Update on the Marriage Chapter from the Faith & Practice Revision Committee

“We sensibly felt the Lord with us and joining us, the sense thereof remained with us all our lifetime…”

(Thomas Ellwood on recalling his own marriage in 1669)

Friends may recall that the F&P Revision Committee circulated a draft chapter on marriage to all meetings in 2019, and held a listening session during the 2020 Yearly Meeting on Zoom. We have received a great deal of very useful feedback and are preparing to bring a draft for preliminary approval to Sessions this coming August.

The chapter’s primary emphasis is that, for Friends, marriage is a spiritual endeavor sustained through divine assistance. The role of the meeting is to bear witness to, and take a measure of responsibility for, the couple’s faithful response to this precious leading of the Spirit.

In responding to the first draft, many Friends asked for more discussion of sexuality and its expression. The committee has added some material to the chapter, including new advices and queries, but has discerned that a fuller discussion of sexuality belongs in the chapter on the individual’s spiritual journey, rather than in the chapter on marriage.

The revised chapter will use the term “wedding committee” to refer to the group appointed by the monthly meeting to have care of the meeting for worship in which the wedding takes place, and to assist the couple in their wedding arrangements. This committee has traditionally been called the “oversight committee” or “committee of oversight,” but contemporary sensitivity to the history of the word “overseer” has led the F&P Revision Committee to choose a different word.

In response to feedback we received, we were led to write a new paragraph advising meetings to discern carefully whether a non-traditional request for marriage might nonetheless arise from God’s call in the lives of the individuals, enrich the life of the meeting, and amplify God’s love in the world.

Before Yearly Meeting Sessions in August, all Friends are encouraged to read and reflect on the revised chapter; it will be available in June on the website and in an audiobook format. There will be opportunities during sessions for feedback and final revisions before the clerk asks for preliminary approval. 

A chapter that has received preliminary approval is substantially acceptable to the Yearly Meeting and is not expected to change except perhaps in very minor ways that may become desirable as the book nears completion. Meetings should consider it to be part of the official Faith and Practice of the Yearly Meeting and should give it appropriate authority in their life together.