Britain – the gay issue
Posted by Fr Mark on August 8, 2009
Quakers move to treat same-sex partnerships like marriages
Quakers are to allow same-sex couples to marry, in defiance of traditional religious teaching and civil law.
By Martin Beckford, Religious Affairs Correspondent
Published: 8:00AM BST 01 Aug 2009
The Christian denomination, also known as The Religious Society of Friends, has accepted homosexuality for decades and already blesses civil partnerships.
But now members gathered for their Yearly Meeting in York have agreed to allow homosexual couples to marry in exactly the same way as men and women do.
They acknowledge the move would be illegal in England, Wales and Scotland, where same-sex couples are only allowed to be legally united in civil partnerships.
But they say they will lobby politicians to change the law so that their registrars, who have the authority to perform legally binding marriage ceremonies, can allow homosexual couples to marry.
The minutes of Friday’s meeting state: “This open sharing of personal experience has moved us and added to our clear sense that, 22 years after the prospect was first raised at Meeting for Sufferings we are being led to treat same sex committed relationships in the same way as opposite sex marriages, reaffirming our central insight that marriage is the Lord’s work and we are but witnesses. The question of legal recognition by the state is secondary.
“We therefore ask Meeting for Sufferings to take steps to put this leading into practice and to arrange for a draft revision of the relevant sections of Quaker faith and practice, so that same sex marriages can be prepared, celebrated, witnessed, recorded and reported to the state, as opposite sex marriages are.
“We also ask Meeting for Sufferings to engage with our governments to seek a change in the relevant laws so that same sex marriages notified in this way can be recognised as legally valid, without further process, in the same way as opposite sex marriages celebrated in our meetings.
“We will not at this time require our registering officers to act contrary to the law, but understand that the law does not preclude them from playing a central role in the celebration and recording of same sex marriages.”
It is the latest sign of movement by Christian denominations, which have traditionally held that marriage is a sacred union of a man and a woman, towards secular ideas of equality for people of all sexual orientations.
Anglican churches in America recently voted to allow the ordination of openly homosexual clergy and the blessing of same-sex unions in church, prompting the Archbishop of Canterbury to warn that the 80 million-strong global communion could devolve into a “two-track” structure.
The Church of Sweden, which is formally linked to the Church of England, also plans to make its marriage liturgy “gender neutral” so that same-sex couples can have traditional wedding services for the first time.
Senior bishops have written that this “appears to be a fundamental re-definition of the Christian doctrine of marriage and of basic Christian anthropology”.