Culture

Methodist Churches in Singapore and Malaysia clarify stand on marriage

Thir.st // July 2, 2021, 1:41 pm

Wedding couple holding hands

In a controversial decision made this week, same-sex marriages have been permitted by the Methodist Church in Britain (MCB). However, The Methodist Church in Singapore (MCS) and The Methodist Church in Malaysia (MCM) have issued strong statements against such a move in the region.

“Sexual intercourse is a sacred experience only when it is accompanied by the love and fidelity of a holy matrimony between a man and a woman,” affirmed the MCS.

Similarly, the MCM statement emphasised three broad areas:

  1. The Bible is the authoritative word of God (2 Timothy 3:15-16, 2 Peter 1:20-21).
  2. The institution of marriage as espoused in the Bible – between a man and a woman (Genesis 1:27, Genesis 2:24, Matthew 19:4-6).
  3. Our Christian response to same-sex marriage, which calls us to follow the teachings of the Bible about marriage as well as the teachings on loving our neighbours.

At the British Methodist Conference 2021 on Wednesday (June 30), a vote to change the definition of marriage was passed by 254 to 46 votes. 

The provisional resolutions that were confirmed include areas such as cohabitation, and same-sex marriages conducted on Methodist premises or by Methodist office-holders.

The Conference has amended these Standing Orders: 

The Methodist Church believes that marriage is a gift of God and that it is God’s intention that a marriage should be is given by God to be a particular channel of God’s grace, and that it is in accord with God’s purposes when a marriage is a life-long union in body, mind and spirit of one man and one woman two people who freely enter it.

Within the Methodist Church this is understood in two ways: that marriage can only be between a man and a woman; that marriage can be between any two people. The Methodist Church affirms both understandings and makes provision in its Standing Orders for them.

However, it also stated that Methodist ministers, probationers, officers or members need not officiate or participate in same-sex marriages, “should it be contrary to the dictates of his or her conscience to do so”.

MCB is said to be the fourth-largest Christian denomination in the UK, with a membership of around 164,000.

Same-sex marriages are not permitted in the Church of England or the Roman Catholic Church, but are allowed by smaller religious groups such as the Quakers in Britain.

Can you stand by your friends and your convictions too?

Responding to these changes in the UK, MCM issued a statement today (July 2), explaining that the approval of same-sex marriage by MCB has no implication on Malaysia’s Methodist Church, which is autonomous.

And yet it acknowledges that the move affects many Methodists in Malaysia “who genuinely want to know where the church really stands in terms of biblical convictions”.

It also notes that in cases overseas, the decision has never been arrived at unanimously, splitting churches and causing many to grieve.

“Often, the decision is made from the perspective of human rights,” said the statement, which was made under the directive of MCM Bishop Dr T. Jeyakumar in consultation with The Council of Bishops. 

However, “to argue from the presupposition of human rights is a huge fallacy because each has his own way of interpreting rights and demanding rights”.

“Cultures will change and politics will adjust itself to cultures. We, on the other hand, must be faithful to the teachings of the Bible,” they cautioned. 

While MCM does not accept same-sex unions, it affirms the love for one’s neighbours. 

“The doors of our hearts and the doors of our churches are open to anyone who will come to be ministered to, and be on the way to being a true disciple of Jesus Christ our Lord,” said the Bishops.  

Church, let’s be a safe place for all who struggle

Separately, Singapore’s Methodist Church has clarified that the decision made by MCB has no influence nor impact on its position.

In a statement also released today (July 2) by Bishop Dr Gordon Wong and Presidents of the MCS, they explained that each national Methodist Church is responsible for its own position on this matter.

MCS’ position is spelled out in its Social Principles. It affirms, among other things, that:

  1. Human sexuality is a gift of God. Sexual intercourse is a sacred experience only when it is accompanied by the love and fidelity of a holy matrimony between a man and a woman. 
  2. The issue of sexuality is divisive because it is deeply personal to our identity. While not the only characteristic, sexuality is an important part of our humanity.
  3. However, the fallen human condition also includes sexual brokenness, the condition by which our perception of sex has distorted what God has intended sex to be.
  4. As Christians, the fundamental ground of our identity is found in Christ alone.
  5. Sexual brokenness is manifested in several ways, including the exploitation of sex, addiction to pornography, same-sex attraction and gender dysphoria.
  6. Everyone needs the healing and transforming power of God’s grace and the welcoming hospitality of the church.
  7. The Church should minister and guide with faithfulness, courage and love – that out of our brokenness we may grow in holiness.

You can read the full statement here.

THINK + TALK

  1. Do you recognise that God’s created order for mankind does not change based on cultures?
  2. How can you be faithful to the Word of God while also loving your neighbour?
  3. How can you pray for the Church in Singapore and beyond?