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'It’s heart-breaking': Methodist lay preachers say they're being pushed out over same-sex marriage stance

by Kelly Valencia

Some Methodist lay preachers, who are not ordained and preach voluntarily, are reportedly being blocked from speaking opportunities due to their failure to accept the Church's stance on same-sex marriage.

That's despite a conscience clause set up to ensure those who disagree with same-sex marriage don't feel they have to compromise their beliefs.

In 2021, the Methodist Church in Britain became the largest denomination in the UK to change its definition of marriage to include same-sex couples.

The vote, won conformably by those supportive of blessing same-sex couples, meant individual churches could register to officiate the ceremonies.

It also said those opposed to the move could uphold a conscience clause which meant no church leader should be or could be forced to officiate such ceremony.

However, Steve Clark, a former ordained minister, has claimed several lay preachers in Yorkshire are no longer able to preach because they chose not to uphold the church's doctrine on same-sex marriage.

All local preachers and ordained ministers are asked to uphold the Methodist doctrine in an annual district gathering as they prepare for the year ahead.

But according to several sources, lay preachers are not being allowed to continue with their ministry unless they uphold the Methodist's doctrine in full.

In a YouTube video, Clark said he had resigned from the Methodist church in protest of the treatment of his colleagues. 

"It became apparent that in our local area, the Methodist local preachers or lay preachers had been told that unless they sew the line with this new doctrine, then they would no longer be able to preach in Methodist churches.

"So I, as a minister, I was able to continue to preach but my lay colleagues, who held the same view as me, were not going to be able to continue preaching and I felt that was really unjust and I couldn't stand by and do nothing.

"So I felt I had to submit my resignation from the Methodist Church."

Rev Dr David Hull, chair of the Methodist Evangelicals Together (MET) has told Premier the group is aware of several lay preachers in this situation.

"Many believe that the decisions of the Methodist Church in 2021 represent a departure from the teaching that has been held by the Christian Church throughout our history and is still held by the vast majority of Christians around the world today. 

"Following those decisions, some have felt they cannot remain within the denomination; others speak of a call to remain whilst being unable in good conscience to affirm the denomination's doctrine following the changes. 

"It is heart-breaking that a number of lay preachers are no longer able to continue to exercise the ministry they have faithfully fulfilled over many years, and I hope a more gracious way forward will be found in the future. We continue to be committed within MET to supporting all evangelicals in the Methodist Church as each discerns the way forward."

When asked about these accusations, the Methodist Church of Britain told Premier the "doctrinal standards of the Church have not been changed".

"Each year, local preachers, presbyters and deacons are asked to affirm that they will preach the doctrine of the Methodist Church.

"The Methodist Church recognises two definitions of marriage, as being between a man and woman and between any two people. The Methodist Conference 2021 recognised that, whilst this represents a change to the practices of the Methodist Church concerning marriage, the doctrinal standards of the Church have not been changed."

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