The Methodist Church in Ireland has reaffirmed its understanding of marriage as between a man and a woman following a decision on Wednesday by the Methodist Church in UK to allow same-sex marriage.
The first major church to do so in these islands, it agreed the definition of marriage to be “a lifelong union in body, mind and spirit of two people who freely enter it” by 254 to 46 votes.
Dr Heather Morris, general secretary and secretary of Conference for the Methodist Church in Ireland, pointed out that "the Methodist Church in Ireland is a separate and autonomous body which continues to affirm that marriage is between one man and one woman".
She added: “We too continue to deliberate on these issues, deeply mindful that this is an area on which Christians disagree and that this deliberation profoundly affects the lives of many people within and beyond the Church.”
There is an ongoing discussion within the Methodist Church in Ireland on the human sexuality issue.
Same-sex marriage is not approved of by any of the four major churches in Ireland, the Catholic Church, the Church of Ireland, the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, or the Methodist Church in Ireland.
The Church of Scotland, mother church of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, took a step closer last May to allowing its ministers and deacons to preside marriages of same-sex couples if they wish to do so.
Draft legislation on the matter has been circulated to its presbyteries, then, if a majority back by December 31st next, and this is agreed by next year’s general assembly of the church, it will then become church law in Scotland.
Presbyterians ministers and deacons there will then be able to apply for a license to become authorised celebrants at same-sex marriage ceremonies.
This is in direct contrast to the position of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland which decided at its 2018 general assembly in Belfast that same-sex couples could no longer be full members of the church, nor could their children be baptised.
It decided then also to loosen its ties with the Church of Scotland as the latter moved towards approving same-sex marriage and to no longer accept invitations to attend general assemblies of the Church of Scotland. It no longer invites representatives of the Church of Scotland to attend its general assembly.