A common assertion among the latter is that you simply can’t change marriage. Marriage is what marriage is, and no-one has the power to alter it – not government, nor church nor equality activists. According to the Archbishop of York, it is not “the role of the state to define what marriage is. It is set in tradition and history and you can’t just [change it] overnight, no matter how powerful you are.”
The Archbishop is undeniably right of course, when he points to our current understanding of marriage as “a relationship between a man and a woman” but what he fails to acknowledge is that definitions, understandings and laws relating to marriage have been constantly changing through human history, biblical history,and church history.
Benny concludes that the church’s role today is not as last line of defence for marriage, but as a guide to its future change and development.
We may find it inconvenient and uncomfortable, but gay men and women in Britain want to be married, not in ‘civil partnership’. Despite all the failure, ‘marriage’ still carries its essential meaning as “a lifelong union in body, mind, and spirit” and it is a strange society that would prevent people making that measure of commitment to one another. (Equally, I see no reason why heterosexual couples should be disallowed from making civil partnerships if that makes sense to them) The church in general, and the Methodist Church in particular, should be leading the way for the introduction of gay marriage. I hope it will not be long before Methodist ministers and Methodist premises are allowed both by the law of the land and the discipline of the church to celebrate these unions.
But I fear I’m going to be disappointed.