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ANGLICAN MARRIAGE Dr Richard Sturt, OBE Registrar of Canterbury Diocese 26 March 2009 PART 1 Legislative background Statutory Provisions The Marriage Act 1949 deals with authorisation, solemnisation and registration of marriages Also deals with restrictions (consanguinity, polygamy and age)

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anglican marriage


Dr Richard Sturt, OBE

Registrar of Canterbury Diocese

26 March 2009

part 1 legislative background
PART 1Legislative background

Statutory Provisions

The Marriage Act 1949 deals with authorisation, solemnisation and registration of marriages

Also deals with restrictions (consanguinity, polygamy and age)

Deals with Anglican marriages, civil marriages in register offices, marriages in registered (religious but not Anglican) buildings, or in approved premises, marriages in military chapels, marriages of housebound and detained persons, and Quaker and Jewish marriages

It also contains a list of offences which can be committed by celebrants

canon law
Canon Law

Canons B30-B36 deal with marriage in accordance with the rites and ceremonies of the Church of England (Anglican marriage). B30.1-2 says:

B 30 Of Holy Matrimony

  • The Church of England affirms, according to our Lord’s teaching, that marriage is in its nature a union permanent and lifelong, for better for worse, till death them do part, of one man with one woman, to the exclusion of all others on either side, for the procreation and nurture of children, for the hallowing and right direction of the natural instincts and affections, and for the mutual society, help and comfort which the one ought to have of the other, both in prosperity and adversity. 
  • The teaching of our Lord affirmed by the Church of England is expressed and maintained in the Form of Solemnization of Matrimony contained in The Book of Common Prayer.
part 2 prohibitions and restrictions
Part 2Prohibitions and restrictions
  • Age

B 31.1 No person who is under 16 years of age shall marry, and all marriages purported to be made between persons either of whom is under 16 years of age are void.

B 32 No minister shall solemnize matrimony between two persons either of whom (not being a widow or widower) is under 18 years of age otherwise than in accordance with the requirements of the law relating to the consent of parents or guardians in the case of the marriage of a person under 18 years of age.

prohibitions and restrictions
Prohibitions and restrictions
  • Affinity - Canon B 31

A man may not marry his



adopted daughter

father’s mother

mother’s mother

son’s daughter

daughter’s daughter


wife’s mother

wife’s daughter

father’s wife

son’s wife

father’s father’s wife

mother’s father’s wife

wife’s daughter’s daughter

wife’s son’s daughter

father’s sister

mother’s sister

brother’s daughter

sister’s daughter

A woman may not marry her



adopted son

father’s father

mother’s father

son’s son

daughter’s son


husband’s father

husband’s son

mother’s husband

daughter’s husband

father’s mother’s husband

mother’s mother’s husband

husband’s daughter’s son

husband’s son’s son

father’s brother

mother’s brother

brother’s son

sister’s son

prohibitions and restrictions7
Prohibitions and restrictions
  • Subsisting marriage & divorce
  • Existing marriage of one of the parties is an absolute bar
  • Divorce. General Synod recognised in 2002, that notwithstanding that marriage is a lifelong union:
  • That some marriages regrettably do fail and that the Church’s care for couples in that situation should be of paramount importance; and
  • That there are exceptional circumstances in which a divorced person may be married in church during the lifetime of a former spouse.

It is still in the discretion of the parish priest whether or not he/she wishes to marry the couple, one of whom is divorced. There are guidelines and the matter can be referred to the Bishop, and must be so referred if a CML is needed.

prohibitions and restrictions8
Prohibitions and restrictions
  • Foreigners & immigrants
  • Foreigners, except those from EU, old Commonwealth & US, advised to marry under CML (banns not unlawful)
  • Registrar to make enquiries of home embassy, whether marriage would be recognised
  • Any party whose immigration status is in doubt must have a written permission to marry from the Home Office; see the Immigration (Procedure for Marriage) Regulations 2005 (except for Anglican marriage)
  • R (Baiai) v Home Secretary [2006] EWHC 1035 (Admin) regs held contrary to human rights
  • Vicar General of Canterbury Diocese has issued Guidelines requiring minister to satisfy self that there is a genuine wish to undertake Anglican marriage
  • Matter is referred to the Registrar, acting on behalf of the Bishop, who has a discretion whether to issue a CML
part 3 entitlement preliminaries and procedure
Part 3Entitlement, preliminaries and procedure
  • Every parishioner and some others, including those with a qualifying connection, has, unless one of the impediments applies, the right to be married in the parish church, public chapel licensed for marriage or parish centres of worship
  • The minister has a corresponding duty to marry them, unless the marriage is under a Superintendent Registrar’s Certificate
  • The fact that they may be atheists, Jewish or Quakers is irrelevant
  • Right and duty apply except where marriage is under SRC
  • Banns
  • Common Marriage Licence (CML)
  • Special Marriage Licence (SML)
  • Superintendent Registrar’s Certificate (SRC)
the venue time
The venue & time
  • For marriage by banns or CML:
  • The parish church of the parish where one of the parties resides; or
  • the church which he/she has as his/her usual place of worship (must be on the electoral roll); or
  • any other parish church within the benefice (if Bishop has designated the benefice Sch 3 of Pastoral Measure); or
  • in any church anywhere in Canterbury/York Provinces with which one of the parties has a qualifying connection; or
  • any parish centre of worship in any of the above; or
  • any public chapel authorised for marriage; or
  • any military chapel licensed by the Bishop (banns)
venue time
Venue & time
  • For SRC
  • Any of the above; or
  • the place where a housebound person resides; or
  • the place where a detained person resides.
  • For SML
  • Any of the above and anywhere else in England or Wales
  • But usually confined to church buildings
  • Often used for marriages in private and institutional chapels
      • Time
      • Between 8 am and 6 pm
      • No restriction on the day of the week
      • Under SML may be outside the prescribed hours (medical necessity)
preliminaries banns
Preliminaries - Banns
  • Banns
  • Anglican marriage usually preceded by banns
  • Must be published in church, parish centre of worship or chapel in which marriage is to take place; plus
  • the parish of each party’s residence
  • Three Sundays at (generally) morning service, not necessarily successive ones, within 3 months before wedding
  • A certificate that the banns have been read in any other church must be produced to the minister who is to conduct the ceremony
residence rules for marriage after banns
Residence rules for marriage after banns
  • Unless one party has a “qualifying connection” with the church in which the marriage is to take place, the residence rule applies
  • One party at least must reside in the parish or district where the marriage church/PCW/chapel is situated; or
  • have that church as his/her usual place of worship
  • “Reside” means “be living there” and this must be true at the moment when the notice of application for banns is given to the minister
qualifying connection
Qualifying connection

A person intending to be married has the same right to be married in a parish church, centre of worship or authorised chapel with which he/she has a qualifying connection, as he/she has to be married in the church/PCW/chapel of the parish/district in which he/she resides or which is his/her usual place of worship.

“Qualifying connection” with a parish/district means:

  • that person was baptised in that parish (unless the baptism took place in a combined rite which included baptism and confirmation) or is a person whose confirmation has been entered in the register book of confirmation for any church or chapel in that parish;
  • that person has at any time had his or her usual place of residence in that parish for a period of not less than six months;
  • that person has at any time habitually attended public worship in that parish for a period of not less than six months;
  • a parent of that person has during the lifetime of that person had his or her usual place of residence in that parish for a period of not less than six months or habitually attended public worship in that parish for that period; or
  • a parent or grandparent of that person has been married in that parish.

Church of England Marriage Measure 2008, s. 1(3)(a)-(e)

  • Residence requirement
  • Except where one or both of the parties has a qualifying connection, at least one party must have his/her usual place of residence in the parish/district of the church/PCW or chapel at which the marriage is to take place
  • The “usual” residence must have subsisted for 15 days immediately prior to the application for the CML
  • Useful where banns have not been read or one party is foreign
  • Qualifying connection
  • Identical to that for banns
  • Notice must be given to the superintendent registrars of the civil registration districts in which both parties reside, at least 15 days before the marriage
  • One party must have had his/her “usual” place of residence in the registration district within which the marriage is to take place
  • No residence qualification
  • Faculty office will usually look for a connection with the venue
  • Venue will usually be a church or chapel
  • No time of day or night prohibited, but usually only “timeless” where one party seriously ill
  • Not granted in divorce cases
  • Usually has condition that marriage must take place within three months
ceremony and registration
Ceremony and registration
  • Must follow the Prayer Book or alternative duly authorised
  • Key parts must be conducted an Anglican minister
  • Anglican Church cannot be used for non-Anglican marriages as church cannot be a “registered building”
  • A minister or lay person who is a member in good standing may assist the minister if the minister or lay person is authorised to perform a similar duty in his own church
  • The details of the marriage must be entered in duplicate register books
  • The minister in charge of the church or chapel must make a quarterly return of entries to the Civil Superintendent Registrar
part 4 effect of errors
Part 4 – Effect of errors

Void marriages – S. 25 Marriage Act 1949: where parties knowingly marry in the following circumstances:

  • Marriage by banns or CML not in church, PCW or authorised chapel
  • Without banns duly published, or CML, SRC or SML
  • Where a child is married after parental objection duly given
  • Where marriage takes place more than three months after publication of the banns or the grant of a CML
  • Where marriage after SRC takes place in a place not duly notified; or

Where they knowingly and wilfully consent to or acquiesce in the solemnisation of marriage by person not in Holy Orders

  • Parties not male and female
  • One party already married
  • Parties within prohibited consanguinity
  • Either party under 16
voidable marriages
Voidable marriages
  • Incapacity to consummate
  • Wilful refusal to consummate
  • Failure to consent to marriage
  • Mental disorder
  • Venereal disease
  • Pregnancy by another
non fatal errors
Non-fatal errors
  • Proof of residence or usual place of residence not necessary, even if information given was wrong
  • Marriage of a minor without parental consent
  • Wrong name given, unless done with intent to deceive and both parties know of it
  • False Home Office Permission
criminal offences by ministers
Criminal offences by ministers

A criminal offence, punishable by imprisonment is committed by any person who knowingly and wilfully:

  • Unless the marriage is under SML, solemnizes a marriage outside the prescribed hours
  • If the marriage is by banns, solemnizes it without banns having been duly published
  • If the marriage is by banns or CML, solemnizes it otherwise than in a church/PCW or authorised chapel
  • Solemnizes a marriage falsely pretending to be in Holy Orders