Marriage is a formal union of a man and a woman, typically recognized by law, by which these persons become husband and wife. It is a social and/or legal union between people called spouses that create kinship. As children of God, it is also a covenant between the spouses and God as the third strand that creates the family unit of the church. A Christian marriage is, therefore, a life-long partnership of one man and one woman, in mutual fidelity, trust and service endeavouring to maintain a household of which Christ is the Head.
The Fountain of Glory Church has laid down regulations governing marriage and members are expected to abide by all the regulations laid down. After going through the processes and procedures laid down for prospective couples, the church may solemnize the marriage with prayers; and ultimately conferring blessings on the couple.
B. TYPES OF MARRIAGES
There are three types of valid marriages recognized by Ghanaian law: (1) customary marriage, (2) marriage under the Marriage Ordinance and (3) Islamic marriage under the Marriage of Mohammedans Ordinance.1. Customary Marriage
Definition: It is a marriage defined and regulated by local customs and traditions. It involves contracts between families, not individuals per se. It is regulated by complex traditional conventions.
The church recognises such marriages. Many members are already married according to the Customary Law and Traditions of their locality before joining the Church. Such couples are encouraged to have their union blessed in line with Christian Doctrine.2. Marriage by Ordinance
Definition: It is a marriage contracted in accordance with the Marriage Ordinance Laws of Ghana. There are 3 kinds of Ordinance Marriages:>
- Marriage by a Registrar of Marriages
- Marriage by a Marriage Officer
- Marriage by Special Licence.
A Marriage Registrar is an officer at the Registrar Generals Office, Metropolitan, Municipal or District Assembly (MMDA), with responsibility to perform marriages.
A Marriage Officer is a minister of a religious body (Christian or Muslim) who has been duly licenced and gazetted to perform marriages. This means the person has been recognized and given a certificate by the Government to perform Ordinance marriages.
Marriage by Special Licence is where the Registrar General's Office, MMDA waives certain conditions for an Ordinance, such as the length of time for notices or permits a venue (other than the Registrar General's Office, MMDA or church), to be used for the performance of the marriage.
The MARRIAGE CONTRACT is done at the Law Court and Registrar General’s Department. It involves:
- taking an oath to live with someone of the opposite sex. It is monogamous - once married, you cannot marry again or else you commit bigamy, punishable by law; and
- one commits bigamy if either marries in addition to existing marriage partner. Bigamy is a criminal offence under the Criminal Codes of Ghana.
Ordinance Marriages offer protection of the rights of the spouse and children. It offers more support to the Christian ideal. Of itself, however, it is not necessarily Christian. Customary Marriage and Ordinance Marriage may be entirely blessed in the church if Christian requirements are fulfilled. Ordinance Marriage may be entirely conducted in church, the religious and civil ceremonies being fused into one.
2b. Holy Matrimony / Solemnization – (Church marriage)
- Christian marriage is under Holy matrimony (Heb 13:4, Mal. 2:14-15).
- It is monogamous (Gen. 2:24, I Tim. 3:2, 12).
- Backed by Christian Faith (Heb. 13: 4-7)
- It is a covenant backed by vows (Mt. 19:4-6, Ro. 7:2-3)
- The marriage is consummated by sexual intercourse (Mt. 19: 5-6). Consummation starts only after the marriage ceremony.
- It is a lifelong union (I Cor. 7:10-11)
- God hates Divorce and it is frowned upon (Mal. 2:15, I Cor. 7:11)
- It is not possible to break up unless through death (Ro. 7:2-3, Mt. 19:6)
2c. Blessing in Church
This is not another form of marriage. It is the Church’s way of ensuring, by means of a special form of service, that members acknowledge the Christian concept of marriage and vow to live by it, while invoking the blessing of God upon their union.
The marriage ceremony can be done on any day.
Only a bridesmaid and a best man are allowed on the bridal team when a wedding is held on a Sunday. Normal church service will be held and some time will be allocated to officiate the wedding. When a wedding is held on a Saturday, a full bridal team may accompany the couple. Weddings can also be arranged during week days where only family members and or a few friends can be invited.
C. KEY ISSUES FOR WOULD-BE COUPLES
- Spiritual Compatibility: Both would-be couple must be believers in the Lord Jesus Christ and must show evidence about their desire to serve Him in their daily lives and marriage. Fountain of Glory allows weddings/blessings for born again believers. The Marriage Committee may recommend the New Members Class for any would-be couple if it is found to be necessary … but only after the person genuinely accepts Jesus Christ as a personal Lord and Saviour. Premarital counselling may start after the successful completion of the New Members Class.
- Young people are encouraged to inform first their spiritual fathers and then their parents and or mothers when they begin courtship and obtain initial guidance from them. Parental acceptance is key and crucial. As already noted, it is advisable to inform the Head Pastor (Bishop) or the Senior Pastor first before divulging anything to parents or siblings on your intention to get married.
- The Head Pastor after an interview session will hand over the two to the Marriage Committee for further discussions after his initial meeting with them.
- If the Marriage Committee is satisfied after the meeting with the two, Marriage Application Forms are given out for the two to complete. This is to obtain basic background information about the two, to help confirm whether partners are truly Christians, ascertain the depth of their knowledge about the Christian Faith and understanding of the Marriage Covenant.
- Where one member comes from a different church the church will request a letter of introduction from the church where the member fellowships.
- The would-be couple will be required to do a prescribed medical examination. This is to ascertain their health status to help the committee counsel them accordingly. There should be full disclosure.
- If the medical report is satisfactory, the would-be couple would be required to undergo a six month pre-marital counselling.
- “KNOCKING” should be done ONLY after MC meets with the Parents/Guardians. Parents/Guardians would guide MC on traditional requirements (engagement, etc., moving forward).
- Counsellors would have to submit (at least after 3 months of counselling) the PRE-MARITAL COUNSELLING REPORT signed by both counselors and counselees, indicating RECOMMENDATION to continue with marriage or not. This Form will also indicate the TENTATIVE DATES for the ENGAGEMENT and WEDDING.
- The dates for weddings will be submitted by the Marriage Committee to the Pastoral Board and APPROVED by the Pastoral Board.
- The would-be couple is required to register with the Metropolitan Assembly for it to publicise, for three consecutive times, the Banns.
- The publication of banns provides notice of an impending marriage, and takes the form of oral publication for three consecutive Sundays before the entire congregation. The marriage must be solemnized within three months of the last publication of Banns or a fresh notice of the intended marriage has to be given.
Rights for Refusal: The Senior Pastor reserves the right to refuse to marry the couple if:
- from the counseling session he receives recommendation that the marriage is not advisable; and
- it is found that the couple has not adhered to the moral expectations listed below:
- Moral Expectations – As the Scripture teaches that intimate sexual relations are to be reserved for marriage, the couple agrees to abstain from such activity until after the wedding. In cases where the couple is living together and/or sexual activity has already occurred, the couple agrees to live in separate housing and/or cease from such activity until after the wedding.
- Divorce and Remarriage – THE CHURCH STRONGLY ADVISES AGAINST MARRYING DIVORCEES. However, in cases where one or both individuals have a previous marriage that was dissolved by divorce, the officiating pastor will determine if remarriage is scripturally permissible. In that case a Divorce Certificate will be required as proof of dissolution of marriage.
D. THE PRACTICE OF COUNSELING
The Marriage Committee conducts pre-marital counseling for prospective couples for a normal period of six months.
In special situations and under certain considerations by the Marriage Committee, the prospective couple is allowed a shorter time of counseling with special conditions.
Where the counseling is done in a different church, usually that of the lady in situations where the partners attend different churches, a two-week top-up counseling is expected to be done by our Marriage Committee before the wedding.
E. DETAILED PROCESS SUMMARY
For the avoidance of doubt and to ensure more clarity a detailed summary is given below.
1ST CATEGORY: MARRIAGE WHERE BOTH PARTNERS ARE/OR LADY IS FROM FOG… AND BLESSINGS
- Together see Bishop/Snr. Associate Pastor when ready to marry (having courted for at least one (1) year).
- Bishop/Snr. Associate Pastor will refer both persons to the Marriage Committee (MC), when satisfied.
- MC would ask both persons to fill the MARRIAGE APPLICATION FORMS (See the Church Administrator). Both persons are required to sign Forms, indicating commitment to undergo counselling and abstain from pre-marital sex.
- MC will interrogate/interview both persons based on the APPLICATION FORMS submitted.
- Couple will undergo MEDICAL EXAMINATION at a recognized hospital (HIV/AIDS, Sickle Cells, Blood Group etc.).
- MC will assign Counsellors for a maximum of six (6) Months counselling sessions, when satisfied.
- Parents/Guardians of both Counselees will meet with MC when the Counsellors give the green light during the 6 months counselling sessions, usually midstream (just after 3 months of counselling). – e.g. MC will provide advice on Leaving and Cleaving. During these sessions, Parents/Guardians would guide MC on traditional requirements (engagement, etc., moving forward).
- “KNOCKING” should be done ONLY after MC meets with the Parents/Guardians.
- Counsellors would have to submit (at the end of 3 months of counselling) the PRE-MARITAL COUNSELLING REPORT signed by both counselors and counselees, indicating RECOMMENDATION to continue with marriage or not. This Form will also indicate the TENTATIVE DATES for the ENGAGEMENT and WEDDING. The dates for weddings will be submitted by the MC to the Bishop/Snr. Associate Pastor and APPROVED.
- Counsellors will advise when counselees are to proceed to the Metropolitan/District Assembly (AMA/LEKMA etc.) to REGISTER THE MARRIAGE (21-Days Maturity period). Temporary Forms will be issued by the Assembly after the period for the Administrator’s attention. PLEASE, LET THE ASSEMBLY KNOW IT IS A CHURCH WEDDING. Note: The marriage must be solemnized within 3 months of last announcement (BANNS) by FOG or else a fresh notice of the intended marriage has to be issued.
- Publication of BANNS (3 consecutive Sundays) before Wedding (Church Administrator)
- WEDDING @ FOG (Pastoral Board & Church Administrator)
- For those who are already traditionally married and are living together – BLESSING CEREMONY CAN BE DONE ON ANY DAY.
- But for such Blessings on SUNDAYS, only the Best man and the Bridesmaid may be present: THIS IS A NORMAL CHURCH SERVICE WITH A SLOT FOR THE BLESSING. Note: Procedure for counselling may be varied by the Marriage Committee.
2ND CATEGORY: MARRIAGE WHERE LADY BEING MARRIED IS FROM ANOTHER CHURCH
- Together see Bishop/Snr. Associate Pastor when ready to marry (courting for at least one (1) year).
- Bishop/Snr. Associate Pastor will write a CONFIDENTIAL LETTER to the Lady’s Pastor on behaviour, commitment etc.
- Bishop/Snr. Associate Pastor will refer both persons IMMEDIATELY to Marriage Committee (MC).
- MC would ask both persons to fill the Marriage Application Forms (See the Administrator). Couple required to sign Forms, indicating commitment to undergo counselling and abstain from pre-marital sex. PLEASE, BOOK APPOINTMENT TO SEE MC IMMEDIATELY.
- MC will release Gentleman to Lady’s Church for Counselling (Period of Counselling may differ @ Lady’s Church). COPY OF MEDICAL REPORT(S) SHOULD BE FORWARDED TO THE FOG MARRIAGE COMMITTEE, AS SOON AS RECEIVED, PLS.
- Counselees must have to inform MC of tentative dates of Engagement and Wedding in good time to forestall clashes of dates. BOTH CHURCHES MUST AGREE ON SUITABLE DATES SO MEMBERS OF BOTH CHURCHES CAN ATTEND FULLY.
- Counselees will undergo “TOP-UPs” (Max. of 2 Meetings) within a two (2) week period, just when about to get married (usually a maximum of 4 weeks before the Wedding).
3RD CATEGORY: MARRIAGE WHERE ONE PARTNER IS OUTSIDE GHANA
- (Together) see Bishop/Associate Pastor
- Bishop/Associate Pastor to refer Partner in Ghana to MC
- Letter from FOG to go to Pastor of Partner outside Ghana to determine commitment etc. (Responsibility of Bishop/Snr. Associate Pastor).
- MC will take it from there, after recommendation by the Pastoral Board:
- Both Couples to fill Marriage Application Forms and submit to MC
- Medicals (Both) and submit to MC
- Couple in Ghana will be assigned Counsellors thereafter. Most likely Couple outside will be counselled by his/her Pastor abroad (Responsibility of Bishop/Snr. Associate Pastor)
- Items 7 -12 of 1st Category (MARRIAGE WHERE BOTH PARTNERS ARE/OR LADY IS FROM FOG… AND BLESSINGS) may apply where lady is from FOG.
- Items 5 – 7 of 2nd Category (MARRIAGE WHERE LADY BEING MARRIED IS FROM ANOTHER CHURCH) may apply where lady is not from FOG.
F. PIECES OF ADVICE
- NEVER GET INVOLVED IN SEX before Marriage (set rigid boundaries).
- NEVER LIE FROM THE OUTSET OF THE MARRIAGE JOURNEY (Don’t start with the Father of Lies (the Devil) esp. before the MC!
- MAKE SURE YOU ARE BOTH BORN-AGAIN CHRISTIANS (Spiritual Compatibility).
- MAKE SURE YOU ATTEND ALL AGREED COUNSELLING SESSIONS dutifully, promptly and comprehensively (cover all topics thoroughly and PLEASE DO ASK QUESTIONS). DO ALL ASSINMENTS GIVEN BY COUNSELLORS.
- BE OPEN AND TRANSPARENT during counselling sessions. DON’T HIDE ANYTHING. MC ASSURES HIGH LEVELS OF CONFIDENTIALITY.
- The would-be Couple must CULTIVATE THE HABIT OF GETTING TOGETHER TO PRAY during this period. COUNSELLORS WILL CONSTANTLY PRAY WITH YOU.
- BE CAREFUL WITH MARRYING FROM “ANY CHURCH”. THERE ARE DOCTRINAL ISSUES TO DEAL WITH! (MORE THE RESPONSIBILITY OF THE PASTORAL BOARD).
- BE FLEXIBLE AND LISTEN TO ADVICE FROM COUNSELLORS. It is NEVER A MUST that you must marry that person, even though undergoing counselling. THE COUNSELLORS CAN RECOMMEND TO THE PASTORAL BOARD THAT THE MARRIAGE PROCESS BE TRUNCATED… AT ANY TIME.
It is the Pastoral Board’s and the Marriage Committee’s prayer that with God on our side; and with strict adherence to the noble principles and regulations enshrined in this manual, FOG will begin to embrace quality changes in our marriage procedures, ultimately ensuring in successful marriages with the help of the Almighty God. May God richly bless us all. Amen.