The largest British Christian denomination to date has voted to allow civil partnerships to be registered in its churches in the same month that its Australian sister church will debate the issue of same-sex marriage.
Britain’s United Reformed Church voted on July 7 at its General Assembly to allow civil partnerships in its churches following an hour long debate.
However it will be up to individual churches to decide whether they will allow civil partnerships in deference to dissenters.
The resolution takes effect immediately and allows United Reformed churches to conduct both the legal formalities of registering a civil partnership as well as religious ceremonies to bless them.
Once a church has decided to perform civil partnerships, it will need to ask its trustees to apply to the superintendent registrar of the relevant local authority to become registered as an approved venue.
Many United Reformed Churches had already been blessing civil partnerships.
‘For many years this church has been hosting services of blessing for those who have entered a civil partnership,’ said the Reverend Adrian Bulley of Cardiff’s City United Reformed Church.
‘How sad that these couples have had to go through two ceremonies to enable their union to be blessed by God in the context of prayer and worship. How wonderful that General Assembly has now opened the door and enabled those local churches that wish to do so, to register their premises in order that same-sex couples may have a single ceremony – both religious and legal – to mark their commitment to each other. This is a very welcome decision, finally enabling the Church to offer to same sex-couples what heterosexual couples have for so long taken for granted.’
The United Reformed Church has close to 70,000 members in the UK across 1,500 congregations.
The United Church of Canada, which is a fellow member of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches already performs same-sex marriages.
Meanwhile, in related news Australia’s Uniting Church, also a member of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, will this week debate the issue of same-sex marriage at its 13th Triennial Assembly Meeting.
Conservatives within the Uniting Church in Australia have been warning that liberals within denomination will have the numbers to win a vote.
However the proposals seen by Gay Star News are motions for the church to commission discussion papers on the issue so that it can be brought to a 2014 meeting of the church's Assembly Standing Committee