The United Kingdom’s Methodist Church, its fourth-largest Christian denomination, has voted to permit same-sex marriages.
The vote passed “overwhelmingly” 254 to 46 at the Methodist Conference on Wednesday, the BBC reports. Church officials say that they hope the first same-sex weddings will take place this fall.
“Some of us have been praying for this day to come for decades, and can hardly believe it is now here,” Rev. Sam McBratney told the BBC. “We are so grateful to our fellow Methodists for taking this courageous step to recognize and affirm the value and worth of LGBTQ+ relationships.”
The vote was not without controversy, with former vice-president of the Conference Carolyn Lawrence telling the BBC that “Today is a line in the sand for many people and seen as a significant departure from our doctrine.” She warned that the vote would result in an exodus from the Methodist Church.
A similar vote passed at the 2019 Methodist Conference. The resolution was sent to local synods for further consultation before final confirmation at the 2020 Conference. However, the final vote was delayed until 2021 due to the Covid pandemic.
The current resolution leaves room for conscientious objections, reading, “Under no circumstances does the Conference require any person who is subject to the discipline of the Church as a minister, probationer, officer, or member to officiate at or participate in the marriage of a particular couple, should it be contrary to the dictates of his or her conscience to do so.”
Other Christian denominations that permit same-sex marriage in the United Kingdom are the Scottish Episcopal Church, the United Reformed Church, the Unitarian Church, and the Quakers. The Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church — the largest Christian denominations — do not permit same-sex marriage.