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NZ Anglican Marriage Requirements

Anglican wedding

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.

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10 Responses to NZ Anglican Marriage Requirements

  1. I don’t think it really matters in an age where marriage as an institution has been thoroughly trashed, where the average marriage lasts about five years, most people don’t even bother, men marry men, and women other women

    The whole thing has become an empty farce and essentially meaningless anyway.

    The West is dying in an orgy of self indulgent nonsense.

    Fifty years ago the majority of marriages were conducted in Church with 25% of those in Anglican Churches, and in those days the “happy couple” faced the altar as they “tied the knot”. The significance of this will be lost in an age of empty churches with their aged congregations

    • Now, now, Andrei. It’s not just “the West” as bogeyman. Even Vladimir Putin got a divorce. So much for the traditional value of marriage…

  2. I feel your frustration, Bosco. It’s bad enough that all across our churches (I write from Canada) our formularies are frequently disregarded — in practice, if not actually by our General Synods.

    In Canada, when baptized but unconfirmed infants and children were first admitted to Communion, our General Synod explicitly decided *not* to go through the necessary processes to alter the rubrics of the Book of Common Prayer (1959/1962) that required communicants to be confirmed or “ready and desirous” to be confirmed. Naturally, we have been in something of a doctrinal quagmire over Confirmation ever since.

    Unless I am mistaken, however, our General Synod did follow the necessary procedures when it decided that the Third Collect on Good Friday should no longer be used.

    So, when it comes to “Jews, Turks, Infidels, and Heretics” (or even, as the Canadian BCP had it, “the Jews, thine ancient people, and upon all who reject and deny thy Son”), the matter is obviously serious enough that we have to follow the rules (and, as you point out, this applies a fortiori to more current debates). But for baptized members of the Body of Christ? Meh.

    • Thanks, Jesse. Yes, Canada is not alone in confirmation being a rite looking for a reason – that would be more than a thread’s worth. It would be fascinating to know if, as in Canada, our GSTHW explicitly decided not to go through the necessary processes to alter the rubrics of the marriage formularies but (illicitly and, hence, ineffectively) do this via a change to the canon. Whereas I can foresee getting into some quagmire in discussing confirmation, I cannot imagine any issue if GSTHW followed proper process in this adjustment to the marriage rites. Advent Blessings.

  3. marriage is important, and some churches declare a Christian marriage a sacrament. I have heard an Anglican minister- he would try to not uses the word priest- call it a sacrament of the church rather than Christ.In any case the activators, the celebrants are essentially the two involved not priest, minister, lay celebrant, government official. Why a church should carry on about the fine details shows nothing more than the churchly obsession with control. A reading of the service in the Book of Common prayer does no more than suggest that sexual relations are immoral but here the church is sanctioning so that we “increase and multiply”. Indeed in early centuries the church as church played little part except to protect property for the patriarchy. Actually I have only written about this because i think there are much more important, significant issues for the christian to concern himself with than church legalisms as Pope Francis is constantly reminding us.

  4. Thinking further. “Valid but illicit”- so Vatican. You rightly look for spirituality that connects. This is to connect with the two participants/celebrants no matter how simple, even simplistic not some imposition of what clericals decide. If Francis is stressing one point it is the dangers of clerical control.
    asit happens my late wife and I were married in the panoply of nuptial mass in a splendid Carmelite church. It was spiritually significant for us at time given our backgrounds and young age. More significantly significant was a simple, almost unspoken recommitment we made to ourselves without benefit of clergy some 30 years later.

    • Thanks, Brian, for sharing your own story.

      Just to be clear, following your own point, the agreements of the church’s formularies have the full involvement of laity in every diocese and hui amorangi (far more than the creation of a canon at GSTHW). So formularies can be seen as safeguarding laity from the dangers of clerical control.

      Advent blessings.

  5. My previous comment was suppose to follow a comment that did not paste. In essence I questioned the significance of these concerns, In brief the celebrants of marriage are the couple not minister, lay or state official, But clericals like control on their terms as Pope Francis frequently reminds us. There are many more important issues for the christian to confront in the world than such minor issues. Of course for some early centuries the church showed little interest in the form of marriage except to preserve property for the patriarchy.
    Mary and Joseph would seem to have had a commitment not a ceremony anyhow. And it seems to me deep in many traditional Christian marriage services- see Book of Common Prayer- a deep believe that sex is sinful and only this way can it be permitted so that we may increase and multiply, and for no other purpose. I rexentlw watched for umteenth time the BBC’s “Pride and Prejudice” in which towards end the marriage service was shown. I have little doubt that an Elizabeth Bennett today would have thrown the service book in clergyman’s face.

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About This Site Welcome to this ecumenical website of resources and reflections on liturgy, spirituality, and worship for individuals and communities. It is run by Rev. Bosco Peters.

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