Our Inclusiveness Journey

Cumnor URC and Equal Marriage

Like many other congregations in the URC, Cumnor URC's initial discussions around the place of LGBT+ people were tentative.  While one or two members of the congregation were vocal in their opposition to anything other than heterosexuality as the only acceptable orientation for those seeking membership or exercising ministry, the majority sought to express a more open stance.

The catalyst for a more positive attitude came in the presence of a couple of the same gender who began attending the church in 2010 and became Church Members. One of whom has subsequently been ordained as a URC Minister, serving both as a Hospital Chaplain and Non-Stipendiary Minister in local congregations. Their commitment to each other and to the Gospel, together with their testimony as to why Christian Marriage was important to them influenced both hearts and minds.

A year after the Same Sex Marriage Bill passed into law in 2014, the URC's General Assembly began debating equal marriage.  Following a year of consultation across the denomination a special General Assembly was held in Birmingham in 2015. The outcome of the debate was to resolve to allow local congregations to determine their own position, but implementation would rely upon endorsement by the full meeting of General Assembly in 2016.

The Cumnor Church Meeting on 30th September 2015 resolved "to register for the solemnisation of same-sex marriages as soon as General Assembly authorises local congregations to do so and the administrative processes are in place for this to happen".

This 'decision in principle' was an expression of solidarity with the same-sex couple who had been worshipping at Cumnor URC. It demonstrated the congregation's desire to support them and acknowledged the pain being unable to marry may have caused them and others.

In July 2016, the URC became the largest UK denomination to freely permit the celebration and registration of marriages of same-sex couples in its churches. 

On 2nd October 2016, Cumnor URC became the first church in the Wessex Synod to register for authorisation to conduct same-sex marriages and the first of any denomination in Oxfordshire to do so.  It was felt that it would be some time before a marriage took place, so we marked this step in the life of our Church with an act of contrition and commitment within our Communion Service in June 2017. 

We marked that event with a Press Release that led to coverage in the Oxford Mail and on BBC Radio Oxford as well as some reaction in social media which reflected a range of views on the issue. Article in Oxford Mail - 20 May 2017

The first same-sex marriage to be celebrated at Cumnor was on Christmas Eve 2017 since when there have been a small number of marriages celebrated at Cumnor, each one of significance for the couple and a source of blessings for the whole congregation.

Among those blessings has been the message our stance on Equal Marriage has been seen to convey to others who have not been looking for Equal Marriage on their own behalf. Rather they have seen our position as validating our inclusive invitation and indicative of our theology and churchmanship. As a consequence our small congregation is experiencing modest growth in numbers and enrichment in the diversity of the congregation in age and background.