United Reformed Church in UK Keeps Ban on Same-Sex Marriage Though Majority Oppose It

The United Reformed Church in the U.K. fell short of reaching a full consensus on changing its traditional definition of marriage to include same-sex couples during its General Assembly.

The Rev. John Proctor said that a "clear majority" of the 300 delegates were in favor of seeing URC become the U.K.'s biggest church that embraces same-sex marriages, but the church body needed a "full consensus," BBC News noted on Sunday.

"A clear majority of members of Assembly expressed the view that local congregations should be permitted to offer same-sex marriage to those who seek that opportunity," Proctor said of the debate.

"However, because our decision-making process is based on the seeking of full consensus, Assembly was unable to reach agreement."

On its website, URC made note of some of the discussion that went on during the General Assembly on the issue.

"One speaker who had not come out as gay until mid life, shared how the experience of LGBT people was one of 'diminished lives, outcast from life's feast.' He urged Assembly: 'Allow us to welcome God's queer folk to the feast of marriage,'" URC wrote.

"Another member had become a woman, having been married in church as a man, and remained legally married. Wishing Christians of any gender to be allowed the gift of a church marriage, she asked: 'Is Assembly willing to take risks for people like me? Are other people going to get the same opportunity we had?'"

However, another member reminded the Assembly that while Jesus Christ asked those "without sin," who condemned the adulteress, to "cast the first stone," he then told her "sin no more."

The member added that he would "accept, welcome and love" gay couples at his church, but "if they asked me to condone their relationship, I could not do it because of my conscience."

The Assembly said that it would put together a facilitation group which would "help the church to seek a way forward."

URC says that it has 68,000 members in 1,500 congregations with some 700 ministers. It was formed in 1972 by a union of the Presbyterian Church of England and the majority of churches in the Congregational Church in England and Wales.

According to BBC, smaller groups such as the Quakers and the Unitarian Church have agreed to hold gay weddings on their properties.

The Church of England maintains its support for traditional marriage and has banned priests from officiating gay weddings.

The Church of England has met some internal opposition to its doctrine, however, and in June a second gay priest married his same-sex partner despite the ban on such ceremonies.

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby has said that while the church body accepts that same-sex marriage is the law in Britain, after such legislation came into effect in March, it will continue supporting traditional marriage.