In preparation for our deliberations at Sacred Synod, it is worth remembering that the theology and practice of annulments already exists in the Anglican Church, and is not the foreign import so many insular CofE members believe. The following part of the Southern Africa canon has two clear merits: a) the language is relatively simple and non-technical, and comprehension is not confined to lawyers; b) because of the previous point, it provides a good framework for teaching young couples about the character of a Christian marriage; in other words, the canon is not only about annulments, it is offering teaching about marriage (c.ii.9 for example).

Church of the Province of Southern Africa
Canon 34


3 No clergyman shall solemnize the marriage of any person whose marriage has been annulled or dissolved by secular authority during the lifetime of the partner to that marriage, unless

(a) the marriage has been declared an invalid union in accordance with section 4 of this Canon, …

4 (a) Every application for a declaration of invalidity shall be made to the Bishop either through the Incumbent of the Pastoral Charge in which the applicant resides or habitually worships, or directly to the Bishop, who shall always consult with the said Incumbent and any other priest who may be concerned in the application.

(b) The Bishop, who may be assisted by other persons whose advice he desires, shall consider any such application, and has authority to grant or decline the application. After consultation with a person learned in the law who is a Communicant of this Province he shall inform the applicant in writing of his decision and issue a certificate of invalidity if the application is approved.

(c) The Bishop shall apply the following rules in such cases:

(i) A marriage is invalidated by:

(1) A relationship within the forbidden degrees of kindred and affinity as stated in the Table annexed to this Canon.

(2) The bond of marriage regarded as existing at the time when the marriage in question was solemnized.

(3) The fact that either of the parties was in error with regard to the identity of the person with whom the marriage was contracted.

(ii) A marriage may be declared invalid at the Bishop’s discretion on any of the following grounds:

(1) The absence of such formalities as are required by the civil authorities.

(2) The fact that either of the parties was below the age required for a valid marriage by the laws of the country where the marriage was solemnized.

(3) The fact that either party was precluded from making free and responsible consent to marriage through

a. force or duress;

b. insanity, mental illness or mental deficiency;

c. alcoholic intoxication or the influence of a drug;

d. ignorance of the fact that a marriage was being solemnized.

(4) The permanent impotence or permanent sterility of either party, known to the one but undisclosed to the other at the time of marriage.

(5) The existence of a concurrent contract inconsistent with a marriage contract recognized as valid by the Church.

(6) The fact, unknown to the man and not condoned by him, that the woman was pregnant by another man at the time of the marriage.

(7) The fact that the marriage was contracted solely for reasons other than those for which Matrimony naturally exists.

(8) The fact, established by evidence relating to behaviour before or after the marriage, that at the time of the marriage either of the parties did not accept the marriage as an exclusive and indissoluble union; provided that such evidence explicitly reveals that from the outset of the marriage no such union was ever intended to exist; provided also that this defect in the original contract can be shown to have the chief cause of the breakdown of the marriage.

(9) The refusal to consummate the marriage or the undisclosed intention of one partner at the time of marriage to have no children.

(10) The fact that either of the parties (not being a catechumen) was unbaptized at the time of the marriage, and that the unbaptized party is unwilling to regard the marriage as binding in the Christian sense, provided that the Bishop had not allowed the marriage in accordance with section 2 of this Canon.

(d) The Bishop shall have discretion to withhold any declaration of invalidity under the Canon if he is of the opinion that the granting of it, through technically in accordance with ecclesiastical law, would be contrary to the principles of equity.

(e) Nothing in this Canon shall be construed as reflecting in any way upon the legitimacy of the children or the civil validity of the former marriage.

(f) Should an applicant whose former marriage has been declared invalid under this Canon wish to marry, the service shall be that of the Book of Common Prayer (1662), A Book of Common Prayer (South Africa), or such other service as may be set forth by the Synod of Bishops.

(g) A certificate of invalidity shall not be issued unless the marriage has already been dissolved or annulled by the civil court.