According to me, General Synod Te Hinota Whanui (GSTHW) has messed up in its regulations about weddings. I would, once again, love to be demonstrated to be incorrect. GSTHW has quietly swept previous liturgical irregularities it had produced under the ever-lumpier carpet. With so much debate around marriage it is a little surprising that it has not taken greater care in this case. And had the regulations been anything connecting to gays, I am certain that every jot and tittle would have been minutely examined down to the last pixel. But since the church’s marriage regulations are currently only about heterosexuals, why put in the effort?
I previously wrote about the handful of agreements NZ Anglicans have for celebrating Eucharist. And how each one of these minimal requirements is broken in our province. This post follows the same approach but for weddings.
I have been pressing the Anglican Church here to be upfront about the liturgical chaos in our province. I think there is huge confusion about what is required, allowed, and forbidden. And that alongside inadequate study, training, and formation in worship. General Synod Te Hinota Whanui 2012 (GSTHW) received a motion from our diocese seeking movement on this, but it did not discuss that motion, passing it on to Standing Committee to address. As we near the next meeting of GSTHW, we have heard no more about it. So I am going to start by making my own reflections on this.
The formularies of our church for weddings are
- The Form of Solemnisation of Matrimony (BCP 1662)
- An alternative Form of Solemnisation of Matrimony (BCP 1928)
- Marriage Liturgy First Form (NZPB/HKMA)
- Marriage Liturgy Second Form (NZPB/HKMA)
- Marriage Liturgy Third Form (NZPB/HKMA)
That, as far as I know, is it!
You cannot make up your own vows.
Our church’s website does not list any marriage formularies in languages other than English.
Only priests and bishops can preside (note to deacons). A man can marry his brother’s wife, but a woman cannot marry her stepfather nor her daughter’s husband, etc. (page G5)
You cannot cut and paste from one marriage formulary into another. That is what is erroneously claimed in a canon of our church:
The minister shall use one of the marriage services or a composite of the required elements of the authorised services provided in the Formularies of the Church. (Title G Canon III 2.6)
GSTHW is wrong! Formularies trump canons. If GSTHW wants to change the marriage formularies of our church it cannot do it by a canon, it must use the normal agreed processes for altering something that we as a church have agreed is a formulary of our church! How often do we have to tell GSTHW this?!
Now can we please (pretty please, with a cherry on top!) have the proper review of our liturgical mess in our province. We are not satisfied with the unattributed document “A Final Summary of Directions of the Eucharistic Rites in ANZPB” if GSTHW thinks that does the job – a document quietly slipped onto the church’s website last month without even our provincial news site letting us know.
Ps. Marriages that have been solemnised in breach of the formularies (including following the canon but not the formularies), are, all else being equal, valid but illicit. As we have been regularly reminded (admittedly, unsurprisingly, focusing on gay issues) clergy (including bishops) who have done this could be challenged under Title D, the disciplinary procedures set down in church canons.