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 Issues | General Synod | July 2006

General Synod

Marriage Measure - GS1616

Who should be allowed to marry in a parish church?
This is one of the issues to be considered by the General Synod on Saturday evening.

At present in order to be married in a particular church you have to be resident in the parish or on the electoral roll. As all clergy know many people are prepared to attend a parish church on a regular basis for six months to qualify under the latter condition whilst there are various means people follow to satisfy the former, including deception.

What the present conditions make difficult is the marriage of someone who has attended a church for many years but then move away and still feels a strong attachment to it (perhaps because it was where they were brought up and where their parents still attend). Whilst it is possible at present to be married by special licence it is not possible to be married by banns without a certain amount of deviousness.

The proposals before Synod will radically alter the requirements as to who may be married in a parish church. If it passes into law then a person will be able to be married if that person;

  • has at any time in the past been on the church electoral roll of the parish; or
  • was baptized or confirmed according to the rites of the Church of England in the parish; or
  • has at any time been resident in the parish; or
  • habitually attends, or has at any time habitually attended, public worship according to the rites of the Church of England in the parish; or
  • has at any time attended a school in the parish.

Most significantly they will also be allowed to marry in a parish if;
A “relative” of the person concerned –

  • is, or has at any time been, resident in the parish;
  • is, or has at any time been, enrolled on the church electoral roll of the parish; or
  • was married according to the rites of the Church of England in the parish.

“Relative” for this purpose means a parent (including an adoptive parent), a grandparent, a step-parent, a guardian, a foster-parent or person who has undertaken the care and upbringing of the person concerned, or a godparent.

What will be the effect of this Measure?

  • There will be many instances where there is a good reason why a couple should be married in a particular parish church and the new rules will make it easier, i.e. they don’t have to go through the process of getting a special licence.
  • Some hope it will increase the number of people overall opting for church weddings which have declined considerably in recent years as other venues have become possible. This will have the effect of increasing the overall fee income to CofE parishes, although not the stipends of clergy which are not dependent upon fees.
  • Less physically attractive churches are likely to see a drop in those asking for weddings because people will have more choice.
  • More physically attractive churches could well see a significant rise in the number of applications for weddings. Curiously some parish clergy will see this as a great means of outreach whilst others will see it as a major distraction taking up valuable time which they could spend on work which they believe will be much more effective.

David Phillips July 2006


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