Evangelical Methodists have called on the nationwide denomination to uphold biblical teaching, in the wake of a new report supporting homosexual marriage.
The Methodist Church’s Marriage and Relationships Task Group also backed cohabitation, civil partnerships and suggested a service for divorces.
But Methodist Evangelicals Together (MET) said the Bible only teaches marriage as between one man and one woman for life.
The report, released on Tuesday, recommends the Methodist policy-making body “consents to the marriage of same sex couples”.
…our supreme rule of faith and practice
It also welcomes “informal cohabitation” and calls for resources to be produced “for the celebration of civil partnerships”.
On divorce, it advocates considering the production of “liturgical resources” to use “at the ending of a marriage”.
If the report is accepted by the Methodist Conference – made up of representatives from across the country – it will then be consulted on more widely.
A final decision will be made next year.
In its response, Methodist Evangelicals Together said it remained committed to the Bible as “our supreme rule of faith and practice”.
MET added: “We therefore uphold the biblical understanding of marriage as the life-long union of one man and one woman, and call upon the Church to do the same.
“We are carefully studying the report, noting that it is intended as a discussion starter rather than reaching definitive conclusions.”
In February, the United Methodist Church – a separate organisation – voted to retain its biblical definition of marriage.
The Church’s General Conference, which included delegates from around the world, reinforced the Church’s stance that homosexuality is “incompatible with Christian teaching”.