Diocese of Arkansas Policy Regarding Officiating at Marriage Services

July 14, 2015

The Episcopal Church has approved trial rites for marriage for a three-year time period, with the permission of the diocesan bishop, beginning in Advent 2015. At the next General Convention we will reflect on the experience of these three years and decide how to move forward.

In that the use of these trial rites is under the direction of the diocesan bishop, here are the policies for the Diocese of Arkansas as we move forward into use of these trial rites:

A member of the clergy is not required to officiate at any marriage service, either of an opposite-sex or same-sex couple. The ability to decline to officiate at marriage services has long been a part of the polity of The Episcopal Church.

The requirements are the same for both opposite-sex and same-sex couples that at least one of the parties is baptized, that the couple have a valid marriage license, that there be pre-marital counseling, that the minimum time elapsed before a wedding is thirty days, and that there be the signing of a Declaration of Intent by the couple. 

Permissible liturgies as of the first Sunday of Advent, 2015:

Opposite-sex couples will be married according to one of the rites in the 1979 Book of Common Prayer or according to the trial liturgy approved at the 2015 General Convention, “The Witnessing and Blessing of a Marriage.”

Same-sex couples will be married according to the trial liturgy approved at the 2015 General Convention, “The Witnessing and Blessing of a Marriage,” but NOT according to the liturgy entitled “The Celebration and Blessing of a Marriage 2.” The reason is that the latter liturgy is closely based on the 1979 Book of Common Prayer marriage liturgy, and as your bishop I want the trial use for same-sex couples to be focused on the trial liturgy and not on the existing Book of Common Prayer liturgies.

At any time, either before or after the first Sunday of Advent, 2015:

For opposite-sex couples who have previously been married in a civil ceremony and desire the blessing of the church, a priest may use the 1979 Book of Common Prayer‘s “Blessing of a Civil Marriage” for opposite-sex couples ONLY.

For same-sex couples who have previously been married in a civil ceremony and desire the blessing of the church, the trial rite,  “The Witnessing and Blessing of a Marriage,” will be used and adapted as necessary.

Note: The report of the Task Force on Marriage to General Convention, along with the trial liturgies, can be found online at: https://extranet.generalconvention.org/staff/files/download/13068.pdf