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‘We would be looking at the dissolving of the Baptist Union’: warning over considerations to allow ministers to marry their same-sex partner

by Tola Mbakwe
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A UK Baptist minister has said that any move by the Baptist Union of Great Britain to allow ministers to marry their same-sex partner would lead to the “dissolving” of the denomination.

The Church sent a letter to ministers this week informing them that the Baptist Union Council, which is responsible for making any rules changes, will be reflecting on a request made in 2020 to allow ministers to marry their same sex partner.

Currently, if a minister did so, he or she would be committing gross misconduct and therefore have their accreditation revoked.

Rev Nigel Coles, senior regional minister and team Leader for the West of England Baptist Network, told Premier he would challenge such a change to the Church’s rules.

“[If it were to go through] I think we'd be looking at the dissolving of the Baptist Union as we have understood it, and known it,” he said.

“Because it would be a decision that would be made without reference to the basis of our faith, which is the Bible.”

He acknowledged that gay marriage within the Church as a whole is a sensitive issue but rejected the idea of altering the Church’s historic position on the issue.

Rev Coles said: “I would suggest the vast majority of Baptist people in this country recognise that it's a hugely sensitive issue, and a very prominent one in the general media.

“There's a very real difference of being understanding and sensitive to people who see things differently, to suggesting we actually change the definition of Christian marriage and what has been regarded globally, from any culture, as marriage as between a man and a woman.

“It would be sort of 180 degrees in opposition to what we've already always believed for 2,000 years.”

The request for an update to the Ministerial Recognition Rules asks for the removal of a line which says that marriage is "exclusively between a man and a woman".

The Baptist Union Council will be discussing the issue over the next several months and there will be a number of consultations taking place. It has not given a deadline for the a decision to be made.

Baptist minister Rev Steve Chalke is excited at the prospect of a change within the Church.

“It’s a fantastic change if it comes about because it liberates so many other churches and their leaders to do what they know pastorally, and biblically, I would say, is the right thing to do,” he said.

“Most of all, it sends a giant message to the gay and bisexual and transgender communities that you are included. If it goes through, we'll send a giant message to people that we've woken up. We're reading the Bible more deeply and more accurately, and we are expressing in real terms that God is love, and that everyone, whatever their sexuality is made in God's image.

"The truth is that slowly the tide of inclusion is washing up over the beach. And  to extend the metaphor, these sandcastles of resistance are crumbling, they're wearing down."

As part of the Baptist Union, individual churches can make their own regulations in regards to hosting same sex marriages of members in their buildings. When the government changed the law in 2013 to allow churches to host gay weddings, the Union said it would not intervene, "upholding the liberty of a local church to determine its own mind on this matter".

However after further reflection, in 2016, it released a statement urging churches who were considering conducting same sex marriages to "refrain from doing so out of mutual respect".

Listen to the full interview with Rev Nigel Coles here:

Listen to the full interview with Rev Steve Chalke here:

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