SOUTHPORT, U.K. — The United Reformed Church (URC) in the United Kingdom has overwhelmingly voted to allow same-sex “weddings” to be held in houses of worship.
“Today the URC has made an important decision at which some will rejoice and with which others will be uncomfortable,” General Secretary John Proctor said in a statement. Those of our churches who now wish to offer full marriage services to same-sex couples are free to do just that, and those churches who do not wish to are not compelled to.”
The 240-21 vote took place on Saturday in Southport during the URC’s General Assembly. A two-thirds majority was needed for the passage of the proposal.
The Assembly has considered the issue for the past three years, and last year, it was concluded that the decision whether or not to allow nuptials between those of the same gender should be left up to each congregation.
“This has been a sensitive issue for many in our churches,” Proctor said. “It has been important to take our time over the decision process, and to listen as carefully as we can to one another along the way.”
URC officials advise on the denomination’s website that guidance for congregations in England and Wales that wish to register to hold same-sex “weddings” in their sanctuaries will be issued within the week.
They also note, as per Proctor, that Reformed ministers who decline to officiate homosexual ceremonies may not “prevent local churches from registering their buildings.”
“But if the building were registered, the minister would not be obliged to officiate,” the site outlines. “Local churches cannot, and the denomination will not, compel ministers to conduct same-sex marriages against their conscience.”
Reformed minister Malcom Hanson, amid calling the issue a “biblical puzzle,” admitted in an article on the matter last year that “‘one plus one’ is about the union of complementaries”—or the fact that God created the woman as the complement to the man. He said that the Scriptures cannot simply be discarded about the matter.
“In other words, if we dismiss Leviticus 18:22 (‘Do not have sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman’) and similarly negative passages as not relevant to our present understanding of sexuality, how do we handle Genesis 2:24 (‘That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh’) and similarly positive passages?” Hanson asked.
“We have commonly understood marriage to be based on the Genesis model, endorsed by Jesus and confirmed by nature,” he wrote.
The United Reformed Church was founded in 1972 and has roots in Presbyterianism and Congregationalism. It currently has an estimated 1,500 congregations throughout the U.K. and Wales.
Saturday’s vote makes the URC the largest professing Christian body in the U.K. that allows same-sex “marriages” in the house of God.