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Can Meghan Markle marry into monarchy?

Everyone is delighted at the news of another royal engagement—and with the anticipation of a royal baby in the new year as well, it is bound to lift our spirits. Most people feel that, amidst the gloom of Brexit and the slow economy, we will have something to celebrate. Most—but not all. Melanie McDonagh in The Spectator points out that Markle is an unusual royal bride in being previously married and divorced:

Prince Harry is fifth in line to the throne so constitutionally it doesn’t matter a hoot who he marries because neither he nor his children are going to become monarch, but, for what it’s worth, Meghan Markle is unsuitable as his wife for the same reason that Wallis Simpson was unsuitable: she’s divorced and Harry’s grandmother is supreme governor of the CofE. The last person who made any personal sacrifice for that particular principle was Princess Margaret, and you could argue it didn’t end terribly well.

The fact that so little comment elsewhere has been made indicates how far attitudes have changed. Being divorced no longer carries the stigma it did ten or twenty years ago. In this regard, we sit somewhere between Europe and the US; divorce rates in the UK are much higher than they are in Europe, but not as high as in the States.


But the specific question for the royal couple is whether they can be married in a Church of England church. The C of E believes that marriage is a lifelong union—but that in itself does not determine whether people who have gone through divorce may be remarried, and whether the second wedding ceremony can take place in church using the Church’s rite.

In 1938, the Church of England stated that that “both divorce itself and remarriage after divorce during the lifetime of a former partner always involve a departure from the true principle of marriage”, and “the Church should not allow the use of [the Marriage] Service in the case of anyone who has a former partner still living”. But that was a relatively recent view; Christians debated the question of remarriage after divorce for the first 1,000 years after Jesus, and have come to different views.

The Roman Catholic church believes marriage to be ‘indissoluble’: when a man and woman ‘become one flesh’ in marriage (as per Gen 2.24, reiterated by Jesus in Mark 10.8, and by Paul in 1 Cor 6.16) this effects an ‘ontological’ change in them. They, as it were, become one person, and this union can only be broken by death. This is related to the Catholic belief in marriage conducted by the church as a sacrament—an outward sign of an inward, spiritual reality and change. But the Church of England does not understand marriage to be a sacrament like baptism and Communion, and believes with most Eastern churches that, whilst marriage is a lifelong commitment, it is not indissoluble, so divorce (though not desirable) is actually possible.

As a result of this, the Church of England changed its practice in 2002—not by changing what it believes about marriage (that is, changing neither canon law nor its liturgy) but by changing its practice. Those who have been married and divorced, and have their former partner still living, can now be married in church—but this is still to be considered ‘the exception’, and it is hedged around by conditions. You can read these on the Church’s new wedding website. The new relationship must have played no part in the ending of the previous one, and those who are divorced need to have learned and experienced healing from the former relationship. To bring festering wounds from a former breakdown into a new relationship will be disastrous.

This is why Prince Charles and Camilla Parker-Bowles were not married in church, but (uniquely for a member of the Royal family) had a civil wedding followed by a service of prayer and dedication. (It is worth noting that, despite the C of E Weddings website, this is not technically a ‘blessing’ of the marriage, though there is a desire to ‘consecrate’ those involved, and the service uses both the Aaronic blessing from Numbers 6 and the general, trinitarian blessing to close the service.)


All this debate rests on Jesus’ teaching on marriage recorded in Matthew and Mark’s gospels. Mark’s version is briefer and appears more restrictive; in response to a direct question from the Pharisees ‘Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?’ (Mark 10.2) Jesus appears to repeal Moses’ provision of divorce as a concession to sin, and returns to Genesis 2 as the foundation of marriage permanence. (It is worth noting that Jesus still sees divorce as possible, but, as equivalent to adultery, hardly desirable.) But Matthew’s longer version gives us a clue as to the real issue at stake:

And Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any reason?” (Matt 19.3).

Jesus isn’t being asked a general question about divorce; he is being challenged about the specific issue of ‘any reason’ divorce. Did he side with the school of Rabbi Hillel, who believed that a man could put away his wife for any reason he chooses, including something trivial like burning the dinner? Or did he side with the stricter view of Rabbi Shammai, who believe that divorce should only happen on serious grounds?

Jesus is taking the stricter view—though, in the context of the debate, not prohibiting divorce absolutely. But he is also undermining the right of the husband to make the decision regardless—and, rather shockingly, he holds husbands accountable for their behaviour. The symmetrical sexual ethic of marriage in the early Christian movement was a sharp contrast to most pagan ethics which gave priority to men and their needs.

The change of practice in the Church of England came after 20 years of debate, and careful study for 6 years led by the then Bishop of Winchester, Michael Scott-Joynte. Marriage is a serious commitment, intended to be lifelong. Divorce is a serious breakdown of this relationship. Remarriage after divorce is a serious possibility which can bring healing and restoration.


But of course the question has moved on in wider culture. The Office for National Statistics tells us that 42% of marriages in the UK end in divorce. That brings real pain and has a real cost. The growth of single-person households is a major factor in the present housing shortage in the UK. And parental divorce is the single largest factor in inhibiting attainment of children in school, alongside the emotional damage that is done.

Perhaps the more important question in relation to Prince Harry and Meghan Markle is: what can we do to support and encourage them in their marriage, enabling it to be the fruitful, integrated and lifelong commitment that God intends? And what can we do for those around us who are also entering this way of life, ‘a gift of God in creation, hallowed by him, which all should honour and uphold’? What can we do to counter the cultural, social and economic pressures which threaten this?

(First published at Premier Christianity blog.)


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92 Responses to Can Meghan Markle marry into monarchy?

  1. Will Jones December 1, 2017 at 9:45 am #

    Do you regard Matthew’s exception of marital unfaithfulness as non-exhaustive? I notice you don’t mention it specifically.

    Whatever the origin of the Matthean exception, my feeling is that biblical teaching on divorce is that it is not permissible (being essentially desertion especially if done by the husband and then adultery if a new marriage or relationship is entered into) except in very narrow circumstances, perhaps only marital unfaithfulness. And the church should distance itself from condoning divorce and remarriage outside these narrow circumstances so as not to become complicit in sin (blessing that which God does not bless, condoning that which he does not condone).

    • Ian Paul December 1, 2017 at 10:02 am #

      I don’t think I would disagree in principle. But what would you say to a couple whose marriage has broken down, who are determined to part, and who, in response to your comment ‘Divorce is only permissible in the case of adultery’, ask ‘Well, would you like one of us to commit adultery then?’

      • Will Jones December 1, 2017 at 1:48 pm #

        I might say, ‘No I’d like you to stay together and overcome your differences and forgive.’

        But the point really is not that they can’t divorce but that the church does not condone it or suggest God condones it.

  2. Ian Butcher December 1, 2017 at 11:07 am #

    Thanks for another thought provoking post – I regularly read, but have not commented before.

    At church we recently covered Mark’s account of Jesus’ encounter with the pharisees on this question, and as you say it’s a subject to be carefully handled, especially in contemporary culture.

    Your assertion “parental divorce is the single largest factor in inhibiting attainment of children in school” caught my eye. I’m not questioning your accuracy, but where does this come from?

    • Ian Paul December 1, 2017 at 5:28 pm #

      Thanks Ian—and welcome! It partly comes from my own observation as a governor at an inner-city school. But I am pretty sure Mr Google or one of his friends could point you to research evidence.

  3. Mat Sheffield December 1, 2017 at 11:43 am #

    As a non-CofE person, I might be about about to ask an ignorant question(s), or read a distinction that isn’t there…

    “But the specific question for the royal couple is whether they can be married in a Church of England church.”

    Are there not two (or more) issues here?

    1. The first is weather or not they can be ‘married’, given the reasons laid out. Or, phrased differently; is the sacrament of marriage (as opposed to the ceremony of marriage, of which the sacrament is the constituent part) available to them? That’s obviously not an easy judgement for a casual observer to make, but make it someone must.

    2. The second issue, which follows from it, is weather of not they can “be married in a church of England church” and the question of building/venue considering the impact this has on defining the ceremony.

    Obviously if the answer to 1. is “yes”, then 2. creates no issue, but if, as with Charles, the answer to 1. is no, would the church be able to forbid/discourage use of it’s facility on those grounds? Should it? How are they (building/liturgy) connected from an Anglican perspective?

    To the casual secular observer (i.e the majority of the population) if it’s in a church, if there’s a vicar present, if there are readings and prayers and if there is a dress and all the usual trimmings, then it’s a marriage, end of discussion.

    I am not advocating for the CofE to make an issue of this, I am simply wondering how the two connect.

  4. Jonathan Tallon December 1, 2017 at 12:09 pm #

    If the church can change its practice about marrying people who already have previous partners still alive, without changing canon law (or what it believes about marriage), and if a service of prayer and dedication is not a blessing…

    Seems like there are fewer obstacles to equal marriage in the CofE than one might have thought.

    • Christopher Shell December 1, 2017 at 2:12 pm #

      Why are you so often wanting to lower standards in order to achieve ‘equality’? How can that possibly be a good result?

      Any schoolteacher can do that. Just get all the children to behave badly, and bingo – equal behaviour.

    • Ian Paul December 1, 2017 at 5:09 pm #

      Jonathan, as I think you know, the simple answer is this. When a previous relationship has broken down, that does not mean marriage is intended to be lifelong. What it means is that that intention has failed. It is perfectly logically possible to enter a new relationship intended that to be lifelong.

      But if marriage is intended to be between a man and a woman, it is not possible to entered a relationship between two people of the same sex and claim that you ‘intend’ it to be between people of opposite sexes.

      So changing practice in the first example can happen without changing our doctrine of marriage. Changing practice in the second cannot.

      I don’t think that very difficult to understand.

    • Ian Paul December 1, 2017 at 5:10 pm #

      Mat, in the C of E (as I mention above) marriage is not a sacrament.

      However, C of E rites can only be used in C of E consecrated buildings, and in such buildings only C of E rites can be used.

      So the two questions (which rite? which building?) belong together.

      • Mat Sheffield December 3, 2017 at 9:51 pm #

        Thanks for answering my question, and sorry that I didn’t spot it immediately; you replied to Jonathan.

    • Ian Paul December 1, 2017 at 5:11 pm #

      In fact, Jonathan, I would go so far as to say that this clear, logical difference is so self-evident that it is hard to consider the asking of the question as anything other than disingenuous ….

      • Jonathan Tallon December 1, 2017 at 11:16 pm #

        Ian, the canon doesn’t say marriage is intended to be lifelong – it says that it is lifelong. To pretend the two are the same could be called disingenuous.

        • Ian Paul December 2, 2017 at 11:37 am #

          It is a commitment to a lifelong partnership. If you think making such a commitment *determines* the future, rather than indicating an *intention*, then you believe marriage is indissoluble. I think you are well aware that that is not the position of the C of E.

          • Penelope Cowell Doe December 7, 2017 at 7:09 pm #

            Sorry but it is! Cf. 1999 doc on marriage “all Christians believe that marriage is indissoluble”

  5. Paul Stokes December 1, 2017 at 12:32 pm #

    As (another) non-CoE person, I have to confess seeing a measure of irony when the church which Henry VIII created in order to facilitate his own remarrying then being hardline about remarriage. I’ll admit that’s not very ecumenically charitable of me, and that the CoE has made very clear statements since. But the irony remains.

    As a non-conformist and, therefore, merely an agent of the state when conducting weddings, I tend to adopt an approach that says:-
    (1) These people wish to get married, and could just as well go to a Registry Office *but* have reached out to us for some inadequately articulated reason.
    (2) My response (welcome/rejection) can have a profound effect on their perception of Jesus’ church, and during the wedding there is a ‘captive’ and generally non-churchgoing audience with whom to engage.
    (3) Therefore, for all its shortcomings, I will accept the request (or is it an invitation from them for me to be involved?)

    And as a self-reflection, in making this choice I’m clearly regarding divorce/remarriage a different kind of scenario from same-sex marriage (which I would not be willing to facilitate).

    • Ian Paul December 1, 2017 at 5:27 pm #

      I think your practical example is a fair reflection. But it is worth noting that the so-called ‘hard line’ of the C of E is exactly the line that Henry took: the C of E has been consistent in not sharing the believe of the RC that marriage is indissoluble.

      • Jonathan Tallon December 1, 2017 at 11:20 pm #

        Hmm. I thought Henry sought an annulment – in other words, there was never a valid marriage. He was not seeking to dissolve a marriage – he claimed there never was a marriage.

        • David Shepherd December 2, 2017 at 3:00 pm #

          Hi Jonathan,

          The legal judgement which treated Henry’s marriage thenceforth as if it never existed didn’t mean that the marriage didn’t thereunto require dissolution.

          Archbishop Cranmer notified Henry VIII of the sentence of the special court convened to consider the case for annulment: “Notification of the sentence of divorce between Hen. VIII. and Katharine of Arragon pronounced by archbishop Cranmer. Dated in the monastery of Dunstable, 23 May 1533. Present, Gervase prior of the said monastery, Simon Haynes, S.T.P., John Newman, M.A., and others.

          The matrimony between the King and the lady Katharine being dissolved by sufficient authority, all pactions made for the same marriage are also dissolved and of none effect.

          That is, the jointure shall return again to the King’s use, and the money paid to him by her friends shall be repaid to her.
          The matrimony being dissolved, the lady Katharine shall return to the commodity and profits of the first matrimony, and the pactions of the same, made with prince Arthur, and shall enjoy the jointure assigned to her thereby, notwithstanding any quittance or renunciation made in the second pact.

          For as these renunciations were agreed unto for a sure trust and hope to enjoy the commodities and pactions of the second marriage, which now she cannot enjoy, unless without fault she should be deprived of both, equity and right restore her to the first. This, we think, by our poor learning, to be according both to canon and civil law, unless there are any other treaties and pactions which we have not seen.

          For the more clear declaration hereof, we think that when a matrimony is dissolved, if there is no paction of a further bond, then by law the money paid by the woman or her friends shall be restored to her, and the jointure return to the man and his heirs. In this case there is an especial pact that she shall enjoy her jointure durante vita, so that the said jointure is due to her by the pact, and the money paid by her and her friends by the law.”

          From this, it’s clear that Henry’s marriage was dissolved. The annulment simply made his matrimonial obligations to Catherine of none effect, i.e. as if the marriage had never taken place.

  6. Christopher Shell December 1, 2017 at 1:19 pm #

    Teh main casues of divorce, I have always suspected, are:

    (a) Allowing the word to be part of our vocab in the first place. Anne Atkins is almost the only person whom I have heard say what is by far the most commonsense thing: never even voice it. It is not part of our reality. Why should people have to think about things that would make them feel sick?

    (b) family does it *and talks about it*.

    (c) peergroup does it *and talks about it*

    There is not the slightest need for the numbers to reach a critical mass that allows ‘it’ to impinge on people’s lives. 1750-1950s ‘illegitimacy’ rates were always 2-5% unless in Napoleonic and World Wars when they were a bit higher. That is in a society where much less centralised control was possible.

    So how was that achieved? In a word (3 words) Christianity (which is a power for good); culture (including tabu); habit. All extremely powerful things.

    Saying ‘we live in a different world now’ is the classic circular ‘argument’.

    Does anyone care about the *80%* of cases where the petition is made against the will of the other?

    The law privileges the divisive and immature spouse over the peaceful and mature. There are now calls to privilege them even more. What achievement of theirs is this prize deserved by?

    Worse, the law forces people to break promises.

    And not only promises, the most precious promises of all.

    And then people never mention this side of the question.

    It is bad enough that it is the 2nd or 2nd equal most stressful thing.

    And that children (as would obviously be expected) hate it and (Wallerstein, mumsnet etc) parents, with deadened consciences, have no idea how much their children hate it.

    And that these figures are quite unnecessary because for 200 years there was a stable very low rate, which is therefore to be regarded as far more normal.

    The people I care about are 2 (make that several million). The peaceful non-divisive spouse who cannot conceive why the immature and divisive one is favoured, against all rules of civilisation. And the children.

    Boo to the media who constantly screen out these several and central points.

    • Mat Sheffield December 1, 2017 at 3:02 pm #

      “The law privileges the divisive and immature spouse over the peaceful and mature.”

      I don’t think this is a fair caricature, as ‘divisive maturity’ and ‘peaceful immaturity’ certainly exist, and it has been my (admittedly limited) experience that the latter is fast becoming the most prevalent. How often have you heard the phrase “our relationship came to it’s ‘natural’ end…” in the context of marriage? Besides, maturity is relative, and the standard it’s measured against is ever-changing….

      But I think you’re right in all other regards.

      Divorce law is one of the only situations in English Law where the state sides with the one who wants to break the contract, against the one who intends to keep it. I would not have people forced into maintaining situations against their will, but there are temporary solutions and plenty of mediation that could save marriages rather than having them easily dissolved.

      • Mat Sheffield December 1, 2017 at 3:06 pm #

        Actually, I’ll slightly amend that.

        It’s an unfair caricature in general, but it is truer of ‘secular’ marriages, i.e those of nominal faith.

      • Christopher Shell December 2, 2017 at 9:02 am #

        I don’t think I’ve ever heard that phrase, apart from in sexual-revolution cultures.

  7. Christopher Shell December 1, 2017 at 1:36 pm #

    David Instone-Brewer puts great stress on the ‘for any reason’. So far as I can see, his argument has an important flaw.

    Matthew’s Gospel scarcely ever adds eyewitness redactional material to Mark (of course, that is a circular argument – but would be agreed on by a lot of specialists, perhaps most).

    This particular addition looks Matthean because rabbinic.

    It also addresses just the sort of issue where such an addition would be felt to be needed, as does the rest of Matthew’s version (eunuchs etc): interesting legal exceptions.

    Mark, looking both hardline and distant from normal Jewish practice, would be under pressure to be changed.

    It is quite a claim to make Matt equally valuable to Mark here, but the claim is that he is more so.

    Casey is one who takes this stance in detail.

    This being perhaps Jesus’s best-attested saying, the point matters that much more.

    Also the point made by the questioners in Matt is a bit recondite for gospel-readers who wanted to know Jesus’s basic stance. An urGospel might therefore be unlikely to contain it: only a gospel that has been gone over with marginal notes by a scribe.

    Those who prophesied doom for the C of E’s stance loosening in the 1960s-70s are vindicated, since now the sort of question one gets is ‘have you been divorced more than once?’. Yet divorce itself has mostly been a very rare thing in these isles (and many others). The same pattern of the sexual revolution holistically making stats (but also, importantly, norms and expectations) 400%+ worse very rapidly is again seen.

  8. Christopher Shell December 1, 2017 at 2:14 pm #

    Debate is needed on whether the formulations ‘some marriages die’ (which I find creepy) and ‘breakdown’ actually make sense. Secondly, whether they make sense in cases where there has been no effort or attempt at mutual understanding, or only in other cases.

  9. Charles Read December 1, 2017 at 2:41 pm #

    To people like Christopher Shell: where a person is being abused by their spouse, do you not think they should divorce?

    • Christopher Shell December 2, 2017 at 9:05 am #

      Abuse is sometimes, not always, fiendishly difficult to define, and can at times be highly subjective.

      One example: the typical man and the typical woman will see things differently.

      Spouse A will be affronted by something, which so far as they can see belongs to the category of things that any reasonable person would be affronted by.

      As soon as they say that, Spouse B says ‘You’re abusing me’.

      A driving-instructor speaks firmly to their prospective candidate, for safety reasons, and said candidate says ‘You’re abusing me’. Etc..

      It is a vague word.

      • Christopher Shell December 2, 2017 at 9:18 am #

        I once pulled a child back from feeding poisonous berries to a swan and the same A-word was used by the child.

      • Penelope Cowell Doe December 2, 2017 at 9:51 am #

        I can’t speak for Charles, but for me abuse is either gaslighting – of which we have become more aware – or a spouse beating up or rsexually abusing their partner. The Church has so often colluded with this in the past, telling women (always women) that it was their duty to submit to their husbands. Ditto marital rape. Some churches are still teaching this. Hence the #churchtoo hashtag on Twitter. Thank God that men and women no longer have to suffer in abusive relationships, although, sadly, some expressions of some faiths are still teaching this.

        • Christopher Shell December 2, 2017 at 9:59 am #

          ‘for me’ – one thing we can’t do is have private definitions.

          A lot of things are labelled abuse (often understandably), including all the things you mention; but, importantly, also very many things (including very many equivocal things) that you do not mention. It can be a word of convenience.

          • Chris Bishop December 2, 2017 at 11:23 am #

            So to answer Charles question Christopher, do you think a spouse should divorce if they are being beaten up by their partner, knocked around with bruises etc where abuse is very physically evident (and not used as a word of convenience) and there is no sign of remorse or repentance on the part of the perpetrator or even a desire to change on their part?

          • David Shepherd December 2, 2017 at 11:27 am #

            Hi Christopher,

            You may be right that abuse is often deployed as a ‘word of convenience’.

            However, that doesn’t absolve the clergy and lay leadership of the duty to take claims of abuse seriously, and to investigate and take appropriate action, including alerting the authorities, when a parishioner confides in them about spousal abuse.

            This contrasts sharply with the lame response of just offering tea and sympathy, while reminding that person of divorce’s sinfulness and the proven negative impact of a broken home on children.

            When Christ was criticised by the Pharisees for healing on the Sabbath, he contrasted how their unyielding insistence on ‘principle’ with their ease in setting it aside for self-interest (Luke 14:5; Matt. 12:11)

            So, despite the God-given Fifth Commandment and St. Paul’s NT injunction that children should obey their parents (Eph. 6:1), we would not treat those verses as absolute in preventing the permanent separation of a child from an abusive parent (whether emotionally, physically or sexually).

            In contrast, there’s a tendency for some Christians to treat claims of spousal abuse with relative skepticism and to maintain, despite the dominical exception, that Mark’s quotation is absolute and that there are no justifiable circumstances under which any married person should separate permanently, even from an abusive spouse.

            Surely, Christians need do a lot more than we see here: merely policing the grounds for divorce as the moral perimeter marking out the sanctity of marriage, while conniving at circumstances of abusive behaviour within marriage which also profanes ‘what God has joined together’.

          • Penelope Cowell Doe December 2, 2017 at 12:04 pm #

            It can. But what do you advocate when a spouse is beaten or raped?

          • Penelope Cowell Doe December 2, 2017 at 12:05 pm #

            Sorry, that question was directed to Christopher, not David.

          • Christopher Shell December 2, 2017 at 1:16 pm #

            I don’t think people should confide about spousal abuse –

            (1) that is gossip;

            (2) there is no way the person being confided in can know how rounded or spun the report is;

            (3) the person being spoken about now becomes an outsider, and ever-after viewed as one. Outside the inner ring. That is a backward step.

            Certainly speak to both parties together and see all sides.

            We must first define ‘abusive’. Apart from in clear cases, this can be problematic. Who knows whether it is not necessary to go through past conversations with a toothcomb to determine levels of abuse. And there is no universally agreed scale on which to measure these. Rather than being past-oriented and doing such post mortems, people should be positive and resolve to be so in the future.

          • Christopher Shell December 2, 2017 at 1:23 pm #

            To which we add: what an incredible waste of time. Were people in the very widespread type of society where it is impossible for the immature to marry (because they would have to become a gent first if they were ever to reach the marital bed) they would be engaging in more productive and larger-horizoned activities than bickering, because they would not be immature (selfish, ‘dumping’ of others – whether live babies or girl/boyfriends) in the first place. There is nothing worse than negativity – the man who looked through prison bars and saw mud.

          • Christopher Shell December 2, 2017 at 1:35 pm #

            As for Chris’s point I join you in seeing physical violence as the crossing of a very serious line. It is certainly also the case that words can hurt substantially more than this, and if it was words that caused the violence then we have a problem. That is why the answer is not to do such things in the first place; and the way not to do them is (a) not to see them as part of life at all, (b) to return to a society where immaturity and throwaway culture would be among the imperfections knocked off by society in the progress to marriage.

            To illustrate the place where we now are in this (sometimes called) culture of death, (I have always had the same view I am now saying but) in recent times an absolute paragon of a woman and an absolute paragon of a man (both of whom I know well) were abandoned, and the ”law”, obviously, abandoned them and supported the immaturity of their spouse. One abandoning spouse said ”We are moving in different directions” – hardly possible when you have a shared life; but in any case the answer is to take steps to rectify that. Did that person do so? The other said ”My spouse is not willing to part, but hey that’s life”. Of course it is not ”life”. It is something that you personally are imposing unilaterally. In the case of Meghan she had a husband who adored her. Of course for one to be in LA and the other in Toronto is barmy. But how I do feel for that husband, and all men and women like him. There has presumably continued to be settled irresolution in this – else, her close friend would have reconciled with her. But how can people live with settled irresolution and with the knowledge that they have acted selfishly and immaturely piled on top of that like Pelion on Ossa? When people are so immature as to act on a whim, and in so doing bully and dump and impose mental violence and abuse, the present climate says we should let them do so. Er – why?

          • Christopher Shell December 2, 2017 at 1:36 pm #

            For ‘Chris’s’ read ‘Charles’s’.

          • Chris Bishop December 2, 2017 at 2:25 pm #

            Christopher, I think you are pussyfooting round Charles question .There are cases when abuse is very clear and it can be clearly shown that harmful physical abuse of a spouse is taking place and their lives are in danger. We are not talking about doubt here. If a woman (or man) in my church came to me for help with black eyes, scalds, bruising, cuts and evidence of other physical injuries the I would feel obliged to inform the police. I would not tell them to stop gossiping. I think it might well be right for divorce to be considered if the other party was unrepentant (or at least separation), for their own safety.

            So I put it to you is there ever a situation in your eyes involving physical abuse where you think it would be right for divorce to be considered when all other remedies have failed.

            From your answers to the other correspondents I get the impression that you think not.

          • Penelope Cowell Doe December 2, 2017 at 3:01 pm #

            Christopher

            Unbelievable. You speak of gossip, and being positive and ‘bickering’ when I ((and others) are speaking of being beaten up and raped. For, which, let us face it there is usually evidence. Gaslighting is, I agree, more difficult to prove.
            If someone has a black eye or broken ribs, do you infer that they walked into a door or fell down stairs?
            Do you think, ‘I can’t possibly advise them to separate because how can I believe this confidence, it might simply be gossip?’
            Despite the fact that most allegations about sexual abuse are not false.
            Which do you think is the greater evil – divorce or spousal abuse?

          • Christopher Shell December 2, 2017 at 3:14 pm #

            Penelope, read my comment again. I said that the reporting of physical abuse whoudl certrainly take place, and sooner rather than later. But it should not be reported behind perpetrator’s back. Surely you realise the dangers of one-sided reporting and of inner rings that exclude.

            You are imagining that a typical scenario has to be of a certain nature. What if it wasnt? What if verbal wounds were felt far worse and caused someone to lose control because the bottom had fallen out of their world because of what was said? What if there is physical on both sides? Why are we meant to imagine that only one particular scenario is typical?

          • David Shepherd December 2, 2017 at 3:45 pm #

            Hi Christopher,

            When I wrote of confiding about abuse, I meant this in the context of pastoral counselling.

            In terms of ascertaining spousal abuse, all that you state is equally applicable to claims of child abuse.

            For abused kids, we also have no way to know how rounded or spun the report is’ I can only hope that you don’t believe that it’s good pastoral practice to scrutinise ‘past conversations with a toothcomb’, rather than to follow the kind of safeguarding which, unlike the ‘good old days’ where victims had to live in shameful silence, prevents them from being intimidated.

            If you have doubts about the veracity of reported abuse, then, as our Lord declared, there are clear ways of eradicating them (Matt. 18:16; 2 Cor. 13:1)

            I’m also concerned that, instead of directly addressing whether abused spouses should be allowed to divorce, you resort to a lengthy denunciation of the permissive society, while merely pontificating on the importance of positive mental attitude among spouses who allege abuse.

          • Christopher Shell December 2, 2017 at 4:05 pm #

            As for making things relatively public, and quickly, that is what I also believe. I also believe in doing so only after the perpetrator (in cases where there is just one perpetrator) has refused to be accountable.

            The post is about marriage and ‘d’, and not about child abuse, and you are right that had it been about child abuse I would be saying some very different things.

            Pastoral counselling – again I would question any idea that this should take place outside the ready-made communities of family and church that know the people well. There is not the slightest point in involving people who don’t know you well because
            -ten to one they enjoy the gossip or salacious element – it is human nature;
            -by verablising things you are in danger of things then being perceived the way you have verablised them, which will sometimes be inaccurate
            -the more you talk about something (rather than just resolving not to do it again) the bigger and more ‘real’ it becomes. And yet there is no reason why the past should be real in the present.

            I think the way your comment *frames* things is in the currently standard and IMHO too binary way (old shameful saving-face and not ratting on a fellow vs brave new transparency: and yes I certainly do prefer the latter) – but there are numerous ways of framing things and we must all prefer a comprehensive approach that understands the maximum number of angles and possible scenarii.

            The very phrases ‘abused spouses’ and ‘allowed to divorce’ are culture-specific. Marriage has been widely understood as intrinsically indissoluble, and when ‘d’ was not mentioned the rates of it were quite massively lower, to the benefits of children and souls and character-formation everywhere. ‘Abused spouses’ is in a vast number of cases not a phrase that has a clear nor uncontested meaning, though we agree that there is no space for disagreement once it comes to (for example) physical violence.

          • Christopher Shell December 2, 2017 at 4:08 pm #

            I should have said the other reasons not to involve people who don’t know you well:
            -the fact that you are doing that probably means that you are adrift from community and.or family, which gives an insight into the nature of your problem and its future prevention
            -by the time they are up to speed with the details of all your circumstances, if neither of you has died first they will still know massively less about that than you yourself do. So unless we’re someone who’s bad at analysis and has not read up on the subject, then anything they say will actually be less informed than what we know already.

          • Christopher Shell December 2, 2017 at 4:09 pm #

            typo ‘verbalise’

          • David Shepherd December 2, 2017 at 4:36 pm #

            Hi Christopher,

            The post may well be about marriage and divorce, but this comment thread relates them to the context of abuse. Therefore, the comparison with child abuse and Eph. 6:1 is valid.

            I mean, by comparison with your comment about the phrase ‘abused spouse’, who would assert that ‘abused child’ is not a phrase that has clear and uncontested meaning?

            Parenthood has also been widely understood as indissoluble. So, on what basis should measures taken to ensure permanent removal of a married person from an abusive spouse differ morally from measures taken to remove a child permanently from an abusive parent?

          • Christopher Shell December 2, 2017 at 4:53 pm #

            Child abuse is physical and/or sexual; where the same applies to spousal then we are on relatively straightforward ground.

            I agree, then: let’s stick to a clear and relatively verifiable content for the term ‘abuse’.

            When we do that, however, there will be a whole mass of stuff that is termed by others ‘abuse’ (using the term loosely, which I have contended is dangerous) which we will be screening out. I think it is good that things that require more detailed analysis ought not simply to be termed abuse, since that is jumping the gun. We can however use other words for them; but in order to do even that, we need a rounded understanding. That is not gained overnight.

          • David Shepherd December 2, 2017 at 7:18 pm #

            Hi Christopher,

            I’m in agreement with your clarifications and, while kids are capable of lying about abuse, it’s far more likely for an adult to do so to gain a sympathetic settlement in divorce proceedings.

            I would endorse the Church of England’s statement that: ‘It is the policy of the Church to inform statutory authorities (Police and Local Authority Social Services) that abuse has been alleged if there is a risk that others may continue to be at risk of abuse and to make sure that past abuse is properly dealt with.

            If someone is prepared to make an allegation of spousal abuse, then they should be prepared for it to be investigated thoroughly by the authorities.

            However, in 2015, it was mistake for the government to extend the offence of abuse to include any behaviour which, on “at least two occasions” and absent any actual threat or act of violence, is still alleged to have caused a spouse to fear that violence will be used against them: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/482528/Controlling_or_coercive_behaviour_-_statutory_guidance.pdf

          • Christopher Shell December 4, 2017 at 10:43 am #

            You have put your finger on it. When things are that subjective (and open to pure invention) then anything goes. I sense that this is loaded more against males than otherwise.

  10. The Church Mouse December 1, 2017 at 4:51 pm #

    I still don’t understand how you square the teaching of the church with Jesus’ teaching – aren’t they in contradiction? If Jesus says you can’t divorce except as a result of adultery, how do you justify the church teaching something different?

    • Ian Paul December 1, 2017 at 5:16 pm #

      I don’t think the C of E does teach anything different—and nor does it have scope to, since the C of E does not make decisions on what are the grounds of divorce. Indeed, it has no power to do so.

      Given that decision is made elsewhere, the question for the C of E is whether or not people who are divorced and have partners still living may, under certain circumstances, marry again.

      Jesus’ allowing for divorce under certain circumstances (and knowing that in the ancient world ‘divorce’ meant ‘divorce with the possibility of marrying again’) means that the answer to that question is not obviously ‘no’.

      • Nick December 2, 2017 at 2:13 pm #

        Ian, you make a good point that the Church does not grant divorces. However Church Mouse has a point too in that Mat 19:9 says that “whoever divorces his wife, except for unchastity, and marries another commits adultery.” Surely that must influence the church’s practice.

        A spouse who has remarried someone else will have committed adultery. I guess practice must depends on how we broad we understand the use of the word unchastity (Pornea?) was used in Matthew’s time.

      • The Church Mouse December 5, 2017 at 8:45 am #

        Apologies for the slow reply. I’m rather surprised by your stance on this, IanI have to say. It seems to me that Jesus is pretty clear that you cannot divorce except under very strict circumstances, and this is reiterated in Luke 16 and Matthew 19 extremely clearly. Moreso, it is clear that remarriage is adultery and sinful, and I cannot see how you can square the position that the Church is free to celebrate and bless such unions. Your position seems to be that it is not our position to judge the reasons for a marriage breakdown therefore should have no qualms about re-marrying and blessing that marriage.

        Now I do think there are ways to square this circle, but not from a conservative evangelical perspective. You could argue that Jesus was setting out practice for his time, when women (or in reality girls) would have no choice in who they were given to marry and for whom divorce would mean impoverishment and a catastrophic life outlook. So Jesus is really saying you cannot abandon someone who depends on you fully and must be faithful to them. Since our times are rather different, I think the context for that has changed. But I can’t see a conservative making that argument as you have to argue that Luke 17 and Matthew 19 don’t really apply any more.

        • The Church Mouse December 5, 2017 at 8:46 am #

          *Luke 16*

        • Ian Paul December 5, 2017 at 9:44 am #

          ‘Jesus is pretty clear that you cannot divorce except under very strict circumstances’. I entirely agree, and C of E policy is stated in just these terms. The recognition of the appropriateness of a divorce—and it cannot be any more than ‘recognition’ since, *unlike in Jesus’ day*, we are not the ones making a decision about divorce, but only about remarriage—is embodied in the guidance about remarriage in church.

          ‘Your position seems to be that it is not our position to judge the reasons for a marriage breakdown therefore should have no qualms about re-marrying and blessing that marriage.’. Gosh, I don’t really know how I can encourage you to read what I actually say. We are in a position to judge, and we must do that. I did it myself earlier this year. Those who choose to remarry in church any and everyone reject the idea of such judgement, on just the argument that you attribute to me. But it is not my position, and that is not my practice.

          ‘So Jesus is really saying you cannot abandon someone who depends on you fully and must be faithful to them.’ Jesus is saying ‘you cannot abandon them *for any reason*’.

          I don’t really understand why you are projecting on me a relativist position that I do not hold. Nor why you are reading into the gospels an absolutist position which I have argued is not there, at least not in the terms in which you have expressed it.

          Does Jesus prohibit the possibility of divorce regardless of circumstance? No. Does the C of E remarry people regardless of their past? No.

  11. James Pennington December 2, 2017 at 12:00 am #

    Just a quick note, no doom and gloom about Brexit for myself and the majority. Royal babies and weddings will add to the patriotic fervour of a nation becoming free once more. So there! 🙂

    More seriously, I’m glad you’re commenting on this issue because it seems like very few dare do so, for fear of being crushed by a ton of bricks.

  12. Christopher Shell December 2, 2017 at 9:16 am #

    What I do hope is that people will get wise to the fact that the law is

    (a) letting the more divisive and less mature spouse have their way, a ‘way’ that equates to eternal and settled (chosen) irresolution, division right up til the day of their death, rather than the Christian way of forgiveness.

    (b) Simultaneously forcing the more mature and peaceable spouse downward into its own hated and immature path, which (being mature) they outgrew and rejected years ago, should they ever have contemplated it.

    I will always stand up for the abandoned spouse (and children too, very much so) whom the ”law” forces to break their most cherished promise, which is the very last thing in the world they would wish to do, and whom the ”law” tells (in its cliched and culture-bound manner) that the way of immaturity and division is best. Even in a world where the high-achieving Christian culture achieved a rate of 1.9 ds per 1000 married people in 1958, proving that the chattering immaturity of today is unnecessary. All we need is the right worldview, habits, culture, norms, tabus, and expectations.

    And note how the newspaper reports in The Times etc screen out the fact that 80% of petitions are against a spouse’s will (i.e. the more peaceable and probably more mature spouse) and screen out the tears that would naturally flow for those unwillingly abandoned souls and for their children.

    • Penelope Cowell Doe December 2, 2017 at 12:46 pm #

      Christopher what if the more mature and peaceable spouse is the one being beaten and/or raped?

      • Christopher Shell December 2, 2017 at 1:19 pm #

        This is where the needless deterioration of (a) family and (b) community causes problems that would not otherwise be there. If any such thing happened, then the family should (and in some other cultures and times would) know at once. The shame in face of the whole family is sufficient deterrent.

        • Nick December 2, 2017 at 1:53 pm #

          Christopher,

          You speak as if this was a new thing that has only started happening recently in our culture and does not happen in other cultures where the family is stronger. However, we no that domestic violence is not a recent phenomenon in our country and equally we know it goes on in other cultures where the family is strong.

          • Christopher Shell December 2, 2017 at 3:08 pm #

            No – these are not at all the same as each other, because it is impossible that the rates of its occurrence will be the same. They may indeed be vastly different, though I am not saying they are.

            What I’m saying here is that there are present factors that don’t help (together with others that do):
            -a climate where it is noised abroad that men and women are enemies
            -collapse in our own culture of community centres, church attendance, the checks and balances afforded by an active family unit
            -the impossibility of having any agreed rules and parameters in a sexual-revolution culture
            -the fact that the 2 sexes don’t understand each other as witnessed by mag-cover articles
            -intrinsic difficulty of defining ‘abuse’ in some cases
            -made worse by prevalence of victim culture and refusal to believe that some things may have to be not as one would ideally wish (only an emperor can have their every wish fulfilled)
            -and also by (in some circles) a denial that females (variously, males) can be wrong in anything they do or assert.

        • Penelope Cowell Doe December 2, 2017 at 2:49 pm #

          Christopher

          There is evidence that St Monica was an abused wife. Spousal abuse cannot be laid at the door of the so-called permissive society, however you might wish it otherwise. Indeed since the criminalisation of marital rape in this country, one might argue that secular liberalism has brought improvement to many lives. Spousal abuse has been common in most (all?) societies, and church, synagogue and mosque have all too often condoned it, or turned a blind eye. The abused spouse often finds it difficult to leave the marriage but when s/he does, it may be necessary to leave children behind.
          Shame often makes it more difficult to leave and to find help. Which is why many (women particularly) are murdered by their partners.
          Contrary to your claim, close and closed family and communities, where shame is to be avoided at all costs, are the contexts where most abuse takes place.
          If we reinforce that shame, church, state or culture are colluding in that harm.

          • Christopher Shell December 2, 2017 at 3:42 pm #

            ??? When did I say that spousal abuse was invented in 1963?

            There are different rates of spousal abuse in different cultures, and our job is to minimise the risk factors.

            One of the predictably dreadful fruits of the sexual revolution (and boy does it have a lot of victims) is that people end up having conversations like this, whereas if we had positive expectations, obsessions and parameters and (more importantly) had mechanisms for achieving maturity pre-marriage, as many societies have, then we would be talking about more positive things, and would be inhabiting a more positive normality.

            Marital rape will often imply a situation where the other spouse is being unloving. So both are bad things, and the marital rape is the worse. Otherwise I struggle to see why marital rape would need to occur. So it can be seen that a culture that inaccurately and divisively portrays men (all lumped together!) as the enemy fuels marital rape. (Another ugly topic which within a more positive culture there ought not to be need to discuss.)

            Your point about shame-avoidance I agree with; this also makes reliable comparative statistics hard to come by.

          • David Shepherd December 2, 2017 at 7:35 pm #

            ‘Marital rape will often imply a situation where the other spouse is being unloving.

            So, let’s examine your ‘logic’. Modern Western culture portrays men as the enemy. This inaccurate male stereotype fuels martial rape by portraying husbands negatively, thereby causing wives to become unloving.

            You further assert that it is this situation of an unloving wife which is often implicated in cases of marital rape.

            Only question is ‘where’s your objective evidence of this?’ Certainly, If that’s just a pre-conceived notion of yours, then I would seriously hope that victims of marital rape never have occasion to receive counseling from you.

          • Christopher Shell December 4, 2017 at 10:33 am #

            I am mentioning the factors that have so far been unmentioned. I will generally agree with those that have been mentioned, but am adding others to make a fuller and therefore more accurate picture.

            If such a high proportion of ‘d’ petitioners are women (and anecdotal evidence like that re M Markle suggests that often – not by any means always – the cause is nothing but the fact that they have become bored, as you do, and therefore any excuse will do, dressed up as ‘unreasonable behaviour’) – it does strike one that the present climate may not be conducive to male flourishing. This imbalance or deviation from the ideal means of course that it is not conducive either to female or to male flourishing.

            What is conducive to flourishing has been measured, and the results could not be more stark. (1) Every survey says that marriage and religious involvement are the 2 main keys or correlates to happiness. The effort it takes to attain maturity pays dividends; laziness or extended immaturity or aborted character formation – these produce misery.
            (2) Happiness peaked in 1957, as newspaper articles have once again highlighted within the last month;
            (3) In 1958 the ‘d’ rate was 1.9 per 1000 married people.
            People are happy when they have the security of marriage (marriage being understood as being an inviolable, unquestioned bond).
            When this is removed we get an immaturity/victim (other person is always guilty) culture.

            The other point is that this coincides with the abandonment of Christianity. Christianity is about forgiveness and don’t let the sun go down on your anger. Not immature feuds.

            In stark terms, as soon as the sexual revolution is embraced, all this negativity, and expectation of negativity, comes with it. In stable family cultures these topics (ugly as they are) are off bounds and everyone is happier for it.

          • Christopher Shell December 4, 2017 at 2:34 pm #

            ‘Why marital rape would need to occur’ was appalling wording of mine – what I mean of course is that I struggle to see what ‘the causes of MR’ would be. If anyone takes the fatal step of withholding love, that is more or less guaranteed to escalate – *and* what is the end-game here? Further, to withhold is to reject the inbuilt *healing* power of love. So, to repeat: the Christian way is forgiveness and nothing else. Not letting the sun go down on your anger is not only an organic Christian principle, it is a scripture, and it is something cited by aged couples. No-one has mentioned a better way than that. So (as Everest say) choose the best.

          • David Shepherd December 4, 2017 at 7:36 pm #

            Hi Christopher,

            You explain: ‘ I struggle to see what ‘the causes of MR’ would be

            The causes include forced marriages and inebriated male lust, to name a few.

            In terms of ‘witholding love’, Jesus explained the Christian way of forgiveness: ‘If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them. Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them.” (Luke 17:3)

            However, he also explained how to respond to those who refuse to repent:
            ‘But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector. (Matt. 18:16)

            ‘In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we command you, brothers and sisters, to keep away from every believer who is idle and disruptive and does not live according to the teaching you received from us. (2 Thess. 3:6)

            To the rest I say this (I, not the Lord): If any brother has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to live with him, he must not divorce her. And if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing (syneudokei) to live with her, she must not divorce him. For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified through her believing husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy.

            But if the unbeliever leaves (chorizetai; cf. Mk. 10:9), let it be so. The brother or the sister is not bound in such circumstances; God has called us to live in peace. How do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or, how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife? (1 Cor. 7:12-15)

          • Christopher Shell December 5, 2017 at 3:45 pm #

            I think I was viewing it from the angle that: if many would struggle to see why they would ever wish or need to refuse their spouse (even if inebriated) – their spouse being after all the person with whom they (have) share(d) the most and whom they valued above all others enough even to marry them!- then what makes the many different from the remainder?

            Forced marriage of course does not apply to most of the world’s population, and yes that is an important exception that I had not considered.

            For the rest the scriptures hold fast, though a common experience is escalation where there is wrong on both sides and the importance of different wrongs is differently estimated – for this we can use scriptural principles but not single scriptures.

        • Sid December 2, 2017 at 4:39 pm #

          Christopher, I strongly disagree with most of what you have written in this thread – but my biggest concern is your complete ignorance and lack of understanding about domestic violence and abuse. I suggest some excellent resources such as http://files.ccpas.co.uk/documents/Help-DomesticViolence.pdf and https://www.restoredrelationships.org/about-vaw/ to begin with. My heart aches for anyone who has suffered *any* form of abuse who has had the misfortune of reading this exchange – please know that not all Christians think this way…

          • Christopher Shell December 4, 2017 at 10:39 am #

            Sid, read what I said. To repeat: I agree with you at every point (as who wouldn’t?) if you are confining ‘abuse’ to physical , sexual etc.. The additional point I have been pressing is that people use ‘abuse’, often as an excuse, in a wide variety of *other* ways whose accuracy is often nigh-impossible to measure.

            Suppose I, or any of thousands of others, stand quietly and politely in defence of the babies who are being killed in a certain institution, or of the girl guides who are being forced to accommodate male anatomy in their bedrooms, showers etc, or of the peer-reviewed researchers whose statistics are being ignored because they are politically incorrect. If anyone initiates a conversation with us, and we stick to facts, our rebuttals (because logic can seem a cold hard thing) can easily be termned ‘abuse’. Truth is abuse then? Protecting the innocent is abuse? Not wanting babies to be killed is abuse?

            As many have said recently: church, please wake up. The drowsy spirit of Lethe is everywhere. 🙂

          • Sid December 4, 2017 at 12:42 pm #

            Christopher, I am speaking about domestic (intimate partner) violence and abuse, which is not just physical and/or sexual – it can be financial, psychological and/or spiritual, it can include coercion or controlling behaviour… Did you look at either of the websites?

          • Christopher Shell December 5, 2017 at 3:46 pm #

            Of course – but how is that relevant to the point that one person’s estimation of the rights and wrongs of the situation would so regularly be quite at odds with another’s?

          • Christopher Shell December 5, 2017 at 3:49 pm #

            I mean: people set each other off on these things – does one often find situations where one is blameless and the other totally guilty.

            Plus, when it comes to psychological abuse, para 1 still applies together with the point that precise measurement is not possible, since one would have to trawl through thousands of hours of speech, tones of voice, facial expressions etc.. I repeat my point. If people lose their positive attitude the situation is already lost, whereas if they retain it they would not need to waste their precious time talking about ugly things like that. Analysis just makes ‘problems’ more real whereas forgiveness and positivity operate from an alternative and better premiss.

          • Sid December 5, 2017 at 5:02 pm #

            Men and women bicker and fight, and men and women sometimes behave badly – no-one is perfect. In healthy relationships, though, disagreements are worked through and, as equal partners, problems are worked out together.
            Abuse is different (and it does not need to be ‘measurable’) because it is a result of one person wanting power and control over another and believing they have that right because they are superior. Any amount of ‘positivity’ from the victim will make no difference…The perpetrator carries sole responsibility.

          • Christopher Shell December 7, 2017 at 10:44 am #

            There is a strong answer to that. People claim to be yoked but research tells very strongly indeed that if they are not formally married the claim is generally not borne out. Likewise, people can claim to be reconciled but the facts on the ground may tell a different story.

            Reconciliation is something positive, sometimes uber-positive, better than the original positive thing. ‘Not d-ing’ is something neutral. So no, they are not in the least the same thing.

          • Christopher Shell December 7, 2017 at 10:45 am #

            My answer above was to Ian H.

            Sid, you say that they are 2 different things but what if they are often on the same sliding scale with each other?

          • Sid December 7, 2017 at 6:20 pm #

            Christopher – but they aren’t.
            Do you have any evidence that can prove to me that they are?
            I refer you again to the two links I suggested…

          • Christopher Shell December 7, 2017 at 9:37 pm #

            But the links, the first of which I saw a year or two back, are just to summaries that assert (mostly, so far as I know, correctly – and also at times with statistical back-up) that things are a certain way.

            The other angles I have been trying to add to their (I assume) true data are less in evidence. (1) Prevention is a thousand times better than cure. (2) Abandon Christian culture and what does anyone expect will then happen? Just see how the graph of sexual abuse mirrors the graph of the rise and ascendancy of secularism, with years like 1973 (to pluck one from the air) being especially bad. That is the big picture. The fact that Christians like anyone else is affecgted by societal trends will surprise no-one; but being a Christian certainly helps. Violence is disproportionately much higher among live-in boyfriends and partners. And boyfriend violence is at staggering rates as we have known for the last decade – not surprising when no-one knows the rules but marriage is dishonoured and whatever rules there may or may not be they certainly ain’t Christian ones. The second summary was international and in order for it to be more coherent I would have preferred to see different cultures, with their very different circumstances, being taken separately and not lumped together as though what is true for one is true for all (quite untrue).

            My central points about screening off such things from our reality and our vocabulary, and about having a positive attitude – let alone the point about being inductive and noticing which cultures do best here and replicating them; cf. the figures I quoted from late 1950s – these were not the sort of thing that these summaries, framed by the culturally-current narrative, would have touched upon. They give a deeply ugly picture, to be dispelled by light not mulled over.

          • Christopher Shell December 7, 2017 at 9:55 pm #

            On your point that abuse does not need to be measurable, are you asking anyone to allow that things that have not been quantified should be accepted on someone’s (the interested party’s?) say-so?

            Wanting power and control is just human nature. This being the case, it will regularly be present on all sides not just one. The more so since secularism has brought a society where people marry late (why?) and are used to being masters and centres of their own lives, and wish to continue in the lifestyle to which they have become accustomed.

            I am sorry if my angle confuses anyone – best to quote David Kupelian who sums it up better than I can:
            ‘Any two people living and working together are going to have their differences and conflicts that need to be resolved. Uh-uh. When you put a man and a woman together, that relationship can lead either to tremendous spiritual growth and fulfilment of their inborn potential, or it can lead to conflict and hatred. At first they think their infatuation is love: it’s not. They think their physical and emotional need for each other is love: it’s not. He thinks her enthusiasm for sex is love: it’s not. She thinks his giving in to her on every issue is love: it’s not. (He speaks of child-caused stress & other stresses.) There is something in a man’s makeup that is capable of drawing the worst out of a woman – and vice-versa. This is a spiritual inheritance that we all share (he refers to the Fall perhaps?). Thus (and here comes the point) without a shared love of truth to lead them both into the nobler realm of life, theirs will never be a marriage made in heaven. And that, again, is the ultimate purpose of marriage – to lead us into a closer relationship with out Creator by developing within us the **character-traits** that befit God’s children.’

            How many of the people with whom you are sympathising (mostly: correctly sympathising) have taken trouble to acquaint themselves with the differences between the genders in terms of the way they see things? (It also doesn’t help when we are told that there are no significant differences between the 2 sexes: this is a disadvantage that no other culture has had to contend against.) Why do magazine covers bear witness to the fact that the other gender is to some degree a closed book even to adults of mature age if not of maturity?

            Check conversations like this one and enumerate the times when a given gender is spoken of badly by some generalisation. Almost always in our present climate that gender will be male. Multiple millions will never make a single negative generalisation about women. Good! (for that would be sexism) – but please treat the men the same. It is self-defeating, because if the entire gender is really like that, then it must be inborn and something that they can’t help. More likely, people are just imagining that the other gender ought to be more like their own otherwise there must be something wrong with them. There is simply no limit to the time-wasting immaturity that follows inevitably on abandoning Christianity.

          • Sid December 7, 2017 at 11:46 pm #

            Christopher, your ‘angle’ doesn’t confuse me – it’s just wrong. By conflating ‘normal’ relationship problems/disagreements with DVA, you are minimising violence and abuse. For example, calling victims ‘interested parties’, and your earlier comments about marital rape (which is a crime punishable by law and never excusable). DVA is just as prevalent within the church as it is outside. It *is* an ‘ugly’ subject but it’s vital for Christians to be educated about it and to learn how to help those suffering – not compound their pain. Attitudes like yours prevent victims coming forward to ask for help. From what you say, it is very unlikely that you would believe someone if they came to you.
            It is a matter of justice and speaking out for the voiceless and helping those who are oppressed – which I believe that, as Christians, is part of our mission.

          • Christopher Shell December 8, 2017 at 2:22 pm #

            OK – to list the things I disagree with here:

            (1) Simply asserting ‘it’s just wrong’ is never overtly intelligent simply because it is not nuanced. When the thing you are assessing (my ‘angle’!) is very nuanced, that just compounds the problem.

            (2) I have never conflated what you say I conflate. I have said that there are times when the 2 may be on a sliding scale, which would be hard to deny. I am sure there are also other times when the 2 are not on a sliding scale.

            (3) You have decided in advance that someone is a victim, when the whole point is to analyse the specific situation. There are times when it is possible to label someone a victim accurately from the start. As you know, I have been writing about the times when it is not possible to do that.

            (4) I repeat: we 2 agree with everyone else on marital rape. But many screen off awkward questions and angles and I don’t. Therefore we are dealing with a partial approach vs an approach that intends to be comprehensive. It is clear which is better.

            (5) To say that my nuanced attitude can be speedily characterised is untrue. It is always untrue of nuanced attitudes.

            (6) ‘From what you say, it is very unlikely that you would believe someone’. In other words I would take a definite position that anyone and everyone that came to me was lying. Once we have got over the shock of that assertion, we list the 3 things wrong here:
            A- Everyone who came to me, or to anyone else, would be completely different from each other!
            B- Is it likely that a wide variety of people would all be lying?
            C- Saying we need to see things from all sides is not even close to saying we need to *reverse* the normal way of looking at things.

            (7) Your final paragraph is truisms that no-one could fail to agree with or to have considered before.

            What you are opposing is the stereotyped view you have in mind (perhaps beginning from an incorrect binary position that there are 2 main views?) not my own nuanced and detailed view that defies easy characterisation and intends to be comprehensive.

          • Sid December 8, 2017 at 3:35 pm #

            I stand by all my comments…
            You seem to enjoy the ‘sport’ of this and would rather try and ‘win’ a debate than acknowledge that individual lives are so much more important than having your personal views validated. I don’t care whether you think I am intelligent or not.
            Nothing I have expressed is an unusual viewpoint when it comes to DVA – you will find the same views expressed in both secular and Christian forums.
            Whether *you* think someone is a victim or not makes no difference to the facts, and what makes you qualified in this area anyway? I repeat, there is no sliding scale when it comes to DVA. I think you believe you are being clever by offering your ‘nuanced’ views, but you are actually demonstrating how little you know about the subject.

          • Christopher Shell December 8, 2017 at 6:30 pm #

            I have not often had the experience of an interlocutor with such a high rate (per line) of not understanding my intent or meaning.

            (1) ‘Sport’ appeared out of nowhere. Why?

            (2) Your four-line paragraph poses a false either-or, as though we are only able *either* to value individual lives *or* have a correct theory – but not both. That is obviously untrue.

            (3) On your intelligence, I said neither that you were or weren’t, nor that your words were or weren’t – just that one of your clauses did not show visible signs of it. There may have been thought behind the clause – only you know that.

            (4) Not being unusual just means it is mainstream and fashionable, which does not get us very far. The mainstream is often created by the media, who are not specialists.

            (5) If we find the same viewpoints (which I largely agree with, as you know) expressed in secular and Christian forums, they may both be copying one another or inhaling the Zeitgeist.

            (6) You speak of ‘the facts’ as though you know them before you start. Neither you nor I nor anyone knows what the facts are before they start, only (if ever) at the *end* of the investigative process.

            (7) ‘What makes you qualified’ suggests I have claimed qualification. Where? I haven’t. I am scarcely speaking on the topic of abuse etc anyway here, more on the topic of coherent thought which is necessary in any arena (the present arena just so happens to be the topic of abuse, but it could be any other topic). On the topic of coherent thought I am better qualified to speak. This point also applies to your final 2 lines.

            (8) When you say ‘I repeat’ you are once again making a bald unsupported assertion. You would (rightly!) not accept the authority of a bald unsuported assertion from any of your interlocutors, whether me or another. The very point at issue was that making bald unsupported assertions is questionable.

            (9) Only a very immature person would take delight in being clever rather than in seeking the truth. What would be the point in demonstrating cleverness anyway? However, when it comes to debate it is important to win only in the sense that winning means attaining the truth, which is as we all know the goal of debate.

            (10) My views are nuanced not ‘nuanced’ (the inverted commas could imply I am lying, which I’m not), and the density of instances of misunderstanding serves well to demonstrate that. If my views fitted any stereotype I would not bother to express them, since I would have nothing new to add to the discussion. Any time I do contribute it is because I think I may have something new to say; and because it is new, it is destined often not to be understood, or else inaccurately conformed by the reader/hearer to the closest of the pre-packaged stereotyped stances with which they are already familiar.

          • Sid December 9, 2017 at 8:53 am #

            This will be my final reply because, quite frankly, I have much better things to be doing.
            In reply to your 4th point, my views are not informed by the media, they are informed by volunteeering for two fantastic charities (one Christian, one secular). I have listened to & supported many people suffering DVA and have received excellent training from people who are qualified and have many years of experience working in the area.
            So, I continue to stand by all my previous points and I will continue being a voice for justice wherever I see or hear dangerous views such as yours.

          • Christopher Shell December 9, 2017 at 9:19 pm #

            You would first need to understand what my views are before being able to consider whether or not they are dangerous. I don’t think we differ on the main points, but we differ in how far we are willing to refuse to think only along prescribed lines. I have for decades seen a problem that people will not say things they know will be unpopular or minority; whereas it is of the nature of scholarship to be the search for truth, and in the search for truth popularity or unpopularity is irrelevant; in fact, a lack of concern for popularity is one sign that someone is an honest thinker.

            It’s good you want to be a voice for justice: I do too and am a founder member of a group called Voice For Justice.

  13. deborah salmon December 2, 2017 at 10:16 am #

    My first thought for Meghan and Harry is that I wish them well in their new lives together 🙂 Secondly I do not see how they can not follow the example of Charles and Camilla and have a civil ceremony. I thought it very brave of Charles and Camilla to do this with the understanding of his own weakness and failure throughout his own marriage and the acknowledgement of that ( and Camilla hers). I do not think the idea of Grace is that anything is permissible but grace and truth acknowledges where we have failed and our determination to repent and ask for forgiveness and put it right. I think Grace can cope with the messiness of relationships ( where people are at in their lives) but the church needs to be a upholder of truth to guide people into right living. We can still love people, be inclusive, have full churches but those those lines of truth need to be drawn to serve and protect those who are living righteous lives and sometimes at great cost. I for one am waiting in anticipation to see the dress and yes I think it is a great occasion for our nation and for a couple on the journey of seeking god and starting a new life together 🙂

  14. Brian December 2, 2017 at 3:16 pm #

    “Gloom of Brexit”?? What are you wittering about? The majority of the country is happy to be leaving and doesn’t feel any gloom at all. Please stop projecting metropolitan obsessions!

    OK, that said – I for one couldn’t care less about Harry and his marital plans. I’m afraid the House of Windsor has become irrelevant in the modern world and its accidental entanglement with the Church of England is no longer a strength .It’s just a great shame that the family as a whole – excepting the Queen – has little interest in Christianity.

    But who knows? Maybe post-Brexit the (supposed) Sovereign may become more significant in a sovereign nation. Vivat Regina!

  15. Francis Noordanus December 4, 2017 at 11:44 am #

    Hi Ian,

    Thank you for this. I would like to reference the Church’s position quoted as “The new relationship must have played no part in the ending of the previous one, and those who are divorced need to have learned and experienced healing from the former relationship.” I could not find it in the New Wedding website. Where is that set out?

    • David Shepherd December 4, 2017 at 2:46 pm #

      Hi Francis,

      Have a look at the HoB Advice to the Clergy(GS1499):

      In the section entitled ‘Issues and questions you may wish to consider in the light of the Church’s doctrine of marriage’, we read: http://www.facultyoffice.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/Divorce-HoB-Advice.pdf

      (c) Has there been sufficient healing of the personal and social wounds of marriage breakdown?
      Has there been enough time and distance for the parties concerned to recover emotional stability and good judgement?
      Are there any extant court proceedings relating to the former marriage?
      Are responsibilities to the children of any previous marriage being recognised and honoured?

      (d) Would the effects of the proposed marriage on individuals, the wider community and the Church be such as to undermine the credibility of the Church’s witness to marriage?
      Would the new marriage be likely to be a cause of hostile public comment or scandal?

      (e) Would permitting the new marriage be tantamount to consecrating an old infidelity?
      While it would be unreasonable to expect that the couple should not even have known each other during the former marriage(s), was the relationship between the applicants – so far as you can tell from the information made available to you – a direct cause of the breakdown of the former marriage?

  16. Christopher Shell December 4, 2017 at 2:28 pm #

    ‘Experienced healing from’ is not good wording. It can be taken 2 ways, and one of the 2 ways treats (I quote) ‘the former relationship’ like a disease.

    Also, beware: the Christian form of healing is reconciliation, isn’t it?

    • Ian H December 6, 2017 at 6:06 pm #

      Is recncilliation the same as ‘not divorcing’? I just wonder…..

      • Christopher Shell December 7, 2017 at 10:45 am #

        See my answer above, which came out too high up.

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