The Chairman of the Archbishop’s Liturgical Panel, Bishop Rob Forsyth, says the committee’s work on marriage as well as a range of other services will be debated on the last night of Synod, Tuesday 16th October.

Bishop Forsyth, along with Archbishop Jensen, appeared on a variety of media outlets throughout September answering questions about the second form of the marriage service in the new ‘Common Prayer’ book.

If approved, the service would be one of six alternatives available to churches for use at weddings. While in one of the old services the wife promises to ‘obey’ her husband, in the alternative order in ‘Common Prayer’ the word ‘submit’ is used.

“When it went through the synod in 20011 there was not one comment about either marriage service” Bishop Forsyth said. But, he said, many journalists ignored the context. “There seemed to be little understanding about what the nature of the proposal was, what the nature of the book was, that it was merely an alternative, that although the word is new in the vows, the word submit is used quite liberally in the Book of Common Prayer in the homily set for use in the marriage service and therefore can’t be a radical shift in doctrine.”

Newspaper and TV reporting of the proposed change had been both good and bad, the Bishop said.

“For some, it reinforced a narrative of the Anglican church as a bunch of dinosaurs. For others, they were pleased to have at last something of the genuine challenge of man and woman marriage, scripturally understood, being discussed. That’s where the young couple who had used that service were such a wonderful example because the stereotype was - ‘Young people will leave the church because of this’ - when in fact it was young people who were the reason we put the service in the book in the first place.” he said.

A development draft of ‘Common Prayer’ was presented at Synod last year and a revised version has been sent to Synod members in preparation for this year’s debate.

“We’ve done a lot of nuancing to that second order of marriage, and I suspect some will think we have not gone far enough in making clear the differences between men and women. It’s going to be a very interesting debate.”

Common Prayer has four different prayer services, four variations of services for the Lord’s Supper, baptism for adults and children, a confirmation service, funeral service and two marriage services.

“The goal of the Archbishop’s liturgical panel is not the selling of books of services, our goal is how to improve the standard of how we address each other and address God when we gather in his name” Bishop Forsyth said.

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