DIVORCE AND REMARRIAGE:
STATEMENTS BY CHRISTIAN DENOMINATIONS
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
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.
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."
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.
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.
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."
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.' "
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
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. 7
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
||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."
||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."
||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."
||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."
||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
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
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)
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
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.
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
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
||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."
||The PCUS Assembly for 1947 appointed a commission to study marriage
and divorce in relation to the church's constitutional standards.
||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.
||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 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
||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
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.
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
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
On June 14th, 2000, the Southern Baptist Convention adopted a revised
summary of its faith. On the topic of marriage, it says in part:
||"Marriage is the uniting of one man and one woman in covenant
commitment for a lifetime."
||"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
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.
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
Related essays on this web site:
"Assemblies of God beliefs: Divorce and Remarriage,"
"Church of England studies relaxation of rules on
remarriage," 2000-JAN-31, at:
"I have a Question" Ensign, 1993-JAN, at:
"Doctrinal New Testament Commentary," 3 vols.,
Bookcraft, (1973), 1:547
Bruce R. McConkie, "Mormon Doctrine," second
edition, Bookcraft, (1966), Page 204.
David O. McKay, "Treasures of Life," Deseret Book
Co., (1965), Page 66.
"Divorces," Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America,
http://www.goarch.org/search/query.as Use the search string:
"Q&A: How is divorce viewed in the LCMS?," at:
"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:
"Divorce," The Book of Discipline of the United
Methodist Church, at:
"Social Witness Policy Compilation 2000,"
Presbyterinan Church (USA). Go to
http://horeb.pcusa.org/folio/om_isapi.dll. Click the infobase "Social
Witness Policy Compilation 2000," and use the search facility at the
bottom of the page, with the search term:
Copyright © 2002, by Ontario Consultants on
Originally written: 2002-APR-19
Latest update: 2002-MAY-2
Author: B.A. Robinson