Church Says Social Mobility Makes Banns `Less Relevant'

Article excerpt

PITY THE poor Church of England. It does its best to move with the times - which it is frequently lambasted for failing to do - and it finds itself in the stocks once again.

An row is brewing over a proposal to scrap the 800-year-old tradition of reading marriage "banns" (the word is from the Middle English word for proclamation) in Anglican churches three Sundays before the wedding, so that anyone knowing of "any lawful impediment" to the union can object.

The plan comes from a church review that aims to modernise the Church of England wedding service to attract more young people to marry in church. Today, three-quarters of the 250,000 marriages that take place each year are celebrated in registry offices and in exotic locations from country houses and football pitches to potholes and hot-air balloons.

The review group, chaired by the Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich, the Right Rev Richard Lewis, has drawn the line at allowing Anglican clerics to preside over weddings held in such extra-mural circumstances. But it does want to do away with the requirement that the groom, or more traditionally, the bride-to-be reside in the parish where they marry and that banns should be published in their churches.

Clerics think the tradition, introduced in 1200, is outdated, because many people no longer live in the same parish for most of their lives. …