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Background & Objectives
After a few years of consultations and debates about marriage and sexuality, in Summer 2016, the URC voted at General Assembly (GA) to adopt a resolution that allowed each local congregation to decide whether it felt led to register its buildings for the marriage of same-sex couples.
In 2017 our church spent some months engaging with the issues related to the GA decision and considered what our response should be. This culminated in October 2017 with a vote, which according to the parameters agreed at church meeting, resulted in HURC deciding not to register.
We then had a ‘cooling off period’, which was lengthened by the emergence of Covid! Over recent months, however, we have begun to revisit that decision. In January 2022, we conducted a short questionnaire to gauge where people now stand on the issue. The results were fed into a Thinking & Praying Ahead forum discussion in February and the comments raised there led to March’s church meeting commissioning another period of exploration, with a vote scheduled for the autumn.
One of the key thoughts from the process so far has been that we need to look more broadly at marriage and sexuality and not just focus on the decision about equal / same-sex marriage.
With this in mind, we have committed ourselves to the following objectives for this process:
Grow in our willingness and openness to engage with each other over issues we disagree on
Gain a better understanding and love of the individuals who make up our fellowship
Have a wider and clearer understanding of marriage and sexuality in the context of Christian faith and God’s faithfulness
Grow in our understanding of all relevant Bible passages
Feel better prepared to take an informed vote on same-sex marriage and remain lovingly united in Christ regardless of the outcome
Based on this and the discussions in February, it is important to recognise that the process is as much for learning (more) about other points of view as it is for putting forth your own. Whether we are listening or speaking, it is helpful to recommit ourselves to the Covenant for Dialogue and Debate in the Church, which we produced in 2017 (available here).
In May we undertook a brief survey to ascertain where people were at in terms of the objectives and what types of events and resources they would most like. Based on this, we have organised the following:
Timescale & Process
JUNE: Webpage up and running
FIRST SESSION TOGETHER – SUN 26 JUNE
Hear feedback from survey and how it has shaped process/programme
Discuss and agree together the Objectives and Covenant
Initial discussion on broad issues related to marriage
SECOND SESSION TOGETHER – SUN 10/17 JULY (tbc)
KEY FOCUS: Theological perspectives
Overview of different theological views and interpretation of key Bible texts
A debate (two speakers)
THIRD SESSION TOGETHER – SUN 11 SEPT
KEY FOCUS: Personal perspectives
Overview of people’s stories
Hear from some people (either ‘in person’ or on video) and discuss in groups
SEPT CHURCH MEETING (MON 12 SEPT)
If agreed that we are “better prepared to take an informed vote on licensing for same-sex marriage” (objective #5), we'll set the approach to and parameters for the vote (provisionally in Oct or Nov).
These are key 'events' but we are encouraging everyone throughout this period to be engaging with each other in conversation on these topics and exploring the various resources available. With that in mind, we have set up a hub of different links and pointers to websites, videos and books...
We have gathered here a collection of resources, including those suggested by church members and survey respondents. We hope they represent a range of Christian views on this topic and help us to achieve some of the objectives above. In that regard, here is a good opportunity to hear viewpoints that you may disagree with - in order to better understand them and those who hold them.
If there is a resource that you would like to see listed here, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
Perhaps a good place to start is by browsing through the Church of England's Living in Love and Faith (pdf) book since this represents the same kind of approach that we are adopting with 'Exploring Marriage and Sexuality'. Or, the URC's One plus One booklet (pdf), produced for the 2014 General Assembly. Both raise important questions and provide a framework for considering the different views that follow.
And you may find this glossary of LGBTQ+ terms helpful too!
For a clear formulation of what is sometimes referred as the traditional evangelical view on Marriage and Sexuality see The Nashville Statement. A charity holding this 'conservative' view is Christian Concern - see the Issues page of their website, which includes material on Marriage, Gender and Sexuality. And the following affirmations summarise the position of the Evangelical Alliance in its 2012 Report 'Biblical and pastoral responses to homosexuality'.
The website Living Out aims to "help people, churches and society talk about faith and sexuality...and is committed to helping churches to support same-sex attracted Christians and to teach wisely and compassionately on sexuality." There are personal stories, articles and audiovisual materials. It represents Christians who are open about their sexual attractions whilst holding to a 'traditional' view of marriage and sexuality.
The website Bible and Homosexuality is by Revd Dr Jonathan Tallon and aims to cover "what the Bible says (and doesn't say) about homosexuality, sexuality and gender". It represents the case that the Bible does not rule out faithful, loving same-sex relationships. The site is mostly composed of videos (see below) along with the transcripts.
Inclusive Church is "a network of churches, groups and individuals uniting together around a shared vision: a church which celebrates and affirms every person and does not discriminate." Whilst its vision is broader than issues of sexuality, it does include them. With a narrower focus, the Open Table Network - is "a growing partnership of communities across England & Wales which welcome and affirm people who are: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Queer or Questioning, Intersex, & Asexual (LGBTQIA)"
The Uniting Network in Australia (UNA) is the national network for LGBTIQ+ people, families, friends and supporters within the Uniting Church in Australia. See their resource page.
The website itspronouncedmetrosexual.com is a free online resource for social justice, gender, and sexuality.
The Spring 2022 edition of The Briefing by Free to Believe - "an informal network of liberally minded Christians striving for an open, inclusive and thinking church" - considers issues of inclusivity.
The Gospel Coalition website hosts a number of traditional evangelical articles under Sexuality.
'What does the Bible actually say about being gay?' - an article produced a while back by the BBC that seeks to show how the same Bible passages are being interpreted differently by Christians.
Transgender. Human. Christian. By URC minister Alex Clare-Young
Transgender. By Vaughan Roberts
More Perfect Union? Understanding Same-sex Marriage. By Bishop Alan Wilson
Towards a Theology of Same-sex Marriage. By Clare Herbert
God, Gender, Sex & Marriage. By Mandy Ford
What does the Bible really Teach about Homosexuality? By Kevin DeYoung
This is 2 hours long! If you want to skim through their earlier arguments, see the link to their articles above. But this is a good example of two Christians humbly disagreeing with each other.