Thinking Anglicans

Marriage after divorce and the ordained ministry

We linked earlier to a report in the Sunday Telegraph: Divorced bishops to be permitted for first time by Church of England, and a report from the Press Association that the House of Bishops was preparing a a statement setting out its approach to these issues.

This report has now been issued: GS Misc 960 – Marriage after divorce and the ordained ministry – A statement from the House of Bishops. We have put a webpage version here.

The statement outlines current practice when considering the ordination as deacon or priest of someone who has divorced and married again and has a former spouse still living, or who is married to a someone who is divorced and who has a former spouse still living. It then says that the House of Bishops have agreed to adopt what is basically the same procedures for potential diocesan or suffragan bishops.

Also available are two background papers, prepared for the House of Bishops, on the legal and theological issues.

Divorce and Episcopal and Appointments: the Legal Position prepared by The Rt Worshipful Charles George QC (Dean of the Arches and Auditor), Sir Anthony Hammond KCB QC (Standing Counsel), Stephen Slack (Chief Legal Adviser) and The Reverend Alexander McGregor (Deputy Legal Adviser) (webpage version)
Note on Divorce as a Disqualification for the Episcopate by Professor Oliver O’Donovan (webpage version)

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PantycelynPrior AelredEd TomlinsonHectorRobin Ward Recent comment authors
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Martin Reynolds
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Martin Reynolds

O’Donovan’s view was sought and given several years ago. I find it vapid.

For myself I believe remarriage should always exclude the candidate from Holy Orders and Divorce should also be an absolute impediment except in a very few narrowly drawn cases.

The English Bench is going to find it a struggle to defend its decisions from challenge on the grounds of “irrationality”!

Father Ron Smith
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Father Ron Smith

This news is not too surprising, God is indeed merciful – but not only to heterosexual persons with a failed marriage. What has to be understood is the mercy of God towards all humanity – all of whom are sexual beings, and all of whom are ‘equal in the sight of God’. Perhaps now that the bar to ordination has been lowered for heterosexuals, the Church of England might see it within its purview to look at the justification for the ordination of women and gays – both of whom, because of their accident of gender and sexual orientation have… Read more »

4 May 1535+
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4 May 1535+

“Divorce and Episcopal Appointments” holds that the canon law impediment of bigamy (which was different from the common understanding of the term) ceased to exist with the “Matrimonial Causes Act 1857, since (i) from that point onwards it was lawful to remarry after being divorced under the Act and (ii) any impediment to ordination that involved treating such a marriage as constituting ‘bigamy’ under the canon law would have been “contraryant” or “repugnant to the lawes statutes and customs of this realme” under the Submission of the Clergy Act 1533 and would not, therefore, to that extent have been enforceable.”… Read more »

Priscilla Cardinale
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Priscilla Cardinale

I’ve been looking in vain for the declarations from the conservative orthodox in the Anglican communion where they take their stand and declare that this is a communion-breaking enterprise that departs from the faith once delivered and a plain reading of scripture and therefore they must leave the communion and form a new church. Although none of the extant gospels, epistles, revelations, etc. that I am aware of, canonical or apocryphal, have ever attributed any phrase to Jesus regarding homosexuality there are several that clearly quote Jesus as saying that divorce is counter to God’s original plan and not allowable.… Read more »

Robin Ward
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Robin Ward

I think that par. 29 and 54 (b) in fact make a hash of the bigamy impediment, which has nothing to do with divorce,invalid marriage or nullity. The canonical impediment of irregularity for bigamy referred to those who had contracted two successive valid marriages and then sought admission to ordination after the death or religious profession of the second wife. Dispensations for this stopped being given in England after the Reformation and the impediment was removed from the discipline of the Latin church in 1983. The fact that in 1857 civil divorce was given the legal force of death in… Read more »

Prior Aelred
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Anyone can make a mistake. If clerical divorce & remarriage were not permitted by TEC, we would have lost some excellent clergy (including bishops).

Hector
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Hector

Priscilla, Well, I don’t have a problem with gay priests or bishops, in principle. And I don’t believe that homosexual relationships are a sin. I do believe that remarriage is a sin, though; I wish it wasn’t, and I wish we were not bound to that rule, but I don’t see a way around it. Jesus was unambiguous on the matter- he’s quoted thus by Luke, Paul, Mark and Matthew- tradition is unambiguous, and if you hold that marriage is a sacrament like other sacraments then the logic seems to be compelling. Prior Aelred, It’s got nothing to do with… Read more »

Ed Tomlinson
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check my blog then Priscilla and you can rest easy

Prior Aelred
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Hector —
Marriage was very late as a sacrament & traditional marriage was purchasing a wife to bind families together — disposing of a wife was her total abandonment. None of this is still true in Western culture, where it is usually the wife who files for divorce because she fears being beaten to death. To assume that the words attributed to our Lord are univocal when the language institution & society have changed is … odd (to try to find a word that Simon will let me use)

Pantycelyn
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Pantycelyn

I find all this harking on ‘sin’ and ‘mercy’ very odd. Sorry but it makes little sense to me. (I am sure the original Pantycelyn (William Williams) would have had no problem –but then look what century he inhabited !