A series of essays in the Episcopal Church
I have submitted this as a deputy resolution for General Convention 2006, also endorsed by The Rev. Tobias Haller (C3 in Diocese of New York) and The Rev. Canon Michael Barlowe (C2 in the Diocese of California). I urge support of the resolution. Write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The resolution calls for only the simplest of changes (in red) to the current canons.
Louie Crew, Chair of the Newark deputation. Member of Executive Council
Authorize use of marriage rite in Book of Common Prayer for Same-Sex Couples
Resolved, the House of _______ concurring, That this 75th General Convention authorizes use of the rites for Celebration and Blessing of a Marriage and The Blessing of a Civil Marriage in the Book of Common Prayer for same-sex couples in those civil jurisdictions that permit same-sex marriage, and further authorizes modification of gender references in the rites to accommodate such marriages, and be it further
Resolved, That Canon 18: Of the Solemnization of Holy Matrimony, be amended to permit such usage by making the following changes:
Sec. 1. Every Member of the Clergy of this Church shall conform to the laws of the State governing the creation of the civil status of marriage, and also to the laws of this Church governing the solemnization of Holy Matrimony.
Sec. 2. Before solemnizing a marriage the Member of the Clergy shall have ascertained:
(a) That both parties have the right to contract a marriage according to the laws of the State.
both parties understand that Holy Matrimony is a physical and spiritual union
a man and a woman two persons, entered into within the community
of faith, by mutual consent of heart, mind, and will, and with intent that it
(c) That both parties freely and knowingly consent to such marriage, without fraud, coercion, mistake as to identity of a partner, or mental reservation.
(d) That at least one of the parties has received Holy Baptism.
(e) That both parties have been instructed as to the nature, meaning, and purpose of Holy Matrimony by the Member of the Clergy, or that they have both received such instruction from persons known by the Member of the Clergy to be competent and responsible.
Sec. 3. No Member of the Clergy of this Church shall solemnize any marriage unless the following procedures are complied with:
(a) The intention of the parties to contract marriage shall have been signified to the Member of the Clergy at least thirty days before the service of solemnization; Provided, that for weighty cause, this requirement may be dispensed with if one of the parties is a member of the Congregation of the Member of the Clergy, or can furnish satisfactory evidence of responsibility. In case the thirty days’ notice is waived, the Member of the Clergy shall report such action in writing to the Bishop immediately.
(b) There shall be present at least two witnesses to the solemnization of marriage.
(c) The Member of the Clergy shall record in the proper register the date and place of the marriage, the names of the parties and their parents, the age of the parties, their residences, and their Church status; the witnesses and the Member of the Clergy shall sign the record.
(d) The Member of the Clergy shall have required that the parties sign the following declaration:
A.B. and C.D., desiring to receive the blessing of Holy Matrimony in the
Church, do solemnly declare that we hold marriage to be a lifelong union of
husband and wife two
persons as it is set forth in the Book of Common Prayer.
believe that the union of
husband and wife two persons, in heart, body, and mind, is
intended by God for their mutual joy; for the help and comfort given one
another in prosperity and adversity; and, when it is God’s will, for the
procreation of children and their nurture in the knowledge and love of the
(g) “And we do engage ourselves, so far as in us lies, to make our utmost effort to establish this relationship and to seek God’s help thereto.”
Sec. 4. It shall be within the discretion of any Member of the Clergy of this Church to decline to solemnize any marriage.
and be it further
Resolved, That Canon 19: Of Regulations Respecting Holy Matrimony: Concerning Preservation of Marriage, Dissolution of Marriage, and Remarriage, be amended to permit such usage by making the following changes:
Sec. 1. When marital unity is imperiled by dissension, it shall be the duty, if possible, of either or both parties, before taking legal action, to lay the matter before a Member of the Clergy; it shall be the duty of such Member of the Clergy to act first to protect and promote the physical and emotional safety of those involved and only then, if it be possible, to labor that the parties may be reconciled.
Sec. 2 (a) Any member of this Church whose marriage has been annulled or dissolved by a civil court may apply to the Bishop or Ecclesiastical Authority of the Diocese in which such person is legally or canonically resident for a judgment as to his or her marital status in the eyes of the Church. Such judgment may be a recognition of the nullity, or of the termination of the said marriage; Provided, that no such judgment shall be construed as affecting in any way the legitimacy of children or the civil validity of the former relationship.
(b) Every judgment rendered under this Section shall be in writing and shall be made a matter of permanent record in the Archives of the Diocese.
3. No Member of the Clergy of this Church shall solemnize the marriage of
any person who has been the
husband or wife spouse of any other person then living, nor
shall any member of this Church enter into a marriage when either of the
contracting parties has been the husband or the wife spouse of any other person then living, except
as hereinafter provided:
(a) The Member of the Clergy shall be satisfied by appropriate evidence that the prior marriage has been annulled or dissolved by a final judgment or decree of a civil court of competent jurisdiction.
(b) The Member of the Clergy shall have instructed the parties that continuing concern must be shown for the well-being of the former spouse, and of any children of the prior marriage.
(c) The Member of the Clergy shall consult with and obtain the consent of the Bishop of the Diocese wherein the Member of the Clergy is canonically resident or the Bishop of the Diocese in which the Member of the Clergy is licensed to officiate prior to, and shall report to that Bishop, the solemnization of any marriage under this Section.
(d) If the proposed marriage is to be solemnized in a jurisdiction other than the one in which the consent has been given, the consent shall be affirmed by the Bishop of that jurisdiction.
Sec. 4. All provisions of Canon I.18 shall, in all cases, apply.
This resolution would be applicable only where same-sex couples have access to civil marriage. There is currently only one state in which same-sex couples can be legally married – Massachusetts. Both the Bishop of Massachusetts and the Bishop of Western Massachusetts have declined to allow clergy to perform wedding ceremonies for same-sex couples who are seeking to be married or to bless civil marriages because they feel that such usage must be authorized by the General Convention. This does not constitute a revision of the Prayer Book but would instead be simply an adaptation. It would be similar to the allowance of the use of feminine terms in the rite for the Ordering of Deacons in the 1928 Book of Common Prayer. Women were ordained to the diaconate beginning in 1968 despite the language of the 1928 text which was exclusively male (both in the rite itself and in the rubrics and preface), which language was not modified until the authorization of the current Book of Common Prayer in 1979.
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