Formal pledges or promises. All Christian vows are ultimately based in the promises made in the baptismal covenant (BCP, pp. 304-305). Vows may give form and particularity to the baptismal covenant in the person's life. In the Christian tradition, vows often reflect a life commitment to a specific Christian vocation or manner of life. Such vows include the promises by an ordinand at the ordination of a bishop, priest, or deacon, the promises a man and woman make to each other in marriage, and the promises of a person making a life commitment to membership in a monastic or religious community. Monastic or religious vows typically include a commitment to poverty, obedience, and chastity. Vows of life commitment are often preceded by formal or informal vows that are temporary in nature. A man and woman may go through a period of engagement prior to making the vows of marriage. A member of a monastic or religious community may make temporary vows for a period of years before making vows of life commitment or solemn profession. Temporary or informal vows provide an opportunity for the person to test vocation and the appropriateness of a particular commitment. A vow may be made privately or publicly to express any formal intention, resolve, or purpose. A private vow may be expressed confidentially to a spiritual director or confessor, or it may be expressed only in prayer to God.
Glossary definitions provided courtesy of Church Publishing Incorporated, New York, NY,(All Rights reserved) from "An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church, A User Friendly Reference for Episcopalians," Don S. Armentrout and Robert Boak Slocum, editors.