20 September 1999
Marriage Teaching Document
Working Party on some legal aspects of marriage
New Marriage Officer
The Church of England today announced a series of initiatives to strengthen the institution of marriage in England. The Archbishops' Council is coordinating a number of measures to stress the Church's support for the institution of marriage and its importance for individuals, families and the whole of modern society.
1. Marriage: a teaching document from the House of Bishops of the Church of England
The first initiative is Marriage: a teaching document from the House of Bishops of the Church of England. This has been prepared by the House of Bishops and sets out the Church's beliefs on the nature and importance of marriage for individuals, for human society and for the Church. Drawing on the traditional teaching of the church, the Bishops make clear the importance of marriage:
"Marriage is a pattern that God has given in creation, deeply rooted in our social instincts, through which a man and a woman may learn love together over the course of their lives."
The problems posed by divorce are addressed both in principle and in practice. The pain and trauma of the end of a failing marriage and subsequent divorce are discussed and the difficulties posed for the church by further marriage following divorce are covered in the report and in an appendix. The document also addresses the question of couples in a cohabiting relationship.
Speaking for the House of Bishops, the Bishop of Guildford said,
"The Church takes seriously its commitment to building up marriages. This is a very important part of ministry to the communities in which our churches are rooted and we will look to do all we can to strengthen this work."
Copies of the report are being widely distributed and also sold (priced £1) in bookshops.
2. Working party on certain aspects of marriage law
The Bishop of St Edmundsbury & Ipswich, the Rt Revd Richard Lewis, is to chair a working party on some aspects of the law on marriage in England & Wales. The review follows a decision of the General Synod calling for the system of banns to be investigated. Amongst others, the terms of reference of the group include:
The system of banns itself
The places where marriage can take place
The use of the rites of other churches in Anglican churches
The hours between which marriages may be solemnized
Some legal aspects are specifically excluded, notably the nature of marriage, the minimum age, questions of parental consent and the further marriage in church of those who are divorced and have a former partner still living. It is hoped to coordinate this work with the Government-announced review of the Civil Registration system.
The Bishop said that this work would be complex
"This is a major piece of work for the church; the laws and regulations affect everyone who wants to be married in our churches and it is important that the systems we have work for them and for us."
The review is expected to involve widespread consultation.
3. Marriage Officer
The Council has also announced the creation of a new post. With the appointment of the Board for Social Responsibility's Marriage and Family Policy officer, the Church will be better placed to ensure that its voice is heard in the growing debate in the area of family policy. This will build on the work recently done in responding to the Government's consultations on Supporting Families and the National Curriculum. The new officer will also offer support to parish clergy and others in developing marriage preparation and teaching material.
The whole initiative has been commended by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York. In a pastoral letter being sent out with the report they say:
"Taken together, we believe the strands of this initiative demonstrate the strength of the Church's commitment to marriage. We hope and pray you will find strength and support in it too."
To view the House of Bishops teaching document on Marriage, return to the home page, select 'The Church's view on..., scroll down to 'Social policy' and select 'MARRIAGE AND DIVORCE'
Further information from:
Steve Jenkins (press) tel (0171) 898 1457
Jonathan Jennings (broadcasting) tel (0171) 898 1456