The United Reformed Church, a Protestant denomination in the U.K., has failed to pass a measure that would have allowed ministers to perform marriages for same-sex couples.
A majority of the 300 delegates to the church's General Assembly, held last week in Cardiff, Wales, favored allowing same-sex marriages, but unanimity was required to adopt the proposal, reports website Christian Today.
"A clear majority of members of Assembly expressed the view that local congregations should be permitted to offer same-sex marriage to those who seek that opportunity," Rev. John Proctor, the denomination's general secretary, said in a prepared statement following the meeting, the site reports. "However, because our decision-making process is based on the seeking of full consensus, Assembly was unable to reach agreement."
Several gay, transgender, and allied delegates spoke passionately in favor of the measure, according to Christian Today. "If we draw distinctions between same-sex and opposite-sex marriages we risk outing people, judging people on their genitalia rather than their hearts, souls, and minds," said a transgender delegate. A gay delegate added, "Allow us to welcome God's queer folk to the feast of marriage." The Rev. Fiona Bennett, whose congregation, Augustine United Church in Edinburgh, is LGBT-affirming, said allowing same-sex weddings would help the church "create space for diversity to hold our unity."
Some delegates, though, objected to the proposal by saying it would make the church diverge from the biblical definition of marriage.
The church already allows ceremonies for same-sex civil partnerships, a form of legal union that has been available in the U.K. since 2005. This year a new law went into effect establishing equal marriage rights for same-sex couples in England and Wales, and Scotland has adopted a similar law, scheduled to become effective this fall. The laws do not require churches to offer ceremonies. So far, only the Unitarian Church and the Society of Friends (Quakers) offer same-sex weddings in the U.K.
The United Reformed Church was formed in 1972 by a union of Presbyterian and Congregational churches. It is not related to the Christian Reformed Church or the Protestant Reformed Church, North American denominations that strongly oppose homosexuality.