Ecclesiastical Committee Two-Hundred and Twenty-Fifth Report


B. Section 1(3), (4), (12)(C), (13) and (14)—The qualifying connections

44.  Section 1(3) sets out the "qualifying connections". A person has such a connection with a parish if:

  • that person:
    • has been baptised in the parish (unless the baptism took place as part of a combined service of baptism and confirmation); or
    • has been confirmed and the confirmation has been entered in a register book belonging to a church or chapel in the parish; or
    • has at any time had his or her usual place of residence in the parish for at least 6 months; or
    • has at any time habitually attended public worship in the parish for at least 6 months; or
  • that person's parent has at any time during that person's lifetime:
    • had his or her usual place of residence in the parish for at least 6 months; or
    • habitually attended public worship in the parish for at least 6 months; or
  • that person's parent or grandparent was married in the parish.

45.  In the list in the previous paragraph:

  • references to being baptised, confirmed or married and attending public worship all refer to services according to the rites of the Church of England (section 1(12)(c)); and
  • "parent" includes an adoptive parent and any other person who has undertaken the care and upbringing of the person concerned; and "grandparent" has a corresponding meaning (section 1(4)).

Matters raised before the Revision Committee and the General Synod

GENERAL CONSIDERATIONS

46.  Like section1(1), the list of qualifying connections in section 1(3) is one of the core provisions of the Measure, and both the Revision Committee and the full Synod devoted a considerable amount of time and thought to it, recognising that the qualifying connections and the provisions relating to them would have to meet a number of essential requirements if the Measure was to fulfil its objectives:

  • each of the categories had to constitute a genuine connection with a parish, making it reasonable for those falling within the category to have the right to marry there. The list of categories also had to cover the cases which experience (including experience with applications for Special Licences) showed were particularly common examples of the problems which the Measure was designed to address. (For example, it was clear that a substantial proportion of applications for Special Licences were by couples wishing to marry in the home parish of the parents of one of them);
  • the list as a whole did not need to and should not attempt to cover every possible situation where a person had some connection with a parish and where that connection would make it reasonable for him or her to wish to marry there. It was accepted that there would always be individual cases where one of the couple had a genuine connection with a parish but one which fell outside the standard categories, and in those cases the couple, with the support of the minister of the church concerned, could still apply for a Special Licence;
  • the categories had to form a clear, coherent and readily intelligible set of provisions, so that clergy and couples would find them straightforward to understand and operate, and so that they would not be likely in practice to give rise to disputes; and
  • the categories also had to be such that, in any given case, the existence of a qualifying connection could be verified without undue difficulty, and in particular without imposing an unreasonable or disproportionate burden on the couple in terms of research and investigation or creating a substantial amount of additional work for the clergy.

47.  Thus the Revision Committee and the Synod took all these factors into account in considering each of the individual qualifying connections discussed in the following paragraphs.

BAPTISM AND CONFIRMATION

48.  The Measure as originally presented to the Synod provided for baptism or confirmation in the parish to be a qualifying connection. It was put to the Revision Committee that if a Service of Thanksgiving for the birth of the person concerned took place in the parish, that should be treated as a qualifying connection in the same way as that person's baptism in the parish. The reason suggested for this was that a person should not be disadvantaged later in life because his or her parents had decided on a Thanksgiving Service when he or she was born rather than having him or her baptised as an infant, quite possibly because of the current parish policy. The Revision Committee rejected this on the grounds that:

  • there was a major difference of substance between baptism, which is a sacrament by which a person becomes a member of the Church, and a Thanksgiving Service; and
  • there was no provision for recording a Thanksgiving Service in the parish registers in the same way as baptism. If it took place as a separate service it would be recorded in the register of services, but if it took place as part of another service e.g. a family service, there might be no clear record of it in the registers in later years.

49.  In view of that decision, it was argued before the full Synod that if a Service of Thanksgiving for the birth of a child in the parish was not to amount to a qualifying connection, baptism in the parish should likewise not do so. However, the Synod accepted the Revision Committee's reasoning for saying that the two were not truly comparable, and retained the provision regarding baptism.

50.  The reason section 1(3)(a), dealing with baptism and confirmation, was amended so that it no longer simply makes confirmation in the parish a qualifying connection in the same way as baptism in the parish, is because of what is now the widespread practice of bringing together confirmation candidates from a number of neighbouring parishes to be confirmed together in a parish church in the deanery, or in the cathedral church of the diocese. This includes those who were not baptised as infants and are to be both baptised and confirmed on the same occasion. The Revision Committee concluded that the real connection in these cases was with the parish where the person concerned was prepared for confirmation, rather than with the place where the rite was administered. In order to provide a simple and straightforward test for the clergy, section 1(3)(a) therefore bases the connection on the parish in whose registers the confirmation is recorded, because under Canon B39 the minister presenting the candidate for confirmation must record the confirmation in the register provided for his or her church or chapel.

PARENT/GRANDPARENT AND MARRIAGE OF A PARENT OR GRANDPARENT

51.  The Measure as introduced into the Synod referred to a "relative" rather than a "parent", and gave that term a wide definition including a number of different categories of people, such as grandparents and godparents, who might undertake responsibility for a child's care and upbringing if the parents were unable to do so. The Revision Committee decided to substitute a more specific provision, now in section 1(4), which refers to a "parent" and defines that term as including an adoptive parent or any other person who has undertaken the care and upbringing of the person concerned.

52.  Although the Revision Committee had deleted the qualifying connection based on the fact that a relative had been married in the parish, the full Synod decided to include the marriage of a parent or grandparent in the parish as a qualifying connection, on the ground that it was appropriate to recognise the genuine and significant connection that some families feel, and demonstrate that they feel, with a parish church in these circumstances over more than one generation. The relevant provision of the Measure, to be found in section 1(3)(e), has to be read together with:

  • the meaning given to "parent" in section 1(4) and explained in paragraph 51 above; and
  • the provision in section 1(12)(c) under which "marriage" in section 1 refers only to marriage according to the rites of the Church of England. Thus section 1(3)(e) does not apply if a parent or grandparent was married in the parish using a civil marriage ceremony, or was married there according to non-Church of England religious rites.

WORSHIP OR RESIDENCE IN THE PARISH OR ENTRY ON THE CHURCH ELECTORAL ROLL

53.  Some Synod members were particularly concerned that where the claim to be married in the parish depended on worship or residence in the parish, or entry on the church electoral roll, it should apply only where there was a genuine and living connection with the parish and, more particularly, with the worshipping community there, rather than a purely historical link. This led them to propose that it must have continued for at least a specified minimum period, and/or that it must still be continuing at the time of the marriage or, at least, have continued until within a given number of years in the past.

54.  However, other members put forward reasons for taking a less restrictive approach, such as:

  • the tendency for couples to marry later in life than in the past, so that there was a longer gap between the time when they were legally resident in the family home and, possibly, worshipping in the parish church there and the time when they wished to return to be married there. Indeed, in some cases the parents were no longer alive or were in residential care by the time their children decided to marry, but their son or daughter still wished to return to the place which he or she regarded as home for the marriage;
  • the evidence that a person might well still feel a genuine and enduring connection with a place where he or she had had some contact with or experience of Christianity, however brief and limited it may have been, and however far in the past, and might thus see that as the natural place to which to return when he or she wished to marry; and
  • the importance of ensuring that the qualifying connections were as simple and straightforward as possible.

55.  One of the Revision Committee's main tasks was therefore to strike a proper balance between these different viewpoints and to produce the set of provisions which would command the support of the Synod as a whole.

56.  Apart from the general issues, some specific points were also raised on the individual criteria based on past and present residence, worship in the parish and entry on the church electoral roll which appeared in the draft Measure as originally presented to the Synod. The main issues regarding the church electoral roll, the way in which the Revision Committee dealt with them, and its reasons for deleting them from the Measure, are set out in the Appendix to these Comments and Explanations. So far as the residence and habitual worship criteria were concerned, the discussions in the Revision Committee and the debate in full Synod showed that some members of Synod would have preferred to delete one or the other of them completely, because of concerns about their precise meaning or how they were to be proved, or (in the case of habitual worship) because those arguing for deletion would have preferred to rely on the church electoral roll. As indicated in paragraph 53 above, proposals were also put forward for restricting these two qualifying connections in various ways. Some of them were accepted by the Revision Committee, and it also made other amendments to address the other issues that had been raised with it.

57.  The result, when the Revision Committee first returned the Measure to the Synod, was a group of provisions which was a good deal more complex than in the Measure as it had first come before the Synod. Concern about this complexity was one of the main reasons why the Synod returned the Measure to the Revision Committee for further consideration. Having looked at the matter afresh, the Committee decided to substitute something much simpler and more straightforward.

58.  The Revision Committee therefore substituted amended provisions in relation to residence and habitual worship (now in section 1(3)(b) and (c)). They provide that the person concerned can show a qualifying connection with the parish if:

  • the person concerned has at any time had a usual place of residence in the parish for at least 6 months; or
  • during the lifetime of the person concerned his or her parent has or had a usual place of residence there for at least 6 months; or
  • the person concerned has at any time habitually attended public worship in the parish for at least 6 months; or
  • during the lifetime of the person concerned his or her parent has habitually attended public worship in the parish for at least 6 months.

59.  As regards these provisions:

  • although some Synod members would still have preferred to rely on the church electoral roll if that had been practicable (see paragraphs 5-7 of the Appendix), the amended provisions on habitual worship have the advantage that they cover a person who worshipped in the parish in the past, irrespective of whether he or she applied for entry on the electoral roll. (Clearly, a person seeking to marry now might say that he or she could not have been aware at the time of the future significance of securing entry on the roll.) They also cover a person who could not have been entered on the church electoral roll because, for example, he or she was under the age of 16 at the time (e.g. a child who was a member of the church choir, or who attended worship as a member of a school or a youth organisation). However, it uses the same minimum period of habitual worship as would have been needed under the provisions for entry on the church electoral roll, and thus parallels those provisions; and
  • the residence provisions, by using the same minimum period of 6 months and the expression "usual place of residence" (which is also used in the normal residence requirement for a common licence) rather than merely "resident", rules out purely temporary and transitory presence in the parish.

60.  The Revision Committee and the Synod were once again asked to consider imposing further restrictions, with the object of ensuring a current living connection with the parish. However, the Revision Committee rejected them in the light of the same considerations as set out above, and the Synod accepted the Revision Committee's new and simpler set of provisions without imposing any further qualifications.

OTHER SUGGESTED QUALIFYING CONNECTIONS

61.  The Revision Committee and the Synod considered some proposals for other types of criteria which in some individual cases would give rise to a genuine connection with the parish. However, they accepted that the best course would be to leave these individual instances to be dealt with on a one-off basis by an application for a Special Licence. The main examples and the reasons for not accepting them are set out in the Appendix to these Comments and Explanations.

PASTORAL REORGANISATION AND CHANGES IN PARISH BOUNDARIES

62.  The Revision Committee added two new provisions, section 1(13) and (14), to deal with cases where a person can show a qualifying connection with a particular place (in the case of confirmation, with a particular church or chapel to which the register recording the confirmation belongs), but where that place is now in a different parish, either because the original parish has ceased to exist or because its boundaries have been changed. In these circumstances, the Measure treats the person concerned as having a qualifying connection with the parish which includes the place in question at the time of the request for the calling of banns.


 
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