C of E to allow remarriage for divorced people

Published September 1, 2002

York, England
The Church of England’s General Synod has voted to allow clergy to remarry divorced people. The synod said in 1981 that “there are circumstances in which a divorced person may be married in church during the lifetime of a former partner,” but over the years it has not defined those circumstances. The vote this summer rescinds previous resolutions that affirmed the indissolubility of marriage. The resolution now goes to the House of Bishops. In Canada, diocesan matrimonial commissions, which rule on applications by divorced people to remarry in the church, are slated for extinction if the next General Synod in 2004 ratifies changes to the marriage canon adopted at the General Synod in Waterloo in 2001. Current rules require that a couple in which one or both partners is divorced and a former spouse is still living must receive dispensation from the bishop on the advice of a matrimonial commission to marry in a church. In England, the church’s historic ban on such weddings was last reiterated in 1957, although it has often been disregarded by Anglican parish clergy, according to reports. More than one in six weddings – 11,000 out of 65,000 in 1999 – involved at least one divorced person, a Church of England spokesman said. General Synod’s decision, adopted by a vote of 269 to 83, to allow remarriage in exceptional circumstances still leaves clergy free to refuse to marry couples including a divorcee. The decision raised immediate speculation that this opens the way for the heir to the British throne, Prince Charles, to marry his long-time companion, Camilla Parker-Bowles, whose former husband is still alive. The church remains committed to life-long marriage, said Bishop Scott-Joynt of Winchester, who introduced the new policy on behalf of the house of bishops.


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