Both marriage and divorce rates have been in a state of flux in North
America, particularly over the past few decades. Divorce rates have skyrocketed,
at least in part due to no-fault divorce laws which were introduced across the
entire U.S. by the
early 1980s. Divorce rates would be even higher if it
were not for the large number of couples simply living together and informally
separating without being married. Divorce is itself a cause of
more divorce. As increasing percentage of couples end their marriages, society
has become more accepting of divorce. This lowers the bar so that even more spouses
feel that it is acceptable to bail out of
their marriage. The social sanctions against divorce of previous generations' have
almost completely evaporated.
Some feel that opposite-sex marriages are too easy to get into and too easy to
terminate. So has same-sex marriage in the
state of Massachusetts and for Canadians.
3 Covenant marriage (CM) has
been promoted as an alternative form of marriage that
might increase family stability and lower divorce rates. It consists of a return
to divorce based on fault, coupled with pre-marital counseling. CM is available
in three states in the U.S. These marriages are
more difficult to get into and more difficult to escape from.
Before a couple can marry, the legislation typically requires that the couple engage in pre-marital counseling and
sign a covenant marriage contract. Termination of a CM by divorce
typically requires either a long period of separation, or proof of the guilt of one spouse
-- generally some form of abuse or adultery. The legislation may also require
the couple to seek counseling before considering a divorce.
Promoters of CM hoped that it will motivate couples to take a
long, sober look at their relationship before they decide to marry. The end
result, promoters hoped, would be more stable, happier, long-lasting marriages.
Covenant Marriage Sunday:
The Covenant Marriage Movement (CMM) was founded at a meeting of
conservative Protestant groups in Dallas, TX on 1999-FEB-23. Representatives
from 19 marriage and family ministries and para-church organizations attended. Their initial
motivation was to reverse the increasing divorce rate in the U.S. by promoting
marriage as a permanent covenant among the spouses and God. A second goal is
to promote the exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage. By early
2005, the CMM had grown to include over 65 cooperating marriage and family
CMM has designated the second Sunday of February as Covenant Marriage Sunday.
In 2004, over 500 congregations participated in the event. The 2005 observance was
held on FEB-13, one day before Valentine's Day. They hoped that over 5,000
take part. The movement appears to be closely linked with Evangelical Christian denominations. This has cut off the movement from marriage supporters
who are from more liberal Christian churches, who are secular, or
who are followers of other religions. 4
CMM selected as its 2005 theme: "Embracing the Heart of Marriage." Their web site states:
"Considering the struggles we face
as a nation, it is time for the Bride of Christ to join together in affirming Godís greatest gift of love in and through human relationships -- the gift
of covenant marriage. To settle for anything less is to settle for less than the best. The Covenant Marriage Movement is looking forward to your
congregation standing alongside thousands of other congregations in 'Embracing
the Heart of Marriage.' As we celebrate together, we
affirm Godís continued movement among His people to strengthen their marriages and bring glory to Him."
The term "Bride of Christ"
is a phrase used by many conservative Protestants to refer to
who have trusted Yeshua of Nazareth (Jesus Christ) as Lord and Savior. CCM differentiates between the view of
marriage as a contract -- which the parties can terminate by mutual consent -- and a
covenant which is initiated by God and is intended to be permanent.
Their 2007 theme was "Move beyond the Mundane." Their web site states:
"Couples need to be motivated to strive harder, to not settle for the
ordinary, to discover the resources God has placed within them to reach new
heights in their relationship with Him and with one another and you can
"You can help them understand the purpose of marriage from Godís
perspective; the promise of God to be with them; the power of God to enable
them; the peace of God that sustains them; the protection of God for those
who rest in Him; the provisions of God flowing through them to each other;
the pleasure God desires for them to experience as a couple; and, the
perseverance God provides to keep them moving from an mundane marriage to an
"On Sunday, February 11, 2007 churches across the nation and around the
world will be celebrating Covenant Marriage Sunday." 5
CCM offer three congregational kits to help participating congregations celebrate Covenant Marriage Sunday.
The CMM appears to be winding down as an organization. Most of the recent
postings to their web site refer to various marriage amendments that are
designed to prevent same-sex couples from marrying. Their most recent news item
about Covenant Marriage Sunday was issued on 2006-OCT-01 and referred to
the event in 2007-FEB-11. As of 2008-JAN-06, there was no announcement about the
event for 2008. Their list of upcoming events hosted by "... various
Cooperating Ministries of the Covenant Marriage Movement" was empty.