Churches' attendance could benefit from LGBT weddings, study suggests

Churches could benefit from holding same-sex weddings as it opens their doors to potential new worshippers and establishes a "positive" image as a place of worship, a new study has found.

(REUTERS / Jordan Stead)Same sex couples take their vows during a group wedding at the First Baptist Church in Seattle, Washington December 9, 2012.

In a report, researchers from the University of Leeds and York said churches that allowed same-sex weddings "can provide a vehicle for articulating the broader values of the place of worship to a wide audience." The new study also suggested that churches could even benefit from having a reputation for supporting the LGBT community, The Telegraph detailed.

In addition, the study urged churches to actively "opt in" to hold same-sex weddings, noting that since 2014, there were 182 places of worship in the United Kingdom that did so. It also revealed that the attendance in 170 Unitarian churches had increased after they allowed gay couples to get married there.

The study pointed to a Unitarian church's testimony about having "something distinctive to promote." It also highlighted a Baptist church's assertion that its decision to allow gay weddings has drawn in new worshippers.

"Being known for solemnizing same-sex marriage may therefore be a positive 'brand' for a place of worship and not, as some members of some congregations experience it, a negative attribute," the report added.

There have been some incidents where couples have left a church because of its aversion to same-sex marriage, like the Church of England. The latter still prohibits gay marriage, and there are also many other religions that have turned down same-sex wedding ceremonies.

Meanwhile, in Germany, the Catholic bishops' conference's vice president, Franz-Josef Bode of Osnabruck, has called for a debate on the topic of same-sex marriages and if these should be blessed by clergy. His suggestion came in the wake of the country's first gay weddings that were held in the fall after parliament had voted in favor of allowing them, the Catholic News Service reported.

In an interview with the Neue Osnabrucker Zeitung daily, Bishop Bode noted that the Catholic Church considered same-sex relationships as "a grave sin." However, he said they still need to consider if they should bless such unions and if such a blessing was different from that of a wedding ceremony.

In addition, Bishop Bode invited his fellow church leaders to a more detailed discussion on same-sex unions. He said they ought to recognize that staying quiet on the issue was not going to result to anything.