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Church staying quiet on the issue of banns

Thursday, 9th August 2001.

CHURCH officials are remaining tight-lipped over speculation that a review led by a Suffolk bishop will recommend axing an ancient tradition.

Reports in the national press have claimed a review board, headed by the Rt Reverend Richard Lewis, Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich, will decide to scrap the reading of wedding banns.

According to the law, which dates back hundreds of years, the banns of marriage must be read out in church three Sundays before a wedding to allow members of the congregation to object to the union if they believe it to be illegal.

The eight-strong review board was set up to look at the legal issues surrounding marriage after a motion was put forward to the Church of England Synod saying the banns were a "medieval anachronism".

A spokesman for the Church said no official comment was permitted on the review until it published its report.

He added: "Even if the banns were to finish, it would still be several years before the changes came into effect as they are part of the law of the land, not the law of the church."

The Reverend Graham Hedger, chaplain to the bishop, said the review had been veiled in secrecy. "I think we would all like to know where this report came from. I am involved in most aspects of the bishop's work but everything concerning the review comes in marked strictly confidential," he said.

The working group is also believed to be looking at widening the choice couples have when picking a church venue for their wedding.

At the moment, they have to be married in the parish church where one of them lives, unless they can get an Archbishop's Special Licence.

If reforms are approved, it could mean they can opt for a church where either of them spent their childhood or where their parents or grandparents have lived.

Haverhill Weekly News

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