Guidance for managing trustees about how to register a Methodist church building for same-sex marriage
This page was last updated 20th September 2021.
This Guidance is intended to assist Methodist church councils (and, where relevant, other Methodist trustee bodies) about how to go about the registration process to enable same-sex marriage ceremonies to take place in Methodist church buildings.
This Guidance is not about deciding whether to register a Methodist building for same-sex marriage. That decision will involve pastoral conversations amongst local church members, for which guidance and resources are available here to assist church councils in reflecting on the question and the implications of any decision they make. When making the decision, church councils are asked consider three specific resolutions:
- Whether to consent to and register the church building for the solemnization of marriages of same-sex couples.
- Whether to consent to services of blessing for same-sex couples who are already married to take place in the church building, whether or not the church council also resolves to register the building for the solemnization of marriages of same-sex couples.
- Who to nominate as the Authorised Person to be appointed by the Registrar to be present at the solemnization of same-sex marriages conducted in the church building.
Suggested wording for each of these resolutions can be found here.
Once a church council has resolved to apply to register their church building for the solemnization of same-sex marriages, this Guidance explains the practical steps to be taken when making the application. A checklist as to what is required can be found here.
This Guidance deals with the situation in England and Wales. Different legal requirements apply in other jurisdictions; please contact your Methodist District office if you are seeking to register premises or authorise persons in respect of same-sex marriage ceremonies outside England and Wales.
Applying to register a Methodist church building in England or Wales for same-sex marriage
NOTE: How you complete Form 78A depends whether your building is either (A) used exclusively by a Methodist congregation for worship, or (B) ‘shared’ with another Christian church or congregation who use the building for public religious worship, by a formal Sharing Agreement, Schedule 14a licence or otherwise.
If (B) applies, then the consent of the other Christian congregation’s ‘governing authority’ to same-sex marriage ceremonies taking place in the church building will also be required, and you will need to engage in conversation with that congregation as part of your church council’s overall decision whether or not to register - see Form 78A guidance as to ‘sharing churches’, below.
Form 78 – Registration of a Place of Religious Worship for the Solemnization of Marriages under the Marriage Act 1949
Even though your building is already registered for marriages between a man and a woman, that will not be sufficient for same-sex marriages. In order to register the building for same-sex marriages you need to fill in ‘Form 78’ and return it to the Superintendent Registrar of the Register Office where your building is situated. Form 78 and the government’s guidance on its completion are available here.
You need to send in two original (identical) copies of the form, and the fee (currently £64.00).
Completing Form 78
Page 1 ‘Certificate’: If your building is already registered for marriages between a man and a woman, there is no need to complete the ‘Certificate’ section on page 1 of the form.
NOTE: If your building is not registered for marriage at all, but you are thinking about doing this now, please seek guidance from the Superintendent Registrar of the Register Office where your building is situated. The form which you need to complete is the same, i.e. Form 78, but you need to provide all the information required on page 1 of the form.
Page 2 - ‘Application’: The application should be completed by the trustee who has been nominated in the church council’s resolution to make the application (see here for sample resolution 1). It is up to the managing trustees to decide who this person might be, for example, the chair or secretary of the church council.
Insert the Registration District, the applicant trustee’s name (delete ‘proprietor’), and the name and address of the church building to be registered.
The denomination(s) will be ‘the Methodist Church’, and any other denomination which uses the building for worship – see Form 78A guidance as to ‘sharing churches’, below.
You need to be able to ascertain the date on which the building was registered as a place for religious worship in general (not specifically for marriage), and registered ‘worship number’. The original date of registration may be very many years ago – check the church’s registration certificate, which will usually be held in the circuit safe. If the certificate cannot be located, the information should appear on the existing Authorised Person’s authorisation (see guidance here), or you could contact your local Superintendent Registrar. In the absence of further information, it is suggested that you state ‘not known’.
If the registered worship number does not appear on the registration certificate and you do not know it, check the public register: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/places-of-worship-registered-for-marriage
You then need to tick box b), to indicate that you are applying for same sex marriages in addition to opposite sex marriages (for which the building is already registered) to be able to take place.
NOTE: if this is the first registration of the building for any marriages, you need to tick box c.
The applicant trustee should sign and date where indicated in the ‘Application’ box on the form.
Page 2 ‘Additional Information’: complete this section as follows:
- Items 1 and 2 relate to whichever trustee has made and signed the application at the top of page 2.
- Item 3: the answer should be ‘Yes’,
- Item 4: Tick the box to confirm you are submitting a copy of the Methodist marriage service approved by the Conference in 2021 for use for marriage between ‘any two persons’ - available here.
NOTE: If the local Superintendent Registrar queries the liturgy, you can confirm that this is what has been agreed between the Conference Office (via email@example.com) and the General Register Office.
- Item 5: as to form 78A, see below. The ‘relevant governing authority’s consent’ refers to the decisions taken by the Conference in 2021 (Resolutions 59/8 and 59/14A) consenting to same-sex marriages taking place in Methodist church buildings. The consent has been given by a letter written by the Secretary of the Conference to the General Register Office dated 1 September 2021, which has been accepted by that office as being what is required. This letter is available here to submit with your application.
Form 78A – Certificate that consent has been given by the relevant governing authority (or authorities) for a building to be registered for the solemnization of marriages of same sex couples.
The main purpose of Form 78A is to certify that any ‘relevant governing authority’s consent’ has been obtained. Form 78A and the government’s guidance on its completion are available here.
IMPORTANT NOTE: How you complete Form 78A depends whether your building is either (A) used exclusively by a Methodist congregation for worship, or (B) ‘shared’ with another Christian church or congregation who use the building for public religious worship, by a formal Sharing Agreement, Schedule 14a licence or otherwise.
If (B) applies, then the consent of that Christian congregation’s ‘governing authority’ to same-sex marriage ceremonies taking place in the church building will also be required. See further at (B) below.
NOTE: This Guidance is about the registering of Methodist buildings for same-sex marriage and does not deal with the converse position i.e. where you as a Methodist body are involved in sharing a building belonging to another denomination, and have agreed that you would wish to have same-sex marriages solemnized in that building. In that case, your next step should be to approach the denomination which owns the building to ask if they would be willing to register. Please inform the connexional Ecumenical Officer if you are wishing to do this (firstname.lastname@example.org) to discuss any questions which may arise.
(A) Where the use of your Methodist-owned building is not shared with another Christian church or congregation
Completing Form 78A for a ‘non-shared’ building
Page 1: If no other Christian church or congregation uses your Methodist Church building for worship, simply tick ‘No’ in the boxes in questions 1 and 2 and complete the certificate in section 3.
Besides including the copy of the Secretary of the Conference’s letter mentioned above (available here), you should include a letter confirming the church council’s resolution to register the building for same-sex marriage (see here for sample letter).
The Certificate should be completed by the same trustee applicant as for Form 78, giving their name, the name of the church being registered, and the Registration District in which the church building is situated. The trustee should then sign and date the form, and delete ‘Proprietor’ under the signature at the bottom of the Certificate.
Page 2: This only applies to shared buildings and can be ignored if you do not share your church building with any other Christian denomination for worship. For ‘sharing churches’ see (B) below.
NOTE: Form 78A must be submitted with the relevant accompanying documents within one month of being signed.
(B) Where the use of your Methodist-owned building is shared with another Christian church or congregation
This applies where either:
(1) as trustees of a Methodist-owned building you have entered into a Sharing Agreement under the Sharing of Church Buildings Act 1969 with a church belonging to another denomination;
(2) another Christian body or congregation has used your building for public religious worship on two or more occasions (of more than 30 minutes each) in either: (i) each of the last six months prior to the date on which you sign form 78A, or (ii) nine of the last 12 months prior to that date. This will include a congregation with whom you have a Schedule 14a licence arrangement or some other agreement to use your Methodist building for public religious worship.
Churches to whom either (1) or (2) applies are labelled in this Guidance as ‘sharing churches’.
In order for such churches to be registered for same-sex marriage, evidence must be provided to show that the ‘relevant governing authority’ of each of the denominations in the sharing church is willing to consent. See the government’s guidance on Form 78A here.
Obviously any decision about having same-sex marriage ceremonies in your building is not something which you should embark on without careful consultation with your sharing partner(s), and ultimately you cannot ‘go it alone’ on this, because of the consents which the General Register Office requires you to show have been given.
Where you as a trustee body find that one (or more) of your sharing churches will not consent even to use of the building for Methodist same-sex marriage ceremonies, you will need to consider how significant this ‘veto’ is in your ongoing church life. In a ‘licence’ situation under (2) above, it would be a delicate question of whether to revoke (with the appropriate length of notice and having taken legal advice) or refuse to renew the licence when it expires, or whether the continuing relationship of hospitality should take precedence over this issue. Please consult the connexional Ecumenical Officer for assistance with those discussions if necessary, email@example.com.
Completing Form 78A for a ‘shared’ church
Page 1: Tick the applicable boxes in questions 1 and 2 and ignore the Certificate in section 3.
Page 2: In section 4, you need to list all the sharing churches, including the Methodist Church. Under situation (1) above this means all those who are parties to the Sharing Agreement. Under (2) this means those bodies to whom you have granted permission (a ‘licence’) to use the building for public religious worship and who have done so on the requisite number of occasions set out under (2).
To complete section 4 you also need to know what is each church’s ‘relevant governing authority’. For the Methodist Church, this is the Methodist Conference. Other churches and congregations have different structures, but in each case a letter of official consent from the relevant governing authority is required confirming either (i) that a church’s governing authority has consented to the solemnization of same-sex marriages, or (ii) that it has consented at least to the building being used for that purpose. You will need to have copies of the written consents from all the churches’ governing authorities to send in with the form. The one for the Methodist Conference is the letter which the Secretary has sent to the General Register Office dated 1 September 2021 available here. Please ask your sharing partner(s) for an appropriate letter of consent from their ‘relevant governing authority’ and if necessary consult the connexional Ecumenical Officer, firstname.lastname@example.org, for clarification.
You can list the Methodist Church under the middle column in section 4. With regard to the other sharing churches, whether you list them under the middle column or the right hand column depends upon what the written consent says: either a consent to the solemnization of same-sex marriages, or a consent to the building being used for that purpose. As indicated above, please consult your sharing denomination and the connexional Ecumenical Officer about obtaining the relevant documentation.
Besides including the copies of the relevant governing authorities’ consents, you should also include a letter confirming the church council’s resolution to register the building for same-sex marriage (see here for sample letter).
The Certificate should be completed by the same trustee applicant as for Form 78, giving their name, the name of the church being registered and the Registration District in which the church building is situated. The trustee should then sign and date the form, and delete ‘Proprietor’ under the signature at the bottom of the Certificate.
NOTE: Form 78A must be submitted with the relevant accompanying documents within one month of being signed.
When you are ready to submit the application use the checklist to ensure you haven’t forgotten anything.
If you have any general questions or comments on this Guidance, please email email@example.com