Guidance for Methodist Church Councils regarding the appointment of Authorised Persons for same-sex marriages

This page was last updated 20th September 2021.

Form AP1 - available here - needs to be completed and submitted to the General Register Office.

Government guidance on completing Form AP1 is available here

This form relates to the person who will be the ‘Authorised Person’ i.e. the person authorised to be present at the solemnisation of marriages.  If the Methodist church building is already registered for marriages, there will usually be such an Authorised Person – in most cases the local minister (and  each time there’s been a change of minister Form AP1 will have been completed and sent to the General Register Office.)

Three steps are required:

  1. The first, and very important, point to check is whether the existing Authorised Person for your building is willing to be the Authorised Person in relation to same-sex marriages, bearing in mind the clear provisions in Standing Order 011B(2) protecting any individual from being required to act, in relation to any marriage, contrary to the dictates of their conscience.
  2. The church council then needs to pass a resolution nominating the relevant Authorised Person. Various forms of resolution are available depending on the circumstances – see below and here
  3. Once the resolution has been passed, Form AP1 can be completed. Please follow the instructions below.

NOTE: the new Authorised Person cannot act as such until their authorisation arrives from the General Register Office, which usually takes about a month. Therefore, although Form AP1 does not need to be submitted at the same time as Forms 78 and 78A (see guidance here), if it is submitted later any same-sex marriage would have to be attended by staff from the local register office or an Authorised Person from another building in the same registration district until confirmation has been received that the appointment has been recorded.  It may therefore be helpful to try to sort out the various related questions at the outset.

Remember that the functions of an Authorised Person are quite limited – it’s not about conducting the ceremony, but dealing with the ‘paperwork’ and the tasks involved with registering the marriage, which have become much more limited since new legislation came into force in May 2021, namely: to receive the Schedule from the local Registrar, get it signed by the couple and witnesses, any other person conducting the ceremony and themselves after the ceremony, and return it to the Registrar.   There are provisions in place under Standing Order 011B to identify some other person (for example, another member of the Circuit staff) who would be willing to conduct the actual ceremony.

Instructions to complete form AP1 (certificate of appointment of an Authorised Person)

These instructions vary, depending whether the existing Authorised Person wishes to be the Authorised Person for same-sex marriages as well as for marriages between a man and a woman:

(i) If the existing Authorised Person is willing to be authorised in relation to same-sex marriage

Form AP1 should be completed as follows:

  • Under Section 1 ‘Marriage Number’, insert the number under which the building is registered for marriage purposes (not the ‘place of religious worship’ number, which will be different). This number will appear on the original certificate of registration for marriages which should be in the church safe, but in any case the current Authorised Person should know it from the paperwork about their own appointment, or through having (until May 2021) been required to send in quarterly marriage returns.
  • In 2 and 1.3, complete the building name, address, registration district, etc. as indicated.
  • Under Section 2, tick box b).
  • 1: strictly this is not necessary now, since the general marriage rules about registers etc changed in May 2021, and the registers are no longer held locally in this way, but tick this box if you do have a safe.
  • 2: this could be dated to commence on the day after the relevant church council resolution which authorised the person in question.
  • 3: if a date has already been set for a same-sex marriage in the building, insert it here, but note that the registration process can take some weeks to be completed, so no same-sex ceremonies should have been arranged for a date too soon after the application is made.
  • The specimen resolution here authorises two members of the church council to submit the form, and their names and signatures should be entered in the Trustee boxes under 3.
  • Under Section 3, if it is the same person continuing to be authorised but now for all types of marriage, then tick ‘Responsible’. (The ‘Responsible Authorised Person’ will normally be used as the first point of contact by the registration authorities.)

The Authorised Person then needs to complete and sign Sections 4 and 5, making sure that the same box is ticked as in Section 2.

(ii) If the existing Authorised Person is not willing to be authorised in relation to same-sex marriage

He or she could still continue to be an Authorised Person for other marriages, and the church council could authorise another person as an Authorised Person who would be willing to be authorised for same-sex marriages, such as a lay member of the church council. Either of those persons could be the ‘Responsible Authorised Person’, the other being the ‘Additional Authorised Person’.   It would be for the church council to decide this.  Form AP1 can then be completed for the new person as under (i) above, ticking the appropriate box (‘Responsible’ or ‘Additional’) in Section 3, and either box b) or c) in section 4 according to whether the new person is authorised to be present at the solemnization of both types of marriage or only for same-sex ceremonies.  

Alternatively, rather than appointing another person for your premises, you might bear in mind that another person who is already an Authorised Person (for example, another minister in the Circuit who is willing to do so) can act as the Authorised Person in your building, provided their authorisation is for a building which is in the same registration district as yours.