Baptist Union to allow gay marriage ceremonies
Gay marriage ceremonies are to be allowed take place in Baptist Union of Great Britain church buildings for the first time, with ministers being offered the discretion to respond specifically to the wishes of their own congregations on the issue.
The radical move follows a meeting of the Church's Assembly 2014, which took place over the weekend and lifts the ban imposed on Baptist ministers' blessing civil partnerships without breaching disciplinary guidelines.
The rule change follows a series of intense conversations held between the BU's Council, Team Leaders and the Baptist Union Steering Group in the wake of the government's introduction of the Same-Sex Marriage Bill last year.
Despite the Church's decision to allow same-sex marriage ceremonies take place in accordance with ministers' conscience, gay church leaders still won't be permitted to marry their partners, which the Church perceives as "unbecoming of a minister' in accordance with the Baptist Union's understanding of a Christian marriage which remains between "a man and a woman."
Baptist Union Faith and Society Team Leader Stephen Keyworth told Premier's News Hour what's changed:
The Christian Institute which campaigned against the coalition's same-sex marriage bill has strongly condemned the Baptist Union's decision to offer gay marriage ceremonies to gay couples.
Organisation spokesman Calum Webster told Premier's Des Busteed why he doesn't support the BU's decision.
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Meanwhile, the Archbishop of Canterbury has reiterated his opposition to same-sex marriage after being quoted saying it's 'great'.
A spokesperson for Most Revd Justin Welby said he was simply speaking to 'Pink News' about the right of parliament to change the law and his views hadn't changed.
The Anglican leader voted against gay marriage in the House of Lords last year, while the Church of England remains opposed to the law.
The Church of England and the Church in Wales are currently banned from carrying out gay marriage ceremonies under the current legislation, with a vote in parliament the only way of reversing the current status quo.
However, a Church of England priest, Canon Jeremy Pemberton, who is a hospital chaplain in Lincolnshire tied the knot with long-term partner Laurence Cunnington in a ceremony last month.
Canon Pemberton has also reportedly indicated his intension to offer marriage ceremonies to other Anglican same-sex couples.
Up until now Quakers in Britain was the only mainstream Church in England and Wales offering same-sex marriages.