C. Section 1(2), (10) and (11)Places
where marriages may be solemnised under the Measure
63. Where a person has the right to marry in
a parish under the Measure, section 1(1) gives him or her the
right to marry in the parish church of that parish; if there is
more than one parish church, there is a right to marry in either
or any of them. In addition, section 1(2) extends this right to
any building in the parish which is not a parish church but which
is licensed for public worship and has been designated by the
bishop as a parish centre of worship.
64. Under the existing law a couple may also
marry in a public chapel licensed by the bishop for marriages
and the publication of banns provided at least one of the couple
is resident in the geographical district for whose residents the
chapel is licensed and which is defined by the licence. Under
section 1(10), a person who has a qualifying connection with a
parish which or part of which lies within that district may marry
under the Measure in the licensed chapel.
Matters raised before the Revision Committee and
the General Synod
65. The main issues raised before the Revision
Committee and the Synod regarding this group of provisions related
to cathedrals. Approximately a third of the Church of England's
cathedrals are parish churches, although among them the size and
importance of the parish varies widely. A person who is resident
in a cathedral parish or on its church electoral roll has the
right to marry in the cathedral, just as a parishioner of any
other parish has the right to marry in the parish church, and
nothing in the Measure affects this or the possibility of an individual
acquiring the right to marry in the cathedral by entry on the
church electoral roll after 6 months' habitual worship. A couple
may also apply for a Special Licence to marry in any cathedral,
whether or not it is a parish church, if one of them has a genuine
connection with the cathedral and the cathedral authorities support
the application, and again nothing in the Measure restricts that
66. If the Measure had contained no special provisions
regarding cathedrals, it would have extended to cathedrals which
are parish churches but not to other cathedrals. However, the
Measure as introduced into the Synod provided that the new right
under section 1(1) was not to apply to any cathedral. The reasons
were that cathedrals, whether or not they are parish churches,
have legal responsibilities in relation to the diocese as a whole
which parish churches which are not cathedrals do not have, and
that cathedrals also undertake a wide range of other activities
which are not found in most parish churches. Thus it was put to
the Working Group that creating new categories of people with
the right to be married in a cathedral would detract from other
key aspects of the cathedral's ministry, including its diocesan
responsibilities, by making additional calls on the time of cathedral
clergy and lay staff, and by taking part or all of the cathedral
itself out of use for other purposes while a marriage is taking
place and for a time before and after the marriage service.
67. The written submissions which the Revision
Committee received from the Association of English Cathedrals
showed that some cathedrals would not wish the Measure to apply
to them at all, while some, particularly among those which were
parish churches, would welcome the possibility of conducting more
marriages without the need for a Special Licence and using the
qualifying connection criteria or some of them. However, the general
view among the cathedrals was that while they would welcome a
purely discretionary power for individual cathedrals to opt into
the Measure if they wished, they considered it would be better
for the Measure to exclude the cathedrals completely than to require
any cathedral to apply the Measure against its will, as this could
create significant problems and costs.
68. A number of proposals were put to the Revision
Committee to allow cathedrals or some of them to opt into or opt
out of the Measure, or to create their own individual policies
for marriages in the cathedral in the light of the Measure and
without the need for Special Licences. A proposal was also put
to the full Synod to allow cathedrals which are or include parish
churches to opt into the Measure. All these were considered but
rejected, because of the general need for consistency and fairness
to all couples and because of the same issues under the HRA as
are outlined in paragraphs 30-33 above.
69. The advice given to the Revision Committee
and the Synod on the HRA was that if a cathedral was given some
kind of discretion to opt into or opt out of the Measure, or to
create its own marriage policy, the discretion would have to be
demonstrably exercised on reasonable grounds which provided an
objective justification for the decision, and that would be difficult
to establish. Moreover, any such discretion would almost inevitably
lead to inconsistencies in practice between the cathedrals of
different dioceses. This would be undesirable in itself, and it
could lead to a challenge under the HRA to a decision by a particular
cathedral to remain outside the Measure. Indeed, one of the main
concerns about the various suggested discretions was that they
would be likely to result in pressure on those cathedrals which
did not wish to come within the Measure to change their minds,
however cogent their arguments for not doing so.
70. A further argument which was raised against
treating cathedrals which are parish churches differently from
other cathedrals was that the cathedrals constitute a group of
churches with special characteristics and governed by their own
special legislation, and that the general thrust of that legislation
in recent years has been to treat the cathedrals as a single category,
minimising the differences between those which are and are not
parish churches. This would point to the desirability of treating
all cathedrals in the same way under the Measure.
71. Thus the Revision Committee decided to retain
the original provision excluding all cathedrals from the Measure.
When the Measure returned to the full Synod for a second time,
the Synod itself reconsidered the provision, which is now section
1(11), in the light of a proposal that cathedrals which are parish
churches should automatically come within the Measure. However,
in the light of the arguments summarised in paragraphs 68-70 above,
the Synod again decided to retain the original provision on cathedrals
as it stood.
72. Some churches describe themselves as "greater
churches", but these are not a legally defined group. In
general they are likely to host a much wider range of activities
than "ordinary" parish churches and, for example, to
receive many more visitors. Taking that into account, a proposal
was put to the Revision Committee that they should be excluded
from the Measure in the same way as cathedrals, or allowed to
"opt out". However, this was rejected. The Revision
Committee recognised that legally the "greater churches"
are indistinguishable from other parish churches, in particular
in that they do not share the legal responsibilities in relation
to the diocese as a whole which are placed on cathedrals. Given
that, and the problems in defining the "greater churches"
in the legislation plus the issues over "opting" whether
to come within the Measure explained in paragraphs 30-36 above,
the Revision Committee concluded that the "greater churches"
should be treated in the Measure in the same way as other parish
churches which are not cathedrals.
NON-PAROCHIAL PLACES OF WORSHIP
73. The Measure does not apply to "non-parochial"
places of worship which lie within a parish but are outside the
parochial system. Thus a marriage in, for example, a university,
college or school chapel outside the parochial system will still
require a Special Licence. The Revision Committee was satisfied
that this was the appropriate procedure for dealing with such
cases, and thus rejected a proposal to bring them within the Measure.
Likewise, a marriage in a Royal or other Peculiar which is not
only outside the parochial system but also outside the boundaries
of any parish, such as Westminster Abbey, will still require a
Special Licence. The Revision Committee agreed that the Measure
should remain as drafted in this respect.
SPECIALLY DESIGNATED "WEDDING CHURCHES"
74. The Revision Committee also examined a completely
different proposal, namely to provide in the Measure for specially
designated "wedding churches" in any given area, where
couples could be married by local clergy after full marriage preparation,
instead of giving couples the right to be married in the parish
with which one of them has a particular connection. It was suggested
that this proposal could be combined with some kind of requirement
for a qualifying connection, or could operate without the need
for any such connection.
75. However, the Revision Committee rejected
this idea. It considered that such an approach would fundamentally
change the basis of the law on marriage in the Church of England,
which as it stands is rooted in the parochial system. It would
also fundamentally alter the basis of the Measure, and the Revision
Committee agreed with the Working Party (which had also rejected
the idea) that the best way of achieving the Measure's objectives
was to build on the existing system rather than to adopt this
radically different approach.