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EDITIONS
Thursday, 14 November, 2002, 19:31 GMT
Divorcees allowed church weddings
A church wedding
Clergy can still refuse to conduct a wedding
The Church of England has lifted its ban on divorcees remarrying in church.

The General Synod, the church's highest governing body, voted by 308 to110 in favour of the move.

It means divorced people may remarry in church under "exceptional circumstances".

The change has constitutional implications because the ban effectively prevented the Prince of Wales from marrying Camilla Parker Bowles in church.


The norm is marriage for life

Rt Rev Michael Scott-Joynt, Bishop of Winchester
Previously, the church could not remarry "anyone who has a former partner still living".

Regulations said marriage was "exclusive of all others on either side, and indissoluble save by death", and clerics risked condemnation if they broke the rules.

Many divorcees instead chose a church blessing after a civil ceremony.

'Mortified' Christians

Although the door is now open, individual clergymen are still able to refuse to conduct the ceremony.

The Bishop of Winchester, the Rt Rev Michael Scott-Joynt, told the Synod, at Church House in Westminster, London, the issue "touches upon the lives of many thousands of people whom we are called as a church to seek to serve".

After the vote, he said: "This is a recognition that not only do marriages break down and people want to get married again but many of them are often Christians who are mortified.

"We have been struggling to walk this tight-rope of wanting to say both marriage is a fundamentally important gift of God to be respected and advocated and that we believe that God is quite prepared to forgive and to make possible fresh starts."
The Synod
The Synod agreed the move in July

He warned clergy against "just saying yes to everybody without any serious work".

The vote rubber-stamped a Synod motion passed in July on this issue.

The new rules say "there are exceptional circumstances in which a divorced person may be married in church during the lifetime of a former spouse".

But the Rev Richard Seabrook, from Chelmsford, Essex, said the change was unfair on people who had previously been refused permission to remarry in church.

Margaret Brown, a lay member from Chichester, West Sussex, said: "The exceptional cases, I believe, will become the norm."

But the Bishop of Winchester said advice was available to clergymen on how to define "exceptional circumstances".

He added: "The norm is marriage for life."

See also:

27 Oct 02 | Panorama
27 Oct 02 | Panorama
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