From 27 June to 4 July, the British Methodist Conference will be asked to receive ‘God in Love Unites Us’, a report produced by the Marriage and Relationships Task Group. Set up in 2016, the task group offers the report as the next stage of the Methodist Church’s ‘pilgrimage of faith’ and sketches a vision of sexuality that seeks to guide Methodists in Christian living today.

The report represents a watershed moment in the life of the Methodist Church in Britain. If its resolutions are adopted, the approach of the Methodist Church to marriage and relationships will be fundamentally changed. The Church is called to remain faithful to the biblical teaching on sexuality, and yet the revisions to the Church’s view proposed in the report radically change this teaching in a number of ways: 

  • The report argues that the qualities of relationships are what is important, and so all relationships – including sexual relationships – which exhibit good qualities reflect the presence of God’s love. The report then departs from the view that traditional marriage is the only God-given place for sexual intimacy, and believes the Church should no longer require chastity (i.e. celibacy) for the unmarried.
  • Exploring cohabitation and civil partnerships, the report seeks to show that both forms of relationship can display the qualities of good relating and calls the Church to celebrate the love of God that is present within them. The report seeks to make it possible for the Church to offer blessings to those in civil partnerships, both for same-sex and mixed-sex couples.
  • The report proposes that the liturgies and theology of the Methodist Church be changed to accommodate same-sex marriage. Marriage should be defined as between two people’ rather than one man and one woman’.
  • Since divorce will sometimes occur, the report recommends that the Church provide liturgies to mark the end of a marriage as well as its beginning.

In this response, the Methodist Evangelicals Together’s Marriage and Relationship Team briefly summarises the report before demonstrating how it fails to listen well to the Bible, to tradition, and to experience. For these reasons, the report does not offer a faithful response to God’s call. Following a discussion of each area, we propose a way ahead for the Church and the conference.

We at the MET encourage you to read the response, MET – Faithful Listening – A Response to God in love unites us, and join the MET as we ask God to guide the Methodist Conference as it debates the report God in love unites us and makes decisions based upon it. Please also pray that the discussions will be gracious and faithful to God and His word.

Photo by Humberto Chavez