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Sunday, 30 January, 2000, 16:26 GMT
Should divorcees be allowed to remarry in church?

Do you think divorcees should be entitled to a church wedding second time around?

A report by the Church of England recommends that divorced couples will be able to remarry in the eyes of God provided they meet certain criteria:

• They are not recently divorced.

• Any children or former partners must be properly provided for.

• The divorce did not cause scandal or hostile comment.

• The new relationship must not have directly caused the breakdown of the previous marriage.

Some worshippers will see it as permissive, others will consider it not liberal enough, but what do you think? Send us your views and experiences.


Your Reaction

Is Church becoming about changing with the times or adhering to what is right and Biblical? I have a lot of sympathy for those involved in broken marriages, but God's Word is God's Word - the same yesterday, today and tomorrow...
Adrian Paul Miles, Birmingham, UK

In this country today we are debasing everything else why not marriage? It is the logical way to go when the social fabric of the English community is being broken down by goverment inaction and malaise.
D Tyler, England

I have never understood people changing the "rules" of a religion. I was under the impression that Christians believed what was written in the bible. Change the rules and it's not the same religion. If you agree with what the book says, then great, if you don't then find or make your own set of beliefs. You cannot tailor an organised religion to your own needs and still say it is the same thing. I am not a Christian, but I have to ask -why have moral standards if you "lower" them only when you can't meet them?
Matt, Netherlands

Correct me if I'm wrong - but wasn't the Church of England established by Henry the Eighth for the sole purpose of him being able to get a divorce and marry again?

Sheryl Pope, United Kingdom
Unlike some contributors to this column I know that Christianity is not an abstract or a means of creating a decent social structure. It is a relationship with someone who know us better than we know ourselves and offers us compassion and forgiveness. Sin has consequences that we cannot shake off in this life, and I shall never have the perfect marriage I had hoped for, but I know that if there were more truly committed Christians there would be a lot less need to debate this subject.
John Coldwell, England UK

I think there are a lot of hypocrites in the church. Why shouldn't divorced people remarry in a church. My ex-husband was a rapist and an abuser so I got out of my marriage. My present partner and I are totally in love with each other and will marry (my second his first) in a church. The church needs to get with the times and accept that not all marriages are made in heaven.
Maria Carney, New Zealand

Remember, the vow 'til death us do part' it follows 'love, honour and cherish.' If the latter vow is not upheld perhaps this releases at least one partner from their obligation. Just a thought.
Virginia, Canada

I do not think that the Church should allow remarriage. It is surely not about the Church being 'unforgiving' - God would forgive murder, but that does not mean that the Church condones it. People enter into a Christian marriage knowing full well that they won't be able to remarry in a church if they break their vows so by getting married in church they are agreeing to this position. Also, I don't really see what meaning a second church marriage can possibly have - doesn't it defeat the whole point of it?
J. Adams, Britain

The attitudes expressed by church leaders towards changes such as marrying divorcees I find profoundly depressing

AB, UK
As a modern-thinking Christian (more by upbringing than religious conviction) the attitudes expressed by church leaders towards changes such as marrying divorcees I find profoundly depressing. Here is an example to illustrate why: a married woman, having suffered years of physical and emotional abuse at the hands of her husband, finally succeeds in leaving him and gaining a divorce. A year later, she falls in love properly, and wants to marry, but her Christian faith is dear to her, she feels she cannot marry without God's blessing, and the relationship breaks down. According to the Church, it is God's will that she should have remained married - can this be right? Never. Their are countless cases where divorce is, by any reasonable standards, the 'right' option - on all levels - to have the church condemn it by refusing remarriage is archaic, inhumane, and above all, completely against the Christian principle of forgiveness.
AB, UK

In my view, and in this day and age, one must be insane to believe that it is wrong for divorced people to be allowed to remarry in church if that is their wish. It is high time religion ceased preaching about sin and evil and got on with talking of forgiveness and treating people nicely.
Angus Gulliver, UK

If you stop divorced people remarrying in Church then you may as well stop marriages altogether, as nobody can predict whether a marriage will work to start with.

S, UK
When was the bible written? What year are we in now? Shouldn't we accept today's way of life and stop bickering about divorce and remarry - divorces happen, it's unfortunately a way of life today. If you stop divorced people remarrying in Church then you may as well stop marriages altogether, as nobody can predict whether a marriage will work to start with.
S, UK

How many actual churchgoers are there in this country? Very few, so who cares what a lot of old men and women who represent an out dated institution think. I suspect most people get married in church so as to have a video made, and then they can bore family and friends rigid with it...
Janet, UK

The Church is not saying it will allow all divorcees to remarry in church. It is saying that it will be up to the individual vicar to form a judgement on whether they are deemed "worthy" of a church wedding. That is an impossible position for any human being to be put in, and I think will lead to great feelings of unfairness and resentment.
Ian, UK

I am not Christian, but I think its stupid for ordinary humans to be able to change laws which are "made by God!" I think this shows how Christianity is no longer a religion, but a system written and tampered with by humans throughout history!
A, NewZealand

Is not the Church the institution founded by Christ in order to assure the continuity of his learning and deeds? Is not his learning something like this 'what God has united the man cannot separate? And that marriage is 'one man with a woman forever'? I wonder if the Church would be allowed by his founder to act in a different way as Christ himself did? And Christ was full of compassion and love. I think that the Church could better assist couples to remain united and not give up and just accept to bless divorce.
Ana Gonzalo, Belgium

The Church of England has consistently proved itself to be one of the most progressive, tolerant, unbigoted religious organisations in the world.

Ed Bayley, USA/England
I was never unfaithful to my wife, and I never broke my marriage vows. My situation was thrust upon me, as my wife ran off with another man. Am I supposed to be celibate for the rest of my life, Revd David Dredge? Am I to be denied a wife and children? If people like you have their way, that will be the case. The Church of England has consistently proved itself to be one of the most progressive, tolerant, unbigoted religious organisations in the world. Long may it prosper.
Ed Bayley, USA (English)

The Church of England 'leadership' must stop playing to the liberal gallery. No serious reader of scripture can conclude that remarriage of divorcees is permissible. Unfortunately, the Bishops have yet again forsaken their vows to uphold Biblical truth and choose to please essentially anti-Christian elements. Of course this is a hard teaching for some individuals but ignoring the parts of the Bible you simply don't like is rank hypocrisy.
Colin, UK

I am in my second marriage and have known Elaine for 20 years - we have been wed 18yrs. We both had terrible previous marriages - we are not sinners.
Geoffrey Noble, UK

The Church needs to get bums on seats and this seems to be a very good way of doing it. Getting married in a church is in most cases a farce anyway as most of those who do have probably only been to church a handful of times (if at all) before.
Robin, UK

There are interesting comparisons to be made between this talking point and the one on the repealing of section 28. On the one hand Christian leaders are telling us that stable marriage is the cornerstone of our society and on the other they are telling us that actually it's ok to give up on a marriage. A case of blatant hypocrisy, I think.
Andrew Dowle, UK

I guess about 95% of those who got divorced were probably married in church anyway, so what does that tell us?
Clive Halliwell, Iceland

I think it was John White who wrote "I have heard talk of amicable divorces, but all the ones I have seen have been unspeakably tragic" We can redefine things all we like, but God will not change his view. We're just moving away from him instead. Churches can re-marry all the people they want, they just cease to be church that's all.
Julian, UK

We got married (I for the third time, my wife for the fourth) by a minister (a blind black lady of the Church of Religious Science) in front of a cross on top of a mountain, with all of our friends and relatives present. It never occurred to me that it might be controversial. The important things were the symbolism of the environment, and an absolute conviction in my heart of hearts that I would commit my whole being to the union, and do everything in my power to make it work. It is working, the best of all. Actually, my experience is that "Til' death do us part" can have another interpretation. Many marriages fail because, over the years, some people change so much that they are really not the persons that originally married.
John Saunders, USA

No they should not. It is making a mockery of their marriage vows "...til death do us part ..." etc. The Church will have to drop this from the vows in the first place
Bron Hughes, England

I am a divorced and re-married (not in church) Christian who maintains strong ties with my children and accordingly with my first wife who has also re-married. I strongly believe that God takes us from where we are, not from some hypothetical level of 'goodness' - he is a forgiving God! The Church should be equally forgiving. The Church's stand on divorce evolves from a very different social and moral culture.
Malcolm Chesworth, USA

Divorce is a sign of the hardness of human hearts, not of God's love.

Rev'd David J. Dredge, Wales
Having heard the lunchtime news, I have to say with great respect that I disagree with my old schoolfellow Ken Bowler (we were educated in the same Derbyshire grammar school), and I agree entirely with David Holloway. Jesus only allowed one ground for divorce, namely adultery (Matthew 19:9), and did not allow re-marriage at all, calling it also adultery. Divorce is a sign of the hardness of human hearts, not of God's love. The Church has absolutely no right to go against the clear teaching and direction of its Lord in this fashion.
Rev'd David J. Dredge, Wales

We all do things that we regret at a later stage in life and occasionally that might mean that we married the wrong person. If so we all deserve a second chance to get it right, and if that means wanting to get married in a church again then why not?
Carrie, UK

Too many people get married in a church, even for the first time, for all the wrong reasons. Mostly it is for all the romantic trappings of a church ceremony. Non-believers are married in churches every day all around the world. It is reducing the service to pantomime. As a non-believer myself, I will not get married for the first time or any time in a church as it would be hijacking an institution sacred to others for personal vanity.
Al, USA

As a member of the RC Church I do not have a problem with this issue. The church can annul a marriage that went wrong. So its divorce with the Churches approval. Other reasons to divorce? The church gets it wrong, and has done over the centuries, but it is DEFINITELY getting much better (more humane, more understanding). If the Church is not the best watchdog for marriage who is?
Julian Rowe, UK

Why not? The Church of England was formed simply for the purposes of allowing Henry VIII to marry who he liked!
Geoff Kilpatrick, Scotland, UK

Divorce is not the solution, is the problem!! Marriage is intended to be a covenant "til death do us part", So no, they should not be allowed to re-marry!
CIBLDC, Perú

If divorcees are allowed to remarry in a church then it makes a mockery of the whole institution of marriage. It is giving the message that if you don't like your partner you can have a quickie divorce and lash out on another fancy church wedding.
Louise, UK

Surely churches need to evolve as their congregations change?

Jason Buckley, UK
Surely churches need to evolve as their congregations change? I've divorced - anyone who says that people can do it 'without thinking twice' frankly doesn't know what they're talking about. How do churches reconcile forgiveness for sins with the fact that they won't forgive someone for making a human mistake in marrying the wrong person?
Jason Buckley, UK

If a marriage fails it falls short of God's ideal. However the message at the heart of the Gospel is that we all fall short of God's ideal but that we have the offer of repentance and the chance to start afresh. Why should this be any different for a Christian whose marriage has failed and wishes to turn their back on past mistakes and make a fresh start before God?
Stuart Cane, Wales

If you marry a second time what will prevent you from divorcing again?

Selena, Hong Kong
If you marry a second time what will prevent you from divorcing again? Does this mean that the church is used just for people's wishes and not taking into account of the consequences? This shows that the Church is trying to get on with the modern times, a time where divorce is an everyday habit.
Throw away traditional views and say adultery, lies are okay in marriage, a false love is also okay. After all, that is how the modern world is today? Is this it? Lies for the honesty of marriage? I think this makes marriage cold-blooded - the love from the first marriage erodes making the person wary, and in the next marriage this turns to bitterness and lack of love. It's only encouraged with the chance to be in Church again.
Selena, Hong Kong

Seems to me the timing is perfect for the future head of the Church of England, who is divorced and we can assume wants to marry a divorcee. How lucky he has the position of power to make the change!
Sam, UK

I suppose allowing the vows to be broken and re-made is the Christian thing to do. Isn't that one of the things that distinguished the New Law from the Old -- more compassion, "let he who is without sin cast the first stone," "turn the other cheek," etc.?
People and their feelings change, and there sometimes comes a point where keeping marriage vows is more destructive to the individuals than losing the integrity of a promise made long ago under different circumstances, and, many times, between two very different people. And it will make all the more special those who DO adhere to the vows and stay with the same spouse "til death." And this isn't the Church of Rome you're talking about either, where one expects to find more absolute, intransigent adherence to dogma and canon law.
Ronald Evitts, USA

The Bible should not change, but society must.

Anna, UK
If people get married once, then it is for life, and they shouldn't even be considering marrying again. I think that remarriage in a church goes against everything that the Church and the Bible teaches. Why does the Church of England seem to want to change all teachings in the Bible? Surely, these are what the whole Church is founded on.
Who are we to change the Bible, which was written to show us how to live, and is after all the word of God? Or isn't that what the church believes anymore? The Bible should not change, but society must.
Anna, UK

Christianity is supposed to be about forgiving.

Sara Ferrand, England
Yes they should be allowed to re-marry in church. In 1974, my mother was allowed to remarry in church. At that time, the vicar of St. Marks in North End, Portsmouth was approached and he decided that she should be allowed a church wedding if that was what she wanted.
Last year my parents (I consider her husband to be my father) celebrated 25 years of marriage. It was not her idea to throw away her first marriage - he walked out on us when she was 6 months pregnant with my sister. Why should she miss out on a church wedding - why should her second husband miss out on a church wedding?
I think that as it is easier to get married almost anywhere nowadays, we should encourage church weddings - they are more often chosen by people who have a certain amount of faith and they should not be made to pay for mistakes made when they were younger. After all - Christianity is supposed to be about forgiving.
Sara Ferrand, England

"...until death do us part or until we get fed up with each other"

Alex Parker, UK
I take it that as a result of this decision the marriage ceremony will be changed as follows: "...until death do us part or until we get fed up with each other". In the light of this decision, would somebody care to explain the point of getting married in a church in the first place?
Alex Parker, UK

Of course, the C of E is in a difficult position of its own creation. The leaders have been bleating on and on for years about the sanctity of marriage yet have failed to notice that their own outdated rules have been forcing divorced people to marry in a civil ceremony or not at all thus defeating the object. I find it all highly amusing.
J Cahill, UK

Who cares what the Church of England does? They are so woolly and wet that another change would not be noticed. The church is irrelevant to most of the population.
Carl, UK

If one of the members of a divorced couple did nothing wrong, their partner ending the marriage, then why should they be denied a second chance because of their former spouse's actions?
David, UK

Occasionally people just grow apart, over a period of time. Heck, we are all human and as such will make mistakes.

Pat van der Veer, Canada
I agree with some of the preceding comments, in that I believe that each case should be considered individually. Maybe a few "fireside chats" could be scheduled between the proposed officiating Minister and the engaged couple?
Sometimes people make the decision to marry, for all the wrong reasons, (hormones mistaken for undying love?) Occasionally people just grow apart, over a period of time. Heck, we are all human and as such will make mistakes. God certainly understands that, why not the Church?
I was married in the R.C. church, when I was young, later on I remarried in the Presbyterian Church by a most understanding Minister, who chose not to condemn me for my earlier mistake.
Pat van der Veer, Canada

My wife and I were married two years ago but were not allowed to marry in our local church. It seems stupid to me that because she had been divorced (through no fault of her own) we could not marry at our local church, even though we attended regularly. On the other hand, if I had been a rapist and my wife had been a mass-murderer, there wouldn't have been a problem! Come one, isn't it time to add some common sense and look at each case individually?
J, UK

Can I just say that this already happens in Scotland. A friend of mine is due to marry a divorced man in a Church of Scotland ceremony this summer. People should remember that we do have differences within law, religion, education, etc. in different parts of the UK.
Jenny, Scotland

It's a purely Financial decision made by the church. They are missing out on the extra reddies...
Chris, England

If the Church of England only married committed Christian couples in Church in the first place then they wouldn't be in this current situation.

Mark Massie, UK
If the Church of England only married committed Christian couples in Church in the first place then they wouldn't be in this current situation. However, during the service both parties make a solemn vow to God and his Church to "death us do part" etc., if you're making a vow with God then this is absolutely binding. The same applies to non-Christians making the same vow but probably don't realise the severity of what they're saying.
There is no get out clause or "ooops sorry can we try that again?" with such a binding contract with God. But your asking isn't God a God of forgiveness so why can't people have a second chance? Yes he most certainly is, that's why the current arrangement of having a second marriage blessed in Church is the only option. The Church of England shouldn't further water down its doctrines just because society demands it - hold firm to what the bible teaches!
Mark Massie, UK

As the Church of England was founded by the daughter of a divorcee (one, incidentally, who changed his religion in order to remarry) is seems ridiculous that the C of E still forbids the remarriage of divorcees.
Russell Jones, UK

Please note that this refers to the C of E. The Methodist Church already allows the remarriage of Divorcees. I married recently in the Methodist Church. My wife is a divorcee and, although she still regrets getting divorced, and meant every word of her vows, eventually left her husband who had continued to have a relationship with another woman after getting the woman pregnant.
My wife initially stood by her former husband, but eventually could take no more humiliation as he continued to lie about his relationship. As I said she still regrets her divorce, believes in the sanctity of marriage, and was a 'no fault' partner. The Methodist Church recognised this and allowed us to marry in church which was important to us both.
Simon, UK

Each religion sets its boundaries and if you cannot live within them then do not expect that religion to change to suit you.
Gerry, Scotland

The supermarket Church is here to stay, but its "leaders" do not seem to notice that they are making a laughing-stock of themselves.

Allan Mackey, England
Another collapse by the Church Of England, giving in to the trendies who want their faith to be available in pre-packaged units. The supermarket Church is here to stay, but its "leaders" do not seem to notice that they are making a laughing-stock of themselves.
Once the Church was a mainstay of society, now it has as much resistance to the opposition as the England Cricket Team. If you take you marriage vows in Church they are for life, so by definition, you cannot meaningfully repeat the ceremony in Church.
Allan Mackey, England

I think that the question of divorcees being able to remarry in church has too many limitations attached. There are very few marriages that end with both parties on very good terms. It is just going to encourage people to lie. I'm damn sure I would.
Wendy Savage, Britain

I think it should be decided on a case by case basis and not just a general ruling. The decision should be made at the local level where the vicar will know the people involved.
I only hope that for once the Church of England will make a decision based on Christ's teaching and not just to 'keep up with the times'.
SH, Wales

I was denied my second marriage in Church and have never got over the feeling of 'living in sin'.

Jenni, UK
Why shouldn't Christian divorcees marry in church? So many people think it's their right to marry in church whilst having no belief in the Church, Christ or God. They don't set foot in there again until baby's Christening and then their own funerals. It is sheer hypocrisy to marry in the face of God when you do not intend to live in His way.
All they want is a nice dress, photos and all their friends seeing how nice they look - not the commitment in front of God to uphold the relationship. Good Christians can made mistakes and should not be punished for them. God forgives them, why should not the Church? Let them marry with their marriage sanctioned by and in front of their God - I was denied my second marriage in Church and have never got over the feeling of 'living in sin'.
Jenni, UK

People can't have it both ways. Either they want to stand in front of their God and say "til death do us part" or they don't. The civil service ceremony words are not quite so binding, so allow for people to change their mind after the event. Bottom line, if you're not sure you want to stay with a person, until "death do you part" then DON'T marry them, especially in church......
Susan, USA

Do Prince Charles and Camilla meet the criteria? I think not!!!
Leanne, USA

Does it matter? Does anyone except a small minority of religious types care? It's interesting that, of the dozen or so weddings I've been to in the last decade, not one involved a church.
Given that religiosity is (thankfully) on the decrease in the UK, I don't think most people care about what the church says, I certainly don't.
Pete Morgan-Lucas, UK

I'm delighted that the Anglican Church keeps on heading for a more tolerant, liberal and forgiving stance.

M. Reed Austin, UK
As an atheist, I find the sight of yet another impending climb-down by religion to be enormously amusing. Of course, I'm delighted that the Anglican church keeps on heading for a more tolerant, liberal and forgiving stance; Finally, an admission that people are human and make mistakes. But still, I can't help wondering how the Synod is going to sneak around Mark 10:12; "If a woman divorces her husband and marries another, she is guilty of adultery." Probably the same way religion has always dealt with unpopular verses; by sweeping them under the carpet and hoping no-one notices.
M. Reed Austin, UK

There are all sorts of reasons why a marriage can fail. The church should not be so hostile to people, who are still God's children whether divorced or not. In the New Testament, Jesus talks about how a father rejoiced when his son returned after leading a sinful life. Should not the church also welcome those who return to it with open arms?
Benjamin Haworth, England

Who cares? The Church of England has so watered down the tenets of Christianity over the years that the notion that marriage in a church confers some spiritual significance has been totally lost.
David Poulet, UK

I find it quite appalling that people get married for the rest of their lives in front of God and then don't think twice about divorcing.

Pia Hellgren, Sweden
Legislating against a second marriage in church is hard, but the focus should be why people are stupid enough to get married in the first place if they're not sure. People get married before they really know each other in the first place.
I find it quite appalling that people get married for the rest of their lives in front of God and then don't think twice about divorcing. It's even worse today than when it happened in the times when it really was considered a disaster to divorce, since at the time people HAD to get married if they wanted to be together and still be considered respectable. Today the culture doesn't tell you that you HAVE to get married, so when choosing to do so, one should be extremely sure about the relationship.
Pia Hellgren, Sweden

It is very difficult to create a 'formula' which can provide guidelines in every situation. When relationships break up, there is always hurt and sensitivity to everyone involved needs to be part of any guidelines. Each individual circumstance will be different and for some people they will feel that any vows they have taken previously are no longer valid.
I think a blanket rule which says no-one is allowed to remarry (in a church) doesn't take into consideration any individual circumstances.
My sister was beaten up by her first husband. It was obvious he wasn't living the vows and promises he had made. As a divorcee I think, if she had wanted she should have been allowed to marry in a church, otherwise, the church seems to be judging her when she had been wronged.
Jay Lorrell, UK

No way, if you get married it should be real love!! So no you cannot get married in a church again!
Kmc (Student), England

The question should be rephrased to reflect the position of the state C of E and the RC church. Divorcees may be remarried in church in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and as one who has served as a lay bishop in that church I had the opportunity to perform marriages for people who were divorced.
Divorce is unfortunate and is always the product of selfishness by one or both partners. However, if people are sincere about trying again and wish to have their commitment recognised by God, then it should be allowed.
Chris Klein, UK

I married my divorcee fiancée Jill (names changed) last year - in Church. We had initially resigned ourselves to a Registry Office wedding. However, our local Church supported us, and that is where we were wed.
Obviously my personal experience colours my opinion on the proposals to allow divorcees to be re-married in Church, however, I cannot see any real reason why such marriages should not go ahead - would the Church rather sentence married couples to stay together when one partner is abusing the other? Or is it prepared to allow the 'not at fault' party to restart their life with a new partner?
I'm glad my Parish understood that just because this wedding was my partner's second, it did not make the vows any less meaningful.
Jack, UK

Hopefully this will ease the situation for Prince Charles if he succeeds his mother to the Throne and wishes to marry Camilla.

Steve Foley, England
As an Anglican I am delighted that at last the Church has come to its senses on this one. Let's face it, although the Reformation would have come to England as the rest of Europe it was the wish of Henry VIII for a divorce and the refusal of the Pope to allow it that was the reason for the Church of England to come into being, so it was an act of total hypocrisy to refuse to marry the innocent parties of a divorce in Church.
Hopefully this will ease the situation for Prince Charles if he succeeds his mother to the Throne and wishes to marry Camilla. Other Protestant churches such as the Church of Scotland have no problems with remarriage of divorcees in church, so why does the C of E?
Steve Foley, England

I got married because I thought it was forever - unfortunately as soon as I had that wedding ring on my finger my ex husband treated me like a replacement mother, was mean with money, and took me totally for granted. We didn't live together until after we married.
We divorced four years ago and I met my current partner a week before the divorce was final. We've been together 3.5 years and live together. He has never been married. We would like to get married one day and I know he wants to marry in church if he can. Why should he be denied that because of my misfortune in marrying someone who treated me badly? I've now found someone that I know from experience treats me right, and who I could stay with for the rest of my life.
I don't see why that can't be recognised in Church, and why our relationship should be considered less worthy than my first marriage.
Sarah

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