This afternoon, the United Reformed Church General Assembly meeting in Wales discussed the difficult subject of possibly providing for same – sex marriage, in Church. I was able to watch some (not all ) of the debate, live – streamed on-line. Among the striking features of the discussion, beyond the expected disagreements and strength of feeling, was an obvious desire by the Assembly to respect difference, and to remain united even so (“United” is not just a word in their name, it goes to the core of how they see themselves). Also striking, was the openness of honest, frank sharing, most strikingly by two transgender people who pointed out that debates about “opposite – sex” or “same – sex” couples simply make no provision for their circumstances.
At the conclusion of the debate, the moderator asked for a “sense of the assembly” by show of hands, whether people felt that there was a need for more time and wider consultation, or if it was time for the church to find a way to move forward, allowing those within the church who wished to accommodate same – sex couples in marriage, to do so. The ruling was that although clearly not unanimous, a strong majority favoured the latter. He then announced that the next step would be for a “facilitating team” to consult with a wide range of opinion within the assembly, and then draft a resolution with the potential to achieve the widest possible consensus, which will be put to the assembly later for such approval..
So – if I understand things correctly, we have a situation where the clear mood of the Assembly is that they wish to permit, but not compel, their ministers and congregations to conduct same – sex marriages in their churches. Details of the exact wording, and the formal vote, are awaited, but in principle, the breakthrough is there.
UPDATE: For a more reliable account of where the church is, see the report by the URC’s own communications team, which concludes:
Assembly agreed that the comments settled loosely into two viewpoints: a belief that more time is needed for the church to discern how to respond to the advent of equal marriage for same and opposite sex couples in law, and a feeling that congregations should be enabled to provide marriage of same sex couples more urgently if they feel called to do so.
Assembly adjourned to allow a facilitation group, to be appointed later this evening, to seek a form of words that would help the church to seek a way forward