“We have seen people join and become active in several local congregations as a direct result of our welcoming stance on same sex marriage.”
A study taken at the University of Leeds and York found churches that provide same-sex weddings have seen an increase in their attendance.
Academics found that churches who are able to provide the service are a “positive ‘brand’ for a place of worship,” and that same-sex ceremonies “can provide a vehicle for articulating the broader values of the place of worship to a wide audience.”
The report also suggested churches can benefit from being associated with same-sex ceremonies and being known as a “gay church”.
“As one Unitarian church reported, the commitment to same-sex marriage ‘gives us something distinctive to promote’,” the paper said.
“Or, as one Baptist church stated: ‘As a city centre church, this has positioned us more clearly in the ‘market’ – meaning those who want such a church know clearly who we are, and will travel to come to us (very few live nearby).’
“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.”
Unitarian churches – of which there are 170 in the UK – have the highest denomination of any church, with 44% of their churches providing same-sex ceremonies.
The study found that churches who opted in to same-sex marriage attracted “new LGBT visitors” and “congregation members” who liked their liberal values, and will most likely attend the congregation again in the future.
“For example, one Unitarian church stated that ‘there has been an increase in attendance at services by gay and trans people’, and another Unitarian church stated the decision ‘may have encouraged some LGBT people to join the congregation’,” the report – called “Religious marriage of same-sex couples” – found.
Derek McAuley- chief officer of the General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches – told The Telegraph: “We have seen people join and become active in several local congregations as a direct result of our welcoming stance on same sex marriage.”
Same-sex weddings are still forbidden from taking place in the Church of England.
Currently, only 182 of more than 40,000 churches in the UK hold same-sex marriages.