July 31 (Bloomberg) -- British Quakers have agreed to recognize same-sex marriage and allow their communities to conduct wedding ceremonies for gay couples.
The change means that homosexual couples will be given the same recognition by Quakers in the U.K. that the group accords heterosexual marriages. The Quakers, known as the Religious Society of Friends and founded in England in 1652, had accepted same-sex partnerships for decades.
“Marriage is the Lord’s work and we are but witnesses,” the Quakers’ British organization said in an e-mailed statement detailing the decision made today at their annual meeting in the English city of York. “The question of legal recognition by the state is secondary.”
The Quakers’ decision may intensify debate among the world’s religious communities on the rights of same-sex couples. The ordination of openly gay bishops by the Episcopal Church in the U.S. has prompted a rift with the global Anglican community.
The Quakers urged members to encourage governments to change laws and recognize the right of gay couples to marry. While gay marriage isn’t legal in most jurisdictions, governments can’t stop religious communities from playing a “central role” in performing weddings, the Quakers said.
The U.K. recognized civil partnerships for gay couples in 2005 and since then more than 26,000 couples have registered.
The Quakers acknowledged there were divisions among themselves over what the group called the “threshing process” leading up to today’s decision.
“We will need to explain our decision to other Christian bodies,” according to the statement.
I can just imagine Kris Mineau trying to put a hippi-radical-communist-heathen label on Quakers now! ;)