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We have attempted to obtain statements on divorce and remarriage from each of the faith groups in America who claim in excess of two million members.

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African Methodist Episcopal Church:

The internal search engine of their Internet site is not functioning; it is impossible to search for any church statement on divorce. They do not appear to have an Email address for their Webmaster, so we cannot inform them of the problem. We will try again in the future.

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Assemblies of God:

Their document "Assemblies of God beliefs: Divorce and Remarriage," states in part: "...divorce is treachery (deceitful unfaithfulness) against your companion...Jesus forbade divorce as contrary to God's will and word...Paul forbade a Christian couple getting a divorce...Jesus permitted a Christian to initiate a divorce when fornication was involved...Jesus in His basic teaching forbade the remarriage of divorced persons...[Church] membership is open to all born-again believers...The offices of elder and deacon are not open to those who are remarried...We positively disapprove of Christians getting divorces for any cause except fornication and adultery." 1

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Church of England:

Since the 17th century, the Church has refused to remarry individuals unless their previous spouses had died. This position is not without irony, when one considers that a main reason why the church broke away from the Roman Catholic church was to enable King Henry VIII to obtain a divorce from his first wife, Katherine of Aragon in order to remarry. In 1981, the General Synod softened the rules regarding remarriage somewhat.

In late 1999, the church's House of Bishops, proposed new laws concerning remarriage. "...divorced persons may remarry if they meet at least twice with their parish clergy, who must seek the advice of the bishop; if each person has looked honestly at his or her first marriage, fully disclosing to the prospective partner the background that led to the divorce; if the children and spouse from the previous marriage are provided for; if the couple's new relationship was not responsible for the end of the previous marriage; and if neither the bride nor the groom has been divorced more than once." 2 The revisions may be in place sometime in 2002.

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Church of God in Christ, Inc.

Their Internet site has so many bugs that it is impossible to search for any church statement on divorce. They do not appear to have an Email address for their Webmaster, so we cannot inform them of the problem. We will try again in the future.

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Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (a.k.a. The Mormons & LDS):

The church magazine Ensign maintains a "I have a question" section which is set up so that members can ask theological questions. One dealt with divorce. After reviewing Matthew 19, and Mark 10, Jonathan M. Chamberlain, (a family therapist, and a first counselor at Orem Utah Lakeview Stake) commented: "In these texts dealing with divorce, the sincere reader can discern the Saviorís gentle flexibility and acceptance of divorce when it is clearly necessary. The reader can also see the Lordís recognition of persons whose current societal circumstances are different from the celestial standard." 3

Chamberlain quoted Elder Bruce R. McConkie: "Divorce is not part of the gospel plan no matter what kind of marriage is involved. But because men [and women] in practice do not always live in harmony with gospel standards, the Lord permits divorce [as in Mosesí time] for one reason or another, depending upon the spiritual stability of the people involved...In this day divorces are permitted in accordance with civil statutes, and the divorced persons are permitted by the Church to marry again without the stain of immorality which under a higher system would attend such a course." 4

Chamberlain continues: "Unfortunately, our societies are less than ideal. Some persons do live in unbearably difficult marital circumstances, suffering as victims of spouse abuse, substance abuse, promiscuity, and other evils that are sometimes addressed through divorce as a last resort. In such cases, the Lord in his mercy 'permits his agents to exercise the power to loose [to authorize divorce] as well as the power to bind.' " 5

Chamberlain quotes LDS President David O. McKay who stated, "In the light of scripture, ancient and modern, we are justified in concluding that Christís ideal pertaining to marriage is the unbroken home, and conditions that cause divorce are violations of his divine teachings. Ö There may be circumstances which make the continuance of the marriage state a greater evil than divorce. But these are extreme casesóthey are the mistakes, the calamities in the realm of marriage. If we could remove them I would say there never should be a divorce. It is Christís ideal that home and marriage should be perpetualóeternal." 6

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Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA):

In 1982, a predecessor of the ELCA, The American Lutheran Church, adopted a statement on marriage, divorce and remarriage. The statement is not binding on the ELCA because it has not been voted upon by a Churchwide Assembly. However, it probably reflects current ELCA opinion reasonably well. Some selected sections:

bullet II: Divorce:
bullet A12:  "Divorce is never Godís intention for our marriages...Divorce needs to be seen realistically as the breaking of an order of God, the public and legal recognition of an already broken marriage, the culmination of a process of alienation."
bullet B14: "If after careful consideration the marriage relationship is deemed beyond repair, and the effects of continuing the marriage to be more destructive of the welfare or persons than divorce, the decision for divorce may be recognized as a responsible choice, the lesser of several evils in a fallen world. Recognizing that each party generally bears some responsibility for the failure of the marriage, a decision for divorce may be made in reliance upon Godís grace."
bullet C15: "The church must seek to deal in an evangelical rather than a legalistic manner with the problems of divorce and divorced persons. Divorced persons will be fully included in the life of the Christian church, which expresses Godís spirit of love and forgiveness. These persons should not become the victims of gossip, ostracism, or undue attention. They need rather to be brought to feel anew the bonds of human fellowship and the sense of Godís continuing presence, so that their divorce, unfortunate though it may be, may lead toward a more mature Christian life. They continue to be part of the Christian community of Word and Sacraments."
bullet III: Remarriage:
bullet 16: "Remarriage of divorced persons is neither forbidden nor automatically endorsed by The American Lutheran Church. The second marriage of divorced persons may result in a new union which faithfully witnesses to Godís purpose for marriage. Such remarriage will more likely result, however, if persons carefully consider the dynamics which led to the dissolution of a previous marriage. There should be a willingness to acknowledge oneís own failures in a spirit of forgiveness toward all involved, and to work at correcting whatever personal characteristics may be detrimental to a marital relationship. Legitimate obligations to any children and to the former spouse must be fulfilled. When such is the case, the church can add its blessing to the remarriage of divorced Christians."
bullet 20: "...In the case of remarriage of divorced persons, pastors should discuss with the divorced person whether he or she has come to an understanding of the failure of the former marriage. If the pastor, in clear conscience before God, is convinced that any particular couple is not ready to enter upon a responsible marriage, that pastor should be supported by the congregation in refusing to perform the desired marriage."

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Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America:

In an essay titled "Divorces," the Archdiocese states that: "An ecclesiastical divorce may be granted after a civil decree has been given. However, the parish priest must exert every effort to reconcile the couple and avert a divorce. Should the priest fail to bring about reconciliation, he will transmit the petition of the party seeking the ecclesiastical divorce to the Spiritual (Ecclesiastical) Court of the Diocese...The only church ground for divorce is adultery, but through special mercy the church will make exceptions...Members of the Church who have only received a civil divorce and not an ecclesiastical divorce are not permitted to receive Holy Communion or to be sponsors, in weddings, and godparents in baptismal ceremony....Second or third marriages are allowed by the church...A fourth is forbidden." 8

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Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod:

In a Q&A section of their web site, they state that: "The LCMS believes that divorce is contrary to God's original design and intention for marriage. While divorce can be justified Scripturally in certain situations (e.g., adultery or desertion), it is always preferable for couples to forgive and work toward healing and strengthening their marriage. Because no two situations are alike, LCMS pastors deal on a case-by-case basis with members (or potential members) who are wrestling with the issue of (past or present) divorce." 9

Their "Divorce and Remarriage: An Exegetical Study" in 1987 stated, in part: "A person who divorces his/her spouse for any other cause than sexual unfaithfulness and marries another commits adultery. Anyone who marries a person so discarding his or her spouse commits adultery...When a spouse commits fornication (i.e., is guilty of sexual unfaithfulness), which breaks the unity of the marriage, the offended party who endures such unfaithfulness has the right, though not the command, to obtain a legal divorce and remarry...A spouse who has been willfully and definitively abandoned by his or her partner who refuses to be reconciled and is unwilling to fulfill the obligations of the marriage covenant despite persistent persuasion may seek a legal divorce, which in such a case constitutes a public recognition of a marriage already broken, and remarry....In cases of the remarriage of persons divorced for reasons not Biblically sanctioned, true repentance would presuppose a genuine desire to reconcile with one's estranged spouse....Where the refusal to reconcile and to seek healing is judged to be absent insofar as such a judgment is possible the pastor will be constrained to deny a request for remarriage....There are circumstances, however, where there are reasons to believe that true repentance is indeed present but where reconciliation and restoration of a broken marriage simply are not possible, either because the former spouse has remarried or is unwilling to be reconciled. In such cases, remarriage becomes a possibility." 10

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National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc.:

They do not seem to have posted any statements on their web site about divorce or remarriage. We have faxed a request, requesting information.

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Presbyterian Church (USA):

In 1983, the Presbyterian Church (USA) was founded by the merger of the United Presbyterian Church in the United States of America (UPCUSA) and the Presbyterian Church in the United States (PCUS). This healed a major split in the denomination which occurred at the start of the Civil War. In 1861 the denomination had split on north/south lines over the issue of the preservation and abolition of slavery.

The PCUSA's "Social Witness Policy Compilation 2000, Chapter Eleven: Sexuality and Human Values" contains a section on Marriage and Divorce. It describes how the predecessor denominations to the PCUSA gradually moved away from firm rules for divorce and remarriage. They issued very general statements that recognized the decisions that their members make in their own relationships:

bullet The PCUS Assembly for 1946 recommended that the presbyteries set up Permanent Advisory Committees on Divorce and Remarriage to determine whether "particular remarriages were within the law of the Church."
bullet The PCUS Assembly for 1947 appointed a commission to study marriage and divorce in relation to the church's constitutional standards.
bullet In 1951, the PCUSA eliminated references to "innocent parties" in their Directory for Worship. This allowed ex-spouses who had engaged in adultery, or whose marriage simply broke down, to remarry.
bullet In 1956, the PCUS Assembly approved changes to the Westminster Confession to eliminate references to the acceptable grounds for divorce and remarriage. However, these amendments were subsequently rejected by the presbyteries.
bullet The UPCUSA Assembly for 1966 passed a statement which included a somewhat ambiguous statement:  "The church comes under the judgment of God and invites rejection by man when it fails to lead men and women into the full meaning of life together, or withholds the compassion of Christ from those caught in the moral confusion of our time."
bullet The PCUS Assembly for 1980 issued a definitive statement on Christian Marriage. On the topic of divorce, they wrote: "...Christians, who are also sinners, do divorce, and the church must deal both with those whose marriages are breaking and with its own role and task. The church is to be a community of healing, and it should seek the healing of marriages. The church is to be a community of forgiveness, and it should mediate forgiveness in the brokenness of divorce among its members. The church is to be a community of fidelity, and it should demonstrate fidelity to those in whose marriages fidelity has been lost. The church may foster the forging of new forms of fidelity in the midst of divorce--fidelity to children and to others who lives have been involved in the marriage..." 12

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Progressive National Baptist Convention, Inc.

They do not seem to have posted any statements on their web site about divorce or remarriage. We have faxed a request, requesting information.

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Roman Catholic Church:

This is the largest Christian denomination in the United States, in Canada, and in the rest of the world. The Roman Catholic Church regards marriage as permanent and indissoluble, except after the death of a spouse. However, they can -- in some circumstances -- issue an annulment. That document, in effect, states that a valid marriage never existed. This allows individuals to remarry in the church. We have written a separate essay on the Church's position on divorce and remarriage.

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Southern Baptist Convention (SBC):

This is the largest, and one of the most conservative, Protestant denomination in the United State. They made history in 2001 by becoming the first denomination it the U.S. to have once ordained women to the ministry, and then withdrawn permission for any woman, no matter how qualified, to be ordained.

On June 14th, 2000, the Southern Baptist Convention adopted a revised summary of its faith. On the topic of marriage, it says in part:

bullet "Marriage is the uniting of one man and one woman in covenant commitment for a lifetime."
bullet "A husband is to love his wife as Christ loved the church. He has the God-given responsibility to provide for, to protect, and to lead his family. A wife is to submit herself graciously to the servant leadership of her husband even as the church willingly submits to the headship of Christ."

Their statement on the indissolubility of marriage seems to imply that divorce is not an option for SBC members and that SBC pastors will not remarry divorced individuals. We have FAXed the SBC for a clarification.

The denomination has applauded the creation of covenant marriages in a few states. These are marriages which are more difficult to get into because they require pre-marital counseling and a declaration of intent. They are more difficult to get out of because the state's normal no-fault divorce options no longer apply.

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United Methodist Church (2000):

The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church--2000 states in part: "When a married couple is estranged beyond reconciliation, even after thoughtful consideration and counsel, divorce is a regrettable alternative in the midst of brokenness. It is recommended that methods of mediation be used to minimize the adversarial nature and fault-finding that are often part of our current judicial processes....Divorce does not preclude a new marriage. We encourage an intentional commitment of the Church and society to minister compassionately to those in the process of divorce, as well as members of divorced and remarried families, in a community of faith where God's grace is shared by all." 11  Full text

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Related essays on this web site:

bullet A (conservative) Christian Declaration of Marriage
bullet Text of the declaration

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  1. "Assemblies of God beliefs: Divorce and Remarriage," at:

  2. "Church of England studies relaxation of rules on remarriage," 2000-JAN-31, at:

  3. "I have a Question" Ensign, 1993-JAN, at:  (Search for "divorce")

  4. "Doctrinal New Testament Commentary," 3 vols., Bookcraft, (1973), 1:547

  5. Bruce R. McConkie, "Mormon Doctrine," second edition, Bookcraft, (1966), Page 204.

  6. David O. McKay, "Treasures of Life," Deseret Book Co., (1965), Page 66.


  8. "Divorces," Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, at: Use the search string: Divorce

  9. "Q&A: How is divorce viewed in the LCMS?," at:

  10. "Divorce and Remarriage - An Exegetical Study: A Report of the Commission on Theology and Church Relations of the Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod," 1987-NOV. Summary statements at:

  11. "Divorce," The Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church, at:

  12. "Social Witness Policy Compilation 2000," Presbyterinan Church (USA). Go to Click the infobase "Social Witness Policy Compilation 2000," and use the search facility at the bottom of the page, with the search term: Divorce

Copyright © 2002, by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2002-APR-19
Latest update: 2002-MAY-2
Author: B.A. Robinson

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