A Lancashire church has made a ground-breaking decision to go ahead with gay marriages.
Leyland United Reformed Church is the first mainstream church in the county to be registered for same-sex ceremonies after its members gave the green light to plans.
And gay couples have already approached the Quin Street church inquiring about getting married there.
Reverend David Coaker, of Leyland United Reformed Church, said he was “delighted” by the move.
He said he thought the church could be the first in the county to allow gay marriages.
They were voted in by church members – who total 63 – during a church meeting.
Reverend Coaker said “a significant majority” were in favour of allowing the ceremonies at the church – although he said he did not vote on the matter himself.
“I left it to the congregation,” he said.
Leyland United Reformed became an approved venue for same sex marriages on May 5, but Reverend Coaker explained that “the paperwork is just starting to come through”.
He said no same-sex marriages have been booked as yet, but added: “We’ve had some inquiries, but nothing fixed yet.”
Leyland’s vote was made possible after the United Reformed Church General Assembly – the denomination’s highest policy-making body – agreed in July 2016 that decisions about whether to allow the marriage of same sex couples would be made by individual congregations, within the different legal systems of parts of the UK.
The URC General Assembly decision in 2016 followed legislation in 2013 and 2014 bringing recognition for same-sex marriage into law in England, Wales and Scotland.
The legislation stipulated that religious organisations would have to ‘opt in’ if they wished to offer these marriage services.
Leyland United Reformed Church says it is committed to being an open and inclusive community and this decision follows on from many other steps.
Reverend David Coaker said: “I am delighted that the members of the church voted in favour of being able to welcome anyone who wants to celebrate their love and commitment to do so.
“This decision is an expression of their desire to live a truly inclusive welcome.
“I believe it is a clear statement of their belief that everyone is valued, unique, and accepted as a fellow human being, and is welcome within Leyland United Reformed Church.”
He added: “For me, faith, trusting in God, is a personal and a community activity in which we explore, express, and engage in, our relationship with God. God’s welcome is for all.
“It is a welcome grounded in love and acceptance. A welcome that is unconditional, but if we accept it then it becomes a challenge to ourselves to live it out. That challenge is discerned, individually and communally, as we engage with the Bible, church teaching and tradition, the insights of science, and with our own consciences.
“I know that Christians within my own denomination, the wider Church, and even some within the congregation, take a very different stance and I respect the discernment that led them to it.
“All I hope is that they respect the discernment and the decisions that the members of Leyland United Reformed Church have taken.”
Lancashire County Council said it had checked with its registration service and that Leyland United Reformed Church is the first United Reformed Church in Lancashire to be registered for same sex marriages.