anglican and Methodist unity in the U.K. may have hit a new obstacle. God in Love Unites Us, a 124-page report by a task force on marriage and sexuality, is due to go before the Methodist General Conference in the summer. Its key recommendation is to allow same-sex weddings in Methodist chapels.

The report says the Methodist Church needs to recognize societal changes in understanding of relationships and marriage. This should include allowing “people of the same sex to commit themselves to each other in Christian marriage services.”

The proposal includes a clause making provision for ministers who object on grounds of conscience to be exempt from officiating at same-sex weddings. The report calls on Methodists to be supportive of cohabiting couples “for whom marriage is a difficult option.”

The report, due to be debated by the Methodist Conference to be held from June 27 to July 4, is by far the most significant agenda item.

Evangelicals in the Church of England have expressed disquiet, pointing out that passing the report’s recommendations would stall unity negotiations. Some Methodist evangelical networks likewise have signaled opposition.

In 2003 Anglicans and Methodists agreed to attempt union of the two churches, but negotiations are not moving with speed. In 1972 and 1980, plans for union were rejected by Anglicans who would not compromise on episcopal ordination of ministers. That remains a sticking point.

John Martin

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