Publication of Banns

From Fr Jonathan Redvers Harris

Following my article last month on the General Register Office Circular that now requires us to replace the terms ‘bachelor’ or ‘spinster’ with ‘single’, I have been asked by several readers whether this also applies to the publication of banns of marriage.

Although some registers of banns do provide for the parties’ ‘status’ to be included, it is not a requirement to publish the parties’ marital condition. Indeed the purpose of banns is to invite proper allegations of any legal impediment, not to make a statement about a person’s present marital status. If we were to publish a person’s marital condition, then undue comment may be attracted in the instance of a party whose previous marriage had been dissolved at civil law or, for that matter, annulled.

The correct form of wording for banns of marriage is that set out in the opening rubrics to the marriage service in the Book of Common Prayer, although, in the case of multiple banns, ‘these two persons’ is customarily changed to ‘these persons severally,’ to make sense, and to avoid the suggestion that polygamy is not – yet, at least – practised in the Church of England.

Jonathan Redvers Harris

14 Argyll Street, Ryde PO33 3BZ

Tell it like it is

From Mr Lance Howard

Jonathan Redvers Harris [Singular Agenda, March] has not actually noticed the oddest of the oddities nesting inside these new linguistics. With the passing into law of the 2004 Act, marriage is technically no longer a ‘civil partnership’, even though it manifestly is!

How much simpler had the law, instead of pussy-footing around what is quite obviously a fundamental change in provision, explicitly admitted what it was about by referring not, coyly as a Jane Austen heroine, to ‘civil partnership’, but frankly, accurately and unconfusingly to a ‘homosexual partnership.’ End of most problems.

Lance Howard

27 Lansdowne Road, London N10

Use the proper words

From Miss Juliet Hole

In his article [Singular Agenda, March] Jonathan Redvers Harris makes a telling examination of the new use of the word ‘single’ on marriage registers. It is easy to see three ways in which the terms ‘bachelor’ and ‘spinster’ upset the establishment: they are traditional, they are gender-specific and they relate to marriage.

This language policing is part of a bigger picture, an important part of which is the attempted replacement of the language of the family with the language of partners and carers. It is entirely dishonest to describe such terminology as neutral (which is the usual excuse) when its promotion is so decidedly in the service of a secularist and anti-family agenda.

A husband or wife, son or daughter should not be put in the same category as a council employee with no connection with the family, by the use of the word ‘carer.’ If married people hit the roof whenever an official referred to their ‘partner’ and altered the offending word on forms, some notice would have to be taken.

We do not have to share the current theories and objectives of the government of the day, and it is an abuse of power to enforce the use of language which involves assent to and cooperation with a contentious political agenda. Meanwhile, if they really do not want to offend people, we can help them not to, by making our own feelings clear.

Juliet Hole

4 The Leasowes, Bayton, Kidderminster DY14 9NA

Look to your own

From a Social Responsibility Officer

I am interested that ND has the ability to approach the cutting edge of satire [Last Chronicle, March] confident that none of its members – bishops, priests or laypeople – are troubled by neither homosexuality nor problem drinking. Or, heaven forfend, both.

I would hate to think of you upsetting any of your own people. Or, worse, being accused of hypocrisy of the worst kind.

Michael Wagstaff

Diocese of Sheffield Church House, 95 Effingham Street, Rotherham S65 1BL

Stand up to be counted

From Mr Philip Corbet

In the wake of the Guildford Report, one thing is clear: as a movement we must show the Church of England we are serious about our call for adequate provision for our parishes should women be ordained to the episcopate.

Parishes can do something about this. They can pass Resolutions A, B & C. It is simply no good for priests to say they do not want to discuss the issue with their parishioners as it will divide the parish. In this painful situation, these clergy must act with tact and concern, emphasizing the arguments and the necessity of passing these resolutions.

I understand that for many parishes in dioceses with appropriate provision, this may not seem to be an issue. However things do change and a new bishop might be appointed. By passing Resolutions A, B & C, a parish is sending a clear message to the diocese: we are happy to accept the current situation and provision, but should the situation change, we will look elsewhere for our episcopal oversight.

As lay people we must act as well; we must press for these issues to be discussed; we must call on our parish priests to act. If we do not do so, we may see appointed to our parishes priests who are not our constituency.

We must never forget the call of the Gospel to spread the Good News. To do this we need to be assured of our place within the Church of England as part of the wider Catholic Church.

Philip Corbett

Pusey House, Oxford OX1 3PG

Take this matter up

From Mr John Humphrey

For some time I have been concerned that no Christian voices seem to have been raised in protest on the Identity Card issue. I take the point that it is necessary to prioritize the issues one takes up, but I still believe this proposal raises sufficiently disturbing issues that somebody ought to be taking this matter up.

Identity cards in Malaysia, for example, state the holder’s religion; all sorts of difficulties are reportedly put in the way of, among others, converts from Islam to Christianity. Given the question about religion on the latest UK census, the question must at least be asked as to whether our government wishes to misuse its proposed UK identity cards in a similar fashion.

John Humphrey

5 Cobden Road, Sevenoaks TN13