Songs of Praise gay wedding 'might encourage other churches to think' says URC

Tue 20 Aug 2019
By Cara Bentley

A leader in the United Reformed Church in Scotland has said although allowing gay marriage is up to each church, he hopes others will think about doing the same.

On Sunday, BBC's Songs of Praise broadcast a same-sex wedding for the first time at a United Reformed Church (URC) in Glasgow.

Jamie and Ian McDowell-Wallace are both members of the United Reformed Church, where gay marriage was legalised three years ago. Their wedding ceremony took place at Rutherglen URC.

Some criticised the decision of the Christian programme, with Graham Nicholls from the evangelical network of churches Affinity, saying "I'm sad that that is being represented as potentially biblical Christianity, because I think it's not" (full interview in link). 



However, Rev David Pickering, moderator in the United Reformed Church Synod in Scotland and also member of Rutherglen URC and a personal friend of the couple, told Premier: "The church was thrilled and excited, especially for Jamie, who's one of the grooms and he's a faithful and much loved church member there.

"This might seem an old story for us in the URC Synod of Scotland, for I'm aware that at least 20 or more services of equal or same sex marriages have been conducted by our ministers over the last three years since this was permitted.

"But to have it broadcast on BBC Songs of Praise was really special because it's a programme which has such a good public awareness and for us it was a witness of a celebration of marriage, that's the most important, but in this instance of a marriage between two, loving males."

Mr Pickering attended the service and said there was applause when the minister announced it was the first same-sex wedding at the church.

When asked what he thinks of the critcism, he replied: "It's good to have debate, the URC took some years to reach what is this considered decision, which is to allow both churches and ministers who feel called to offer such services to do so, whereas, respecting the wishes of those churches who don't.

"I would hope that perhaps the exposure on Songs of Praise might encourage other churches to think 'Well, might be this something to which we are called? And might it help our witness to the widest community where we live in our neighborhood, including to the LGBT community?' And, if we're honest, I guess there are very few churches within whom there aren't probably people who - if not counting themselves as LGBT - might be LGBT allies, they might have a child, a brother, a parent, who is gay."

"For me, of course, it's possible to look at some individual texts but looking at the broad sweep of the Bible, the traditional biblical values that I find are love, acceptance and welcome, not least for the ostracised - a justice, especially for the marginalised, and hospitality - I think those traditional biblical values were visibly celebrated in the service of marriage between Jamie and Ian at Rutherglen URC which I'm so glad that BBC Songs of Praise filmed and broadcast."

Graham Nicholls from Affinity told Premier's News Hour on Tuesday: "I don't like the langauge that's being used by those in favour of it...saying things like it's an issue of grace and love and justice and inclusivity and the implication is that that those of us who might think differently on this particular issue of gay marriage - not about inclusion, or justice - that we're horrible people who are not inclusive, or gracious, or loving, or just, or any of those things."

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