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What causes disunity?

It is fairly common in discussion about church relations to cite Jesus’ so-called ‘high priestly’ prayer (John 17) and his concern ‘that they should be one’—not least because Jesus himself connects the unity of his followers with the oneness of God himself, and in both Christian and Jewish contexts this is a fundamental truth about the nature of God. What is less common is to cite the causes behind either unity or disunity, and Jesus also makes those unequivocally clear when he prays that the Father will ‘Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth’ (17.17)—and this sanctification in truth is what leads to unity. And John, in writing his gospel as a true testimony to Jesus’ teaching, claims a particular role when he records Jesus including ‘those who will believe in me through their message’ (17.20). We can only be tough on disunity if we are tough on the causes of disunity.

That has been the consistent position of the Anglican Communion for the last 15 years or so. When the Episcopal Church in the US confirmed the appointment of Gene Robinson as bishop of the Diocese of New Hampshire, this was seen as a major threat to the unity of the Anglican Communion and it provoked an emergency meeting of the Anglican Primates at Lambeth Palace. They produced a lengthy statement, but they were clear on where the problem lay:

We must make clear that recent actions in New Westminster and in the Episcopal Church (USA) do not express the mind of our Communion as a whole, and these decisions jeopardise our sacramental fellowship with each other…This will tear the fabric of our Communion at its deepest level, and may lead to further division on this and further issues as provinces have to decide in consequence whether they can remain in communion with provinces that choose not to break communion with the Episcopal Church (USA)…Similar considerations apply to the situation pertaining in the Diocese of New Westminster.

(New Westminster in Canada has authorised a rite for the blessing same-sex unions in 2002). The disunity was evident in the subsequent establishment of break-away parts of the Episcopal Church, and the intervention of bishops from other areas of the Communion—but the Primates were clear what was the cause of disunity.

The meeting led to the establishment of a Commission which, in 2004, produced the Windsor Report that set out a way to resolve the tensions and disagreements. The Report failed to gain the confidence of dioceses in the Church of England (for various complex reasons) but was received by the Primates in 2005 who expressed their views in what is known as the Dromantine Communique.

12. We as a body continue to address the situations which have arisen in North America with the utmost seriousness. Whilst there remains a very real question about whether the North American churches are willing to accept the same teaching on matters of sexual morality as is generally accepted elsewhere in the Communion, the underlying reality of our communion in God the Holy Trinity is obscured, and the effectiveness of our common mission severely hindered.

So the position continued to be: the Anglican Communion has a shared, historic position; some churches are breaking from that; this is the cause of disunity; and it impairs our life as a church and our mission. In fact, looking back over the life of the Anglican Communion, this has been the consistent position; during Rowan Williams’ tenure as Archbishop, he reiterated this position whenever there were new developments within the Communion which presented this kind of threat to the unity and teaching of the church.


As recently as January 2016, when the Primates met in Canterbury, the same line was reiterated. Alongside the important condemnation of homophobia and criminal sanctions against people in same-sex relationships around the world, the final statement included a three-year sanction for the Episcopal Church in the US.

2. Recent developments in The Episcopal Church with respect to a change in their Canon on marriage represent a fundamental departure from the faith and teaching held by the majority of our Provinces on the doctrine of marriage. Possible developments in other Provinces could further exacerbate this situation.

This is strong and clear language, and is from the Primates as a whole. And they are clear that this is a cause of disunity.

5. In keeping with the consistent position of previous Primates’ meetings such unilateral actions on a matter of doctrine without Catholic unity is considered by many of us as a departure from the mutual accountability and interdependence implied through being in relationship with each other in the Anglican Communion.

6. Such actions further impair our communion and create a deeper mistrust between us. This results in significant distance between us and places huge strains on the functioning of the Instruments of Communion and the ways in which we express our historic and ongoing relationships.

Although there was a commitment to continue to ‘walk together’, such walking would necessarily be ‘at a distance’.


Given that that has been the consistent position of the leaders of the Communion, how strange then to read the one-sided response by Archbishop Justin to what has happened in the Scottish Episcopal Church in voting to recognise and celebrate same-sex marriage in the church. The Archbishop issued a rebuke to those who are initiating ‘cross-border’ episcopal interventions—but there has been no mention of what has provoked this, and no reaffirmation of the consistent position of the Communion. If the action in the US was a ‘fundamental departure’ and ‘unilateral action’ which ‘impair our Communion’, why wasn’t the action in SEC? No wonder some are asking ‘What was the Archbishop thinking?‘ His letter included this comment:

I would also like to remind you of the 1988 Lambeth Conference resolution number 72 on episcopal responsibilities and diocesan boundaries. It also affirms that it is deemed inappropriate behaviour for any bishop or priest of this Communion to exercise episcopal or pastoral ministry within another diocese without first obtaining the permission and invitation of the ecclesial authority thereof.

Which, I think quite naturally, provoked this response.

Surely it isn’t being suggested that the resolutions of the Lambeth Conference of 1988 are somehow binding or authoritative but those of 1998 are not? Why would the Primates need to be “reminded” of their “episcopal responsibilities” by way of something which is not a “key” element of the Communion?

In the course of six months Justin Welby has not just attempted to ride two horses in relation to the significance of Lambeth 1988, he has been riding two entirely different animals in opposite directions. The only explanation for this must be not that he thought no one would notice but that it simply does not matter to him whether his arguments are consistent or not.

Lee Gatiss, of Church Society, articulates the concern of those at the more conservative end:

In his letter, Archbishop Welby sadly seems far more concerned about “cross-border interventions” than with the schismatic and heretical teaching which has infiltrated the Episcopal Church in Scotland (and elsewhere) and emptied churches in the process.

The interesting thing here is not so much whether Lee’s position is right—but that he is pointing out that Archbishop Justin’s focus on cross-border issues, and the lack of any comment on the substantive issue, is completely out of step with the agreed approach of the Anglican Communion over a long time.


I was interviewed on Radio 4’s Sunday programme a couple of weeks ago in relation to the ‘consecration’ of Jonathan Pryke in Jesmond, and in the course of it was asked where my ‘red line’ would be. ‘That is easy’, was my response; ‘the teaching of the Church of England is expressed in its liturgy, so the red line for me is quite simply the point at which the Church decides to change its liturgy and the canons that go with it.’ Without giving too much away, I can say that The Powers That Be responded warmly to my clear articulation of the issue. But that is precisely the red line that has been crossed in Scotland; it is the red line that was crossed by TEC in the US; and it has always been the red line that has been seen to cause a fracture in the Communion and signalled the departure from the consistent teaching of the Church.

Archbishop Justin was notable in taking the initiative to establish good relations around the Communion—I understand that he visited every province in his first year. But I wonder now how those view what appears to be a step change from the previous position. What is worse here is the complete lack of provision for those who uphold historic Anglican teaching in SEC. They won’t be forced to officiate at same-sex marriages, but from a historic Anglican point of view, all that means is ‘We won’t force you to commit sin, but you will have to put up with us sinning’.

Failing to address the causes of disunity is itself an act promoting disunity, and without any further comment this situation can only accelerate the end of the Communion as a whole.


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45 Responses to What causes disunity?

  1. Jonathan Tallon June 16, 2017 at 9:22 am #

    Ian writes:
    “They won’t be forced to officiate at same-sex marriages, but from a historic Anglican point of view, all that means is ‘We won’t force you to commit sin, but you will have to put up with us sinning’.”

    First, this isn’t right. It should be ‘We won’t force you to commit what you consider sin, but you will have to put up with us committing what you consider sin. As we put with you committing what we consider sin.’

    Secondly, this is exactly the situation with remarriage after divorce. Canons were changed to allow remarriage, but no minister has to remarry divorcees.

    You appear to have drawn a thick red line, but already crossed over it yourself (along with the rest of the Church of England) some time ago.

    • Mat Sheffield June 16, 2017 at 9:57 am #

      No Jonathan, I know we agree on much but here you are wrong, at least on the first point.

      “We won’t force you to commit what you consider sin, but you will have to put up with us committing what you consider sin. As we put with you committing what we consider sin.”

      Who is “you”? This attempt to mire the debate in subjectivity is beneath you and anyway, Ian was clear; the line he speaks of is not one set by his individual opinion, but by the canon and teaching of the church as expressed by it’s liturgy. Teaching that is upheld (though at times, I acknowledge, this is a laughable idea..) by it’s clergy and bishops. You cannon dissent from this teaching without acknowledging that to do so causes disunity.

      The “you” here is not Ian, it’s the Anglican Communion as a whole.

      What Ian ‘considers’ (too weak a word to describe the conviction with which this view is held) sin, and what the church authoritatively agrees and teaches to be sin, are not the same. The ‘red line’ Ian speaks of belongs to one but not the other and so he will have only crossed it when as Clergyman himself, he acts in a way defiant of that teaching.

      Your language seems nothing but a poor attempt to get around the otherwise obvious fact: the church has a clear teaching on marriage, articulated in it’s liturgy, and a departure from that represents a departure from the teaching of the church, not from some nebulous commonly-held opinion.

      On the point about remarriage I have some sympathy, as I’m not sure the church can avoid the accusation of at least some hypocrisy here.

      Mat

      • Jonathan Tallon June 16, 2017 at 11:35 am #

        You are speaking as if we all agreed that same-sex marriage is sinful – including those advocating it. But we don’t agree this at all. Hence the change from ‘to commit sin’ to ‘to commit what you consider sin’.

        You also speak of the Anglican Communion as a whole – but the Anglican Communion doesn’t speak as a whole. We are no longer talking of one province, but of provinces in the United States, Canada and Scotland. Others are considering the issue.

        You also speak of dissent. Again, this can be characterised of any change at all in teaching or canons. Was it dissent to introduce women priests? Was it dissent to decide that contraception was acceptable? Were these ‘departures’?

        You talk of ‘what the church authoritatively agrees and teaches to be sin’. I am unclear which church you are speaking of? Clearly the church authorities in Scotland have been through a long synodical process (including bishops, clergy and laity) to get to their current position. This is the highest authority (legally) within the SEC. If you are talking about the wider church – where? In Scotland? The Church of Scotland is considering the issue. In the UK? The Quakers, the United Reformed Church and the Baptists have all come to a similar position to the SEC on this issue. If you are talking of the wider Anglican Communion – it doesn’t have authority, and there is no single body or meeting within it that could issue an authoritative teaching.

        The most you can say is that the SEC decision is against the majority stance in the Anglican Communion.

        So yes, it is subjective. You think it’s sin. I think you are wrong, and that not to change the current position of the church would be sinful. Both of us can point to large groups within churches both Anglican and non-Anglican who support us.

        And I think the point about remarriage is key – why are we happy to accept the difference for heterosexuals, but not homosexuals?

        • Will Jones June 16, 2017 at 11:48 am #

          In case you missed it, here is Andrew Goddard’s discussion of the comparison between remarriage and same-sex unions, from https://www.fulcrum-anglican.org.uk/articles/blessing-same-sex-unions-a-legitimate-pastoral-accommodation/.

          Example 3: Divorce and remarriage

          From 1971 to 2002 a number of areas relating to remarriage after divorce were the subject of several reports and much Synodical debate. Just as debates about sexuality today are set in the context of past official teaching so these debates had an existing framework – particularly the 1957 Act of Convocation by Canterbury Province – for considering proposed changes. It summarised wider Anglican teaching on marriage as permanent and concluded that the Church should not allow the marriage service to be used “in the case of anyone who has a partner still living” and indeed “no public Service shall be held for those who have contracted a civil marriage after divorce”. However, it also stated that “it is not held within the competence of the Convocations to lay down what private prayers the curate in the exercise of his pastoral Ministry may say with the persons concerned, or to issue regulations as to where or when these prayers shall be said”. The bishop’s explicit written permission also had to be sought before baptizing, confirming, or admitting to communion anyone in a marriage where a former partner was still living. During the decades of debate, some clergy rejected and in practice ignored the church’s official stance, exercising their right as registrars to marry anyone who could legally marry. This offers a potentially illuminating example of developing greater pastoral accommodation given the practical areas of dispute have so much overlap. Each can be taken in turn.

          Admission to Baptism, Confirmation and Communion

          It was only in 1982, following the 1978 Lichfield Report, that Synod removed the 1957 rule requiring the bishop’s permission for remarried divorcees to be admitted to communion. This established the level of pastoral accommodation now also permitted to lay people in same-sex unions including marriage.

          Remarriage in Church

          Before changing policy, the church wrestled with theological principles. Two theological reports (The 1971 Root Report and 1978 Lichfield Report) concluded that it was compatible with reason, the Word of God in Scripture, and theological tradition to, in certain circumstances, allow marriage in church of divorced persons. That this was nevertheless pastoral accommodation was seen in Root’s proposal that penitential material should be introduced for such marriages. Synod did not accept either of these studies. Only in July 1981 did Synod agree that while “marriage should always be undertaken as a lifelong commitment…there are circumstances in which a divorced person may be married in church during the lifetime of a former partner”. However, Synod also agreed that “before any action is taken to repeal or modify the relevant existing regulations and resolutions of the Convocations” there needed to be agreement on how to proceed and that proved intractable. Having failed to agree on how to permit re-marriage in church in 1985 a liturgy for prayer after a civil marriage was authorized (see below).

          In 1994 Synod invited the bishops to “consider the present practice of marriage in church after divorce, and to report” and Marriage in Church After Divorce finally appeared in 2000, preceded by a 1999 teaching document on marriage, signaling the need to explain teaching before proposing any changes in practice. This led to the House of Bishops’ report in 2002 (GS 1449) which included guidance for clergy on when to allow remarriage in church. Finally, in July 2002, General Synod passed a motion by 269 votes to 83 which allowed remarriage in church and in November 2002, over three decades after a theological report unanimously recommended support for some remarriage, all 3 Houses of Synod decided by large majorities to rescind the marriage resolutions of the Canterbury and York Convocations.

          The current situation again is clearly a form of pastoral accommodation. First, it makes clear that the Church of England has a doctrine of marriage and that this includes it being life-long so any marriage must be undertaken with that intention. Second, the circumstances in which remarriage in church should happen are “exceptional”. Third, the bishops’ advice to clergy opens by clearly stating that such decisions are to be based on church teaching: “It is not…a light matter to solemnise a marriage in which one partner has a previous partner still living. It is important that the decision you take as to whether to solemnise such a marriage should be on the basis of clear principles that are consistent with the church’s teaching”. Fourth, there is no requirement for clergy to marry anyone who has a surviving spouse.

          Services of Prayer and Dedication after Civil Marriage

          In the two decades between Synod agreeing that “there are circumstances in which a divorced person may be married in church during the lifetime of a former partner” and establishing a process another form of pastoral accommodation appeared. In 1985, Synod removed the 1957 prohibition on any service at all where someone had a surviving spouse and the bishops commended a Service of Prayer and Dedication after a Civil Marriage. This rejected the unanimous decision of the 1978 Lichfield Report which was “of one mind in rejecting the suggestion of a public service of prayer and dedication. We recommend that the present use of such services be brought to an end” (para 232, italics original). The report’s discussion of this proposal is very illuminating as a consideration of pastoral accommodation, especially given the current calls for some similar form of service, distinct from the marriage service, for same-sex couples (see longer discussion for details). 5 Although criticisms of such a service have continued, it remains an authorized liturgy which some have seen as a potential model to adapt for use after a civil same-sex marriage.

          Clergy and marriage after divorce

          It was not until 1990 that another recommendation of the Lichfield report led to a revision of the canons to allow the ordination of those with a surviving spouse or who marry someone with a surviving spouse. In another example of how to accomplish pastoral accommodation this was done by maintaining (slightly amended) canon C4 which gives a seemingly absolute prohibition but setting out a process (new para 3A) by which exceptions to this could be permitted by the Archbishops. This remains the situation today: nobody can be ordained deacon or priest if they have a surviving spouse or are married to someone with a surviving spouse without formal scrutiny and the issuing of a faculty. In 2010 the bishops issued a statement which clarified the situation in relation to the episcopate based on legal and theological advice and there is now a process used by those appointing bishops.

          Application to same-sex unions?

          Some will believe that the church has been too accommodating on remarriage and if so then clearly it is not an example to follow. Others, however, will see this as a model for pastoral accommodation to those in same-sex unions. There are, however, a number of important differences or questions which are summarized below (see longer article for more details).
          1.There are important biblical and theological distinctions between the two issues.
          2.Accommodation relied on an agreed prior understanding of the church’s teaching about marriage’s permanence which was compatible with allowing further marriage during the lifetime of a former spouse.
          3.Before authorizing liturgies or revising canons the church had clearly agreed to this understanding and affirmed the principle that there are circumstances in which a divorced person may be married in church during the lifetime of a former partner. This was not understood as revising the teaching or changing doctrine but clarifying it in relation to a particular situation.
          4.A liturgy for prayer and dedication was only approved once it had been agreed in principle that remarriage in church after divorce could be permitted and because agreeing a way to do this was proving difficult.
          5.Those who remarried after divorce were clearly accepting the church’s historic teaching on marriage and the service of prayer affirmed this.
          6.The debate related to how to distinguish between different examples of marriage after divorce based largely on the complex personal histories of each couple: some remarriages could be pastorally accommodated, others could not.
          7.In deciding whether or not to accommodate, the principles for reaching a decision were found within the church’s teaching on marriage and accommodation was not to be offered without reference to this teaching.
          8.It was acknowledged that further marriage and the circumstances leading to it were a sign of sin and failure and the world’s brokenness.

          In summary, how the Church of England has responded to remarriage during the lifetime of a former spouse is the best example to consider in relation to forms of pastoral accommodation that might be extended to same-sex couples. However, there are many serious problems in so doing. In particular, the practical changes only occurred with official sanction once it had been shown how they were compatible with the church’s teaching on marriage and agreement reached on such compatibility. The Church of England has not done this in relation to same-sex unions and it is difficult to see how it could do so given its current teaching.

          • Jonathan Tallon June 16, 2017 at 12:05 pm #

            Just a couple of comments on the final 8 points Andrew makes:

            3. “This was not understood as revising the teaching or changing doctrine but clarifying it in relation to a particular situation.” Interesting use of language. Those in favour of same-sex marriage are ‘dissenting’ or ‘departing’ from the teaching; those in favour of remarriage are ‘clarifying’.

            5. “Those who remarried after divorce were clearly accepting the church’s historic teaching on marriage” – if you can remarry after divorce and accept the church’s historic teaching, I don’t understand what the obstacle could be to same-sex marriage.

          • David Shepherd June 16, 2017 at 1:23 pm #

            Jonathan,

            In response to point 5 (“Those who remarried after divorce were clearly accepting the church’s historic teaching on marriage”), you wrote:
            ‘if you can remarry after divorce and accept the church’s historic teaching, I don’t understand what the obstacle could be to same-sex marriage.’

            For divorcees, who wish to re-marry in church, their acceptance of the church’s historic teaching on marriage is demonstrated by an affirmative answer to the first pastoral guidance question: ‘Do the couple understand that divorce is a breach of God’s will for marriage?’

            The pastoral accommodation of same-sex couples should involve the parallel question would be: ‘Do the couple understand that same-sex sexual relationships are a breach of God’s will for marriage?’

            If same-sex couples can’t acknowledge this, then therein lies the obstacle.

          • Christopher Shell June 16, 2017 at 2:21 pm #

            From 1971 to 2002.

            Yes – the dates give it away. Cultural conformity.

          • Christopher Shell June 17, 2017 at 11:38 pm #

            Jonathan, it is a false argument to say that there was a capitulation on divorce so why not also capitulate on SSM (my term, not yours). Is it not obvious that there is the option not to be culturally compliant on divorce in the first place?

            Your argument is of the nature ‘Billy broke a window, so it follows that you can have no valid objection if I break a vase.’

        • Mat Sheffield June 16, 2017 at 12:57 pm #

          “You are speaking as if we all agreed that same-sex marriage is sinful – including those advocating it. But we don’t agree this at all. Hence the change from ‘to commit sin’ to ‘to commit what you consider sin’. “

          Of course we are not all agreed, I did not say or imply that we were, nor that you are not entitled to your opinion. I am accusing you of missing the point and framing the debate about unity unhelpfully; framing it in terms of individual human opinions and not of conformity to established teaching and practice (which is what the article rests it’s case on).

          I was not meaning to say that your opinions are somehow invalid or unwanted, or even that they are wrong, just to be clear on that too. I thought I was explicit in what I said, but will try to be clearer.

          1. When it comes to “the church”, I meant specifically the Anglican Communion (AC), as opposed to the worldwide church. While there is “…no Anglican central authority such as a pope., is is not true to describe issues of authority/standards of practice in the communion simply as matters of ‘majority consensus’. The AC website is clear: “Each Church makes its own decisions in its own ways, guided by recommendations from the Lambeth Conference, Anglican Consultative Council, the Primates’ Meeting and the Archbishop of Canterbury.”. Obviously this permits a large degree of freedom and diversity, but it does not mean that there is no sort of authority to appeal to, but rather that it does not rest in one person/council alone and is shared, built upon the tradition that everyone shares.

          2. For as long as the above remains true it doesn’t matter how wrong or mistaken you believe the teaching/endorsement is (and I agree, there is debate and it is by no means a unanimously held position), you will be a dissenter by definition; one standing at odds with what is being taught. This is not in itself a huge, or rare, problem, and probably the majority of both laity and clergy dissent in some way or another from an aspect of official church teaching…..

          The critical issue, the ‘red line’ if you will, was that for the TEC (and possibly for the SEC too) this dissent from established teaching passed from simply holding a different view, to the expression and practice of one. That is the root cause of the disunity. It is not that people ‘hold’ a view different to established teaching and are questioning it, but that they choose to act in a way that alters practice to endorse/support/proclaim that difference without the backing, guidance and support of those overseeing it.

        • Clive June 17, 2017 at 7:35 am #

          Dear Jonathan,

          To be a Christian you follow Jesus Christ in full. If like the SEC you downgrade what Jesus says to redefine out of existence all bits you don’t like then you make Jesus just another wise man you can dismiss when you like.

          You have talked about SSM not being a sin and remarriage after divorce as being sinful…However:
          Matthew 19 answers both:

          For divorce:
          8 Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. 9 I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.”

          So Jesus says divorce can happen but it is NOT ideal.

          Also in Matthew 19 Jesus tells us about marriage:
          4 “Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’[a] 5 and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’[b]? 6 So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

          So marriage is only between a man and a woman and the environment is created for a family.
          So Jesus makes no discussion of a divorce between a man and a man or between a woman and a woman because marriage is only between a man and a woman.

          So divorce is considered by Jesus Christ
          SSM is not considered by Jesus Christ

  2. Philip Almond June 16, 2017 at 11:32 am #

    Speaking absolutely, the Church’s doctrine of Marriage is very important; it is not a gnat. But, speaking relatively, compared to the camel of the Church’s doctrine of Original Sin it is a gnat.

    Phil Almond

  3. Will Jones June 16, 2017 at 11:52 am #

    Justin Welby’s one-sided response seems like a crazy move at this juncture, and an inauspicious one at that. He needs some better advisers, methinks, and fast.

  4. Christopher Shell June 16, 2017 at 2:25 pm #

    The red line was already crossed with divorce, also with equivocation about abortion.

    In what ways is divorce a worse thing than homosexual practice?
    (1) It has a dominical saying.
    (2) That dominical saying in essence though not in detail is the best attested bar none.
    (3) It harms more people.
    (4) The people it harms are more innocent on average.
    (5) It is the most stressful thing other than bereavement (and occasionally house moves).

    in what ways is it equally bad?
    (1) It changes basic structures of society.
    (2) It involves in most cases either fornication or adultery.

    • David Shepherd June 16, 2017 at 3:39 pm #

      Hi Christopher,

      Can you clarify how your point about the injuriousness of divorce relates to the Matthaen exception (Matt. 19:9) and the Pauline privilege (1 Cor. 7:10-15)?

      • Christopher Shell June 17, 2017 at 11:56 pm #

        The Matthean exception never lessened the injuriousness.
        It might see divorce as now being a fact on the ground, and adultery as being the enactment of it.
        Trouble is, this allows the guilty party to set the agenda and the innocent party, if any, to be powerless in this regard.
        Matthew was a rabbinic sort of writer and would want hard cases to be acknowledged for the sake of completeness. He may have felt that the blanket condemnation was question-begging. It is not clear that he had dominical source material for his exception. In general one searches long and hard for Matthean nonMarkan original dominical source material.

        Pauline privilege: I am probably being slow but I am not sure whether I see any green light for divorce in 1 Cor 7.15. When it says a believing man or woman is not bound does it not mean that they are not compelled to live with unbelieving spouse? I.e. it is referring back to vv12-13 – the unbeliever may on occasions not be willing to live with the believer.
        Of course this again has the guilty party setting the agenda, and what Paul does not say is that there will be times when the unbeliever leaves and the believer considers themselves deserted thereby, which is a very serious matter indeed.

        Desertion indeed is the number one case where the idea that all parties to divorce must be guilty or adulterers falls flat. Because some parties are unwilling, often very unwilling indeed. As Peter Hitchens says, the law or the state will (wickedly, and against normal practice and logic) force you to break your most precious promise and will side with the disruptive party, (however immature that disruptive element be and however Christian the victim be).

        • David Shepherd June 18, 2017 at 7:19 am #

          Hi Christopher,

          You wrote that the exception: ‘might see divorce as now being a fact on the ground, and adultery as being the enactment of it.’ This interpretation is purely speculative, since the exception permitting the divorce is by reason of porneia, which (as the LXX reveals) has a far broader meaning than just adultery (moichatai

          You also wrote: ‘ It is not clear that he had dominical source material for his exception. In general one searches long and hard for Matthean nonMarkan original dominical source material.

          Yet, as part of the canon of scripture, this exception for the cause of sexual immorality still stands as part of Jesus’ pronouncement and its validity is not somehow diminished by an inability to locate further dominical corroboration. Nor can we limit the scope of exception by speculating about Matthew’s motivation for including it.

          Regarding Pauline privilege (1 Cor. 7:15), you wrote: ‘When it says a believing man or woman is not bound does it not mean that they are not compelled to live with unbelieving spouse?’

          Yet, your interpretation would mean that Paul’s instruction was counteracting no more than a sense of enduring obligation of a believing man or woman to dwell with a spouse who is already no longer dwelling with them (since this is the exact situation addressed by his instruction). That explanation doesn’t make sense.

          ‘Ou dedoulotai’ means no longer under the bond, or obligation of belonging to another (cf. Greek, doulos). Since such obligation characterises the legal status of spouses (cf. Rom. 7:2; 1 Cor. 7:39), Paul’s permission relieves the Christian of further obligation to a divorcing spouse, who has deserted the marriage.

          • Christopher Shell June 19, 2017 at 12:59 am #

            David, I suspect that you have thought about this issue more than I.

            Re: Matthew – The canonical and historical modes of interpretation cannot ever harmonise but there certainly are good reasons for seeing the latter as better (and, in fact, also the former as circular). There is not another area of life where the contribution of the trained expert would not be seen as the main type of contribution. NT scholars would (as in all things) take the historical approach here, while also giving a place to canonical issues.

            Casey whose account of the historical Jesus is among the most penetrating agrees that if we want to know what Jesus said on divorce we should basically stick to Mark.

            As for adultery, I use the term because it is the type of porneia relevant to married people, or a shorthand for porneia committed by the married.

            I’m not sure that your final para allows divorce for Christians in this Pauline circumstance, although it could mean that they will sometimes through no doing of their own be on the other end of a divorce initiated by an unbelieving spouse. Like suffering a murder or a theft rather than performing it.

  5. Don Benson June 16, 2017 at 8:29 pm #

    Those of us who are lay people within the Church of England may feel a bit reticent about contributing comments on this truly excellent blog, which is primarily aimed at people in full or part time ministry – perhaps we should stick to Cranmer where there are enough obsessives and ill-informed commenters to make us feel more at home! But here we don’t necessarily have the time and inside knowledge to comment at a detailed level on every issue; nevertheless we may be better placed to see the wood for the trees as we observe things from a perspective which is less influenced by the pressures of being an insider.

    However, the trajectory of the CofE with regard to sexuality in particular has for at least 3 years been so clear, so misdirected and so relentless that you would be hard put not to notice it and therefore to be deeply troubled / angry at the people and methods used to drag the church into apostasy. Gavin Ashenden likens it to a game of chess; I would suggest that dominos is more appropriate because there’s precious little sophistication about it and no theology to challenge even us simple-minded laymen. But one cannot help regretting how little engagement there seems to be over this fundamental issue from rank and file folk in the pews. I wonder how much wailing there will be when they wake up to find their spiritual home has been seized from under their noses.

    But layman Daniel Leafe has written an excellent piece (quoted by Ian above) showing how orthodoxy is now only permissible in the Church of England via the explicit acceptance of heterodoxy. (http://anglicanmainstream.org/what-was-the-archbishop-of-canterbury-thinking-a-layman-responds/)
    In it he says: ‘I am a mere layman, without theological pretensions and without an academic expertise in the affairs of the Communion but I am very far from alone among lay people in being able to identify the fallacious thinking of Justin Welby…My fellow lay-people and I may not be ecclesiastical sophisticates but nor are we stupid. We are not deceived.’

    Well ‘Amen’ to that but time’s up now and it’s going to have no effect on an archbishop who is firmly and unrepentantly ‘out’ on this issue. What a pity the orthodox faithful within the church could not get organized when they might have carried some weight. It’s not as if we weren’t warned by our brothers and sisters in the USA.

    But now the fire has spread to our own neighbour’s house and Justin Welby chooses to complain about uninvited firemen. Truly we must be approaching the end game.

  6. Philip Almond June 16, 2017 at 11:30 pm #

    But, I hope, we are not quite at the endgame. Those who believe that the Articles are a true summary of the doctrines of God, sin and salvation should be much more forthright in a humble courteous way in challenging the Archbishops, Bishops and other ordinands to say what they really believe about these doctrines. The Apostle Paul’s rebuke to the Apostle Peter is in the public domain while this age lasts. Surely the time has come for open disagreement between Archbishops, Bishops and Presbyters on these vital truths – especially on the doctrine of Original Sin. This must happen before any ‘separation’ (call it what you will as mooted by CEEC takes place.

    Phil Almond

  7. Philip Almond June 17, 2017 at 10:06 am #

    What is the doctrine of the Church of England?

    The General Synod Report from the House of Bishops, GS2055, ‘Marriage and Same Sex Relationships after the Shared Conversations’ contains two paragraphs with implications wider and deeper than the main subject of the Report.

    ‘48. Canon A 5 states that “The doctrine of the Church of England is grounded in the Holy Scriptures, and in such teachings of the ancient Fathers and Councils of the Church as are agreeable to the said Scriptures. In particular such doctrine is to be found in the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion, The Book of Common Prayer, and the Ordinal.” These are singled out as particular sources of doctrine, not exclusive ones.’

    ‘49. Canon A 5 thus preserves a degree of latitude in how clergy interpret the doctrines of the Church of England. But it is a latitude with boundaries. Where the Canons set out the content of particular doctrines, those canonical provisions define the boundaries in respect of the matters they address.’

    The authors of GS2055 have understood ‘particular sources’ in paragraph 48 to mean ‘not exclusive’ sources. This is questionable. The more obvious meaning of ‘particular’ in this context is something like ‘specifically’. This makes much better sense of the wording of Canon A5, given the context of the situation when the Articles were composed. That context was the Reformation debates and disagreements, with Roman Catholic and Protestant theologians each claiming the Bible and the Fathers in support of their views on the great doctrines at stake, such as Scripture, Original Sin, Free Will, Predestination, Justification, Good Works and Ministry. Canon A5 is saying that the Church’s position on these vital matters is to be found in the Articles, Prayer Book and Ordinal. In the Bishops’ thinking the ‘degree of latitude’ claimed by paragraph 49 clearly depends on setting the Articles, Prayer Book and Ordinal alongside other sources of doctrine, opening the door to interpretations of doctrine which would be ruled out if the Articles, Prayer Book and Ordinal were the only sources.

    Also Canon A5 should be read alongside Canon C15 – Of the Declaration of Assent. In the Preface to the Declaration it is stated that the Church of England has been led by the Holy Spirit to bear witness to Christian truth in the Articles, Prayer Book and Ordinal (No mention of ‘particular’ there!).

    A red line was crossed when some ordinands started to make the Declaration of Assent without believing ex animo that we are all faced with the wrath and condemnation of God from birth onwards. Or am I wrong? Is it the case that all ordinands, including the Archbishops and Bishops, do believe these things ex animo and in their preaching and teaching regularly draw attention to this terrible truth and to the wonderful deliverance from that wrath and condemnation which is offered by the Christian gospel to all who repent and believe? I would be humbled and glad to be convinced of that.

    When I asked on Fulcrum when was the last time the Archbishop of Canterbury preached a public sermon on the wrath of God, one response was that if he, in his position, did that, it would be a hate crime.

    Phil Almond

  8. Thomas Renz June 17, 2017 at 11:37 am #

    Christopher Shell – like Andrew Goddard and others I have explained elsewhere why I do not believe that permitting remarriage after divorce has crossed a red line. I have explored this with blog posts on Geoffrey Fisher’s Problems of Marriage and Divorce (London: SPCK, 1956) and on David Atkinson, To Have and to Hold: The Marriage Covenant and the Discipline of Divorce (St James’s Place, London: Collins, 1979) and commented more than once on the continuing validity of the phrase “lifelong union” in relation to marriage, e.g. at http://hadleyrectory.blogspot.co.uk/2016/01/on-affirming-marriage-as-lifelong-union.html.

    But I’d be interested to know what “the red line was already crossed with divorce” means to you because it seems to be a case either of affirming that we can be disciples of Christ without following the words of Jesus as conveyed to us in the Bible, especially the fourfold Gospel, and so just as we ignored Jesus on marriage being lifelong we can ignore him on marriage being between a man and a woman. Or it could mean that we have crossed a line we should not have crossed and need to pray and maybe campaign for the CofE to return to a stricter view on remarriage after divorce.

    • Christopher Shell June 17, 2017 at 11:59 pm #

      It means the latter.

      It cannot be said too often that the ‘argument’ ‘We have disobeyed on divorce so it is fine if we also disobey on SSM’ is juvenile, opportunistic, and logically false. It bypasses the central fact that disobeying on divorce is harmful ie wrong, sinful.

      • Thomas Renz June 18, 2017 at 12:39 am #

        I have not heard anyone explicitly make the argument “We have disobeyed on divorce so it is fine if we also disobey on SSM” although some come pretty close to it, see, e.g., http://hadleyrectory.blogspot.co.uk/2016/01/agreeing-and-disagreeing-with-angus_23.html. I agree that this is opportunistic and logically false.

        Whether the actual words we have in the Gospel according to Matthew go back to Jesus or not, the church must assume that they reflect the mind of Christ or else separate the Jesus of history from the Christ who still speaks to us today through the Scripture.

        The growing belief in the Western church that marriage (between Christians) is indissoluble looks to me like the building of a fence around the law which is meant to ensure that we never even get close to breaking the law and which thereby imposes a burden on people (the victims of abuse marriages and the victims of divorce) that was not imposed by God. I wonder whether in fact it was prompted by growing laxity regarding church discipline but I do not know enough of the details. (If those who abuse their marriage partner or vows were excluded from the church, would the marriage still be considered as an indissoluble bond between two Christians?)

  9. deborah salmon June 17, 2017 at 4:33 pm #

    I am sure in all this the impact on children may hopefully come into all this. Very often these debates are with adult mind sets and understanding and yet if you look at the impact on children of divorced parents even if it is done amicably still causes mental instability and sadness and loss in many cases and question marks over future relationships. Does a persons right to happiness trump somebody elses especially those who are more vunerable!
    I am sure Jesus takes that seriously? Just a thought?

    • David Shepherd June 17, 2017 at 6:31 pm #

      Hi Deborah,

      I’m trying to understand what you mean when you write: ‘Does a person’s right to happiness trump somebody else’s especially those who are more vulnerable!

      Your question carries the (possibly unwitting) blanket implication that divorce equates to one adult parent (or both) pursuing their right to happiness, but in a manner which invariably wreaks havoc in the emotional and psychological well-being of their vulnerable children.

      If this was indeed the case, then I’d wonder why Jesus would countenance divorce for the reason of sexual immorality. Or why St. Paul would declare a Christian to be no longer under obligation to an unbelieving spouse who deserts their marriage.

      The truth is that, although some divorce for the sake of happiness, many others divorce for the sake of safety.
      Hi Deborah,

      I’m trying to understand what you mean when you write: ‘Does a person’s right to happiness trump somebody else’s especially those who are more vulnerable!

      Your question carries the (possibly unwitting) blanket implication that divorce equates to one adult parent (or both) pursuing their right to happiness, but in a manner which invariably wreaks havoc in the emotional and psychological well-being of their vulnerable children.

      If this was indeed the case, then I’d wonder why Jesus would countenance divorce for the reason of sexual immorality. Or why St. Paul would declare a Christian to be no longer under obligation to an unbelieving spouse who deserts their marriage.

      The truth is that, although some divorce for the sake of happiness, just as many others divorce for the sake of their emotional and physical safety.

      In fact, part of the danger of a blanket characterisation of divorce as the pursuit of adult happiness at the expense of children is that it brooks no possibility that, while it should be a last resort, divorce can sometimes provide the only permanent means of escape from the very real harm of spousal infidelity, abuse, desertion and parental neglect (which is often as a concomitant of the former).

    • Christopher Shell June 18, 2017 at 12:00 am #

      Hear, hear. But it ought not to need to be said since it is so obvious. Either many modern adults are lacking in conscience or they are lacking in memory or they are lacking in both.

  10. deborah salmon June 17, 2017 at 7:57 pm #

    The issue here is not divorce but remarriage.Divorce causes disunity and remarriage causes further disunity. You can not talk about unity when you are blessing further disunity. What does unity actually mean then? Jesus limits divorce (does society?) He talks about divorce being permitted because of hardness of hearts and unwillingness to compromise and obey ( not very sentimental there). So in the light of this and the rate to which divorce happens questions need to be answered.As for remarriage! Say for example 2 people get married before god and become one flesh, that original union is what has been in the sight of god….They start to struggle and decide to part….does the church in its pastoral outreach in allowing them to remarry other people deny that original union as null and void and the second union as also blessed? Sounds a bit catholic to me :)Just because the church has decided that it is in many cases does not mean god does. Someone said to me about remarriage in church that people want god to be part of it but to me the same god with the same power was there in the first marriage! Surely?Every time this subject comes up it always gets taken over by the same arguments which are about abuse and severe emotional distress and affairs and these seem to overide most of divorces that do not come under these categories that the church still bless and remarry.( why not get that bit sorted first) The majority of people who divorce do so on the grounds of incompatability, grown apart, drifted apart, want different things etc. The majority of people I have known over the years this has been the case ( yes marriage is hard). One woman I knew put one of the grounds for divorce as ” he would not put the bins out”? Severe emotional abuse or an affair?I also know many people who did not want a divorce! It happened and they watched their ex partners being blessed by church. Ouch for them!!!!! The whole thing about not remarrying someone while their spouse was alive was surely out of respect for them. So not only are they hurt but watch the church bless the person who left them Hmmmm this I do not understand from a pastoral point of view. Just lots of questions as I am tired and its not well put but divorce has huge costs on society, children, mental health and the tax payer about 40billion pounds.

    • David Shepherd June 17, 2017 at 11:51 pm #

      Hi Deborah,

      Thanks for your reply. As should be understandable from my own reply, I neither support ‘no-fault divorce’, nor the delegation of broad, unqualified discretion to parish priests, who deciding whether to re-marry the divorced.

      My comment did highlight the inadequacy of generalising divorce as the selfish pursuit of adults’ happiness at the expense of children, as implied by your question: ‘Does a person’s right to happiness trump somebody else’s especially those who are more vulnerable’. It appeared as though you believed that the priority of the children’s happiness is always best served by the couple simply staying together.

      Regarding the cause of disunity, while divorce may eventually result from a couple’s continued disunity, it cannot be identified as its cause. In fact, the cause of disunity is, as you describe, ‘hardness of heart and unwillingness to compromise’. Neither Christ and Paul indicate that a spouse is under obligation to compromise with dishonourable, destructive behaviour, such as infidelity, violence or desertion.

      In those specific circumstances, it would be a travesty for the Church to ignore the scriptural exceptions and bless a facade of unity which connives at spousal abuse.

      I’d agree that, in the light of the divorce rate, important questions need to be answered, but it’s the wider society, rather than the Church, which trivialises marriage through the provision of ‘no-fault’ divorce.

      In 1 Cor. 7:15, St. Paul considered the desertion of the Christian by an unbelieving spouse and wrote: ‘But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases: but God has called us to peace. So, your question about whether the church denies that original union as null and void could just as well be addressed to the apostle.

      The word for bondage here dedoulotai signifies being under enduring obligation by belonging to another. So, it would not make sense for Paul to declare that a Christian has no further obligation to a deserting spouse, only to sustain that obligation by prohibiting further re-marriage. You’re either under obligation, or you’re not.

      I’d agree that the Church’s pastoral guidance on this matter (GS 1449) does not adhere to precise scriptural reasons for divorce. However, that guidance does require clergy, who consider applications by the divorced to re-marry in church, to refuse to re-marry those who treat their marital breakdown with impenitence, or have divorced for trivial, selfish reasons, by asking:
      (b) Do the applicants have a mature view of the circumstances of the breakdown of the previous marriage and are they ready to enter wholeheartedly and responsibly into a new relationship?
      Does the divorced person appear to be relatively free of self-deception and self-justification about the past?
      Did the divorced person take the first marriage seriously and has he/she learnt from mistakes?
      Is the other party aware of the possible cause(s) of the breakdown of their future partner’s previous marriage?
      Is there an attitude of repentance, forgiveness and generosity of spirit so that the applicants are free to build a new relationship?

      (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?

      It’s really not the fault of the guidance that, for fear of excessive intrusion, or causing offence, some parish priests shy away from the level of scrutiny that these probing questions demand and which would prevent such trivialisation of marriage and harm to ex-spouses and children as you’ve described.

      I also agree with you on the terrible impact of divorce on society, children and mental health. Yet, if, by re-marrying a divorcee, a parish priest either blesses an old infidelity, or connives at previous marital wrongdoing, he/she does so in contravention of the Church’s pastoral guidance.

    • Christopher Shell June 18, 2017 at 12:03 am #

      You can’t say you have drifted apart. If that has happened you yourself caused it, so you cannot cite it as something over which you have no control.

      It reminds me of the apocryphal notion that Geoffrey Boycott’s ‘key test’ analysis of the cracks in the wicket was an opportunity for him to make further cracks himself, so that he caused the very thing he was then analysing.

      • Christopher Shell June 18, 2017 at 12:10 am #

        The point being: for every second you sit there intoning ‘we have grown apart’ you could instead be spending that time actively growing together. You are an active agent not a passive recipient of some supposed ‘inevitable’ fate. And have you noticed the illogical presupposition that all inevitable things are negative? That makes no sense and should always be refuted.

        • David Shepherd June 18, 2017 at 11:05 am #

          ‘The point being: for every second you sit there intoning ‘we have grown apart’ you could instead be spending that time actively growing together.’

          And even better, church members could instead also be helping them to actively grow together, instead of so many of them merely gossiping about their problems and then launching into a tirade against divorce, once it becomes a fait accompli

          If the church and its members are not willing to invest substantial resources in programmes which can pre-empt divorce, then Christ’s denunciation of the Pharisees is equally applicable:

          ‘They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them. Matt. 23:4

          • Christopher Shell June 19, 2017 at 1:07 am #

            I think the local church (which is generally a lot of people) getting involved creates 2 problems:

            (1) marital disunity is acknowledged as a *settled* and *formalised* reality or problem rather than a passing one, which is both without evidence (in the nature of things there can be no evidence for future events) and unacceptably negative. Settling and formalising it will only make things worse.

            (2) if there were a course (not quite an anti-marriage course, but at least an inverse marriage course, defined by a negative concept rather than by a positive one) then everyone would know who was on it. That would create the very gossip among the pharisees that the idea is to avoid. Whereas if people argue in private, almost no-one will know that, and a good thing too.

          • David Shepherd June 21, 2017 at 4:02 pm #

            Hi Christopher,

            I’m not quite sure how you can suggest that for the whole church to address divorce pre-emptively (which you yourself describe as ‘festering and groaning malaise’ ) is both without evidence (in the nature of things there can be no evidence for future events) and unacceptably negative.

            If marital disunity is without evidence, how then do you describe the resultant effect as a festering and groaning malaise?

            In terms of actively helping couples to grow together, I would envisage a programme which would assist more experienced church members in helping fellow believers as St. Paul outlined in Titus 2:3 – 5: ‘Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.

            It’s interesting how St. Paul believes that the antidote for the vices to avoid (like slander which is so often manifested through unsubstantiated gossip) is the virtue of teaching and encouraging by compassionate counsel and example.

            For those with marital problems, a church programme which equips its members with the ‘first-aid’ of listening skills, patient counsel and encouragement is far more valuable than the all-too-prevalent ethos of looking askance at and fearing spiritual contamination by any parish resident whose marriage is known to be in trouble.

    • Christopher Shell June 19, 2017 at 1:40 am #

      Deborah, you have given ample reasons to challenge the position that divorce is not a very wicked thing. How would that position be defended?

  11. Thomas Renz June 17, 2017 at 11:27 pm #

    There is no denying that the high incidence of divorce in our society has caused and continues to cause harm to many individuals, not least to children, as well as to society at large. On the face of it the law of the land seems to make divorce too easy and I find it believable that some clergy collude with this by not following the pastoral guidelines.

    People who divorce so on the grounds of incompatibility, because they have grown apart, want different things, should not be offered a further marriage in church, certainly not without signs of repentance and of a Christian understanding of marriage that allows them to see that these are not valid grounds for a divorce.

    The question is whether the Church of England in the past was right to deny further marriage even to most of those who have been deserted or abused. (There has always been a significant part of the Church of England that accepted the Roman Catholic view that it is impossible to break a marriage between two Christians although this has never been the legal position within the separate Church of England. The Reformers, both on the continent and in England, considered this one of the areas in which the Roman Catholic church erred. The historic Protestant view is closer to the Eastern Orthodox view that the permanence of marriage is a divine ideal and moral obligation rather than a necessary fact.)

    The difference between separation and divorce is that the latter means freedom to marry again. To allow divorce means to allow remarriage. Those in the church who started to oppose remarriage in the lifetime of a former marriage partner (in a departure from the Jewish tradition) therefore did so by denying the possibility of divorce.

    • David Shepherd June 18, 2017 at 12:05 am #

      All good points, Thomas.

    • Christopher Shell June 18, 2017 at 12:05 am #

      Compromise on divorce is like the Dolorous Stroke in the story of Balin and Balan, a festering and groaning malaise that needs to be effectively exorcised or redeemed at root. When that happens there would be a wonderful sense of cleansing.

      • David Shepherd June 18, 2017 at 9:15 am #

        The time for pastoral intervention in order to remedy the malaise of marital breakdown is not after divorce has occurred, but long before.

        The better comparison is James’ analogy about faith without works being dead. Some are dead to the plight of couples needing help in reversing marital breakdown, preferring to declare the paraphrase: Be thou reconciled and peaceful’

  12. Deborah Salmon June 18, 2017 at 2:19 pm #

    Peaceful and reconciled sounds good to me and a good example of a marriage . Maybe instead of every one trying to tell everyone else how to be married that the first attractive example and a witness needs to be happy, content peaceful marriages? As for marriage in recent years I have heard alot about women in ministry, gay marriage , issues in Syria, money, the poor, brexit, the eu but very little about marriage and only recently!, We have been taught that the most important things are these issues yet these issues are often addressed in good relationships lonelineds and fragmentation of relationships is the biggest threat in our society .It is getting that balance back right and integrity right. You can’t tell people about right relationships if you are avoiding issues in your own. The hardest thing you will do in life is get married and stay married yet the easiest thing to do is meet lots of other needs and avoid own issues. This is from one who has been married 28 years and had to learn alot of painful lessons x

    • David Shepherd June 19, 2017 at 12:13 am #

      To be clear about the paraphrased Bible quote: ‘What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?’ James 2:14-16

      Well done on your 28 years of marriage. However, unless those who set the fine example of getting it right can translste their painful lessons into genuine empathy, I’m not sure how they can help other couples who aren’t.

      Assuming, of course, that they want to do more than just form the vanguard of marital excellence and actually help other couples who aren’t.

      • Clive June 19, 2017 at 11:16 am #

        David, you are right, but ….. I too congratulate Deborah. I come from a family of 4 brothers and me. All 4 brothers have been divorced. I am the only one married for 37 years. Yet around in society I now see very real and very significant disrespect for marriage. Marriage in society is now seen as an item that is NOT permanent, it is simply for convenience and when it is no longer convenient it is got rid of! The media are hugely to blame for this and those who do stick to marriage through thick and thin and constantly work on it are now treated as an irrelevance…. there is no longer even any celebration of marriage. The problem is not really the Church but secular society… BUT this is an aspect where the Church MUST improve its celebration of marriages because society is doing the opposite.

        We have just had Fathers’ day …. What did the government, civil service and judiciary do to celebrate Fathers? (nothing)
        Earlier we had Mothers’ day …. What did the government, civil service and judiciary do to celebrate Mothers? (nothing)
        We have had the UN day of the child …. What did the government, civil service and judiciary do to celebrate children? (nothing)

        We have an amazingly anti-children, anti-Fathers, anti-Mothers and consequently anti-family government, civil service and judiciary and the media simply don’t care.

        • Christopher Shell June 19, 2017 at 7:18 pm #

          Yes, Clive, thank you that you give an accurate assessment of the depth of the awfulness, and that you have a feeling beating heart and that you care.

      • deborah salmon June 19, 2017 at 7:37 pm #

        No marriage achieves excellence! As for allowing divorce means allowing remarriage can you show me where Jesus says this? I am still unsure we can receive direction on silence!!!

        • Thomas Renz June 19, 2017 at 7:55 pm #

          Deborah, Jesus did not need to say this just as he did not need to specifically condemn polytheism or sex outside marriage. Every living Jew believed there was only one God, that sex was limited to marriage, and that remarriage was allowed after a valid divorce. As I indicated above, if divorce did not open the way to another marriage, it would be hard to see how it is different from separation or even desertion. I do not think that you will find any Jewish or Christian writer in antiquity who allowed for divorce but forbade remarriage.

          • Thomas Renz June 19, 2017 at 8:16 pm #

            PS: The situation in Jesus’ time seems to have been pretty dire with the vast majority of divorces being granted on the “any cause” clause which Jesus condemns. This means that Jesus can declare broadly that (nearly) all divorces at the time were invalid, even allowing that Matthew 5.32 and Luke.16.18 abbreviate his teaching.

            Note that Jesus says that anyone who divorced his wife would make her an adulteress. How so? Surely if a man divorces his wife this does not in itself make her an adulteress. It does so only on the (fair) assumption that the divorce would lead her to remarry. Jesus could generalise like this only if it was common for divorce to be followed by remarriage; he can take it as understood that divorce usually means remarriage.

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