Our processes depend on individual and corporate reflection and on continuing revelation. Our marriage process is lengthy and takes a lot of care so we alternate responsibility for shepherding the process between our Ministry & Counsel (Spiritual Concerns) and our Oversight (Pastoral Care) committees. For the rest of this section "Shepherd committee" will be used to designate the committee actually assigned responsibility for a particular marriage request.
The Quaker Marriages Process occurs under the Care of a specific Quaker Meeting. Care is offered by way of Queries for reflection individually, as a couple, and with a Clearness committee, selected by the Meeting. Discernment is sought on all aspects of married life. The Clearness Committee remains in touch with the married couple offering encouragement in the early years of their life together. The Clearness process goes most smoothly when the couple is well known to the meeting. When only one is a member, the other needs to take the time to become familiar with Quaker ways and our community because it is both individuals who are taken under the Meeting's Care. The Clearness Process is an integral part of a Quaker Wedding. The marriage service is the last in a series of steps, not the only step.
Recommendations of marriage are brought to Business Worship by the shepherding committee for the consideration and approval of Monthly Meeting.
Our Minute on the Recognition and Celebration of Committed Relationships explains our understanding of Marriage as a Spiritual Union.
Minute on the Recognition and Celebration of Committed Relationships
"Just as there is that of God in every person, there is that of God in every relationship that calls upon God.” - New York Yearly Meeting Faith and Practice.
It is our direct experience that the gifts of the Spirit are bestowed without consideration of gender, race, age, disability or sexual orientation - that there is “that of God” in everyone. It is also our direct experience that committed, loving and spiritual relationships that are enduring, unselfish, mutually tender and supportive are greatly beneficial to individuals, to our Meeting community, and to society as a whole.
Quakers have traditionally recognized and celebrated such committed relationships in a religious ceremony under the care of the Meeting, in which the couple solemnly commits to a lifelong relationship based on love and faithfulness and relying on God’s assistance. This recognition and celebration is based on Friends’ experience that these relationships are the work of the Spirit to which we are simply witnesses, and not of human ordinance.
We therefore affirm that we will hold meetings for worship to recognize and celebrate such commitments under the care of the Meeting, for couples (at least one of whom is a member of the Meeting) irrespective of gender, race, age, disability or sexual orientation. Requests for such celebrations of commitment or marriage will be considered individually in the manner of Friends (including a process for clearness) and according to the principles and procedures as set down from time to time in Faith and Practice, the Book of Discipline of the New York Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends, as applicable.
The Meeting acknowledges, and will make clear to any couple seeking to be joined under the care of the Meeting, that certain spiritual relationships recognized by Friends may not be recognized by secular authorities.
"For the right joining in marriage is the work of the Lord only, and not the priests' or magistrates'; for it is God's ordinance and not man's; and therefore Friends cannot consent that they should join them together; for we marry none; it is the Lord's work, and we are but witnesses." George Fox,1669
Summit Monthly Meeting 11th day, First Month, 2004
Click here to read the Marriage Steps to follow when being married under the care of Chatham Summit Quaker Meeting.
We offer Clearness Committees to all members of our community seeking discernment on major life decisions.
In Quaker marriages we are witness to a spiritual union that has already occurred. We leave the legal details of marriage and divorce to the civil authorities.
Both members of a dissolved marriage remain welcome in our community.