Saturday, 19 June 2010

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)

Posted by Peter Owen on Saturday, 19 June 2010 at 11:05pm BST | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Church of England
Comments

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"!

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Sunday, 20 June 2010 at 12:16am BST

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 been sidelined by a puritanical culture of Church which has questioned their right to a call from God into the Sacred Ministry. Justice demands it!

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Sunday, 20 June 2010 at 1:27am BST

"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." (Conclusion, Par. 54)

By this logic, would it not be the case that if Parliament made same sex marriage legal, then no canonical impediment to ordination growing out such marriage could survive in England, because the impediment would be "repugnant" under the Act of 1533? And (further) if the impediment to such ordination in England is subject to repeal by Act of Parliament, then does it not follow that such an impediment is not a matter of "faith and order" for the Church of England? And, if it is not a matter of "faith and order" for the Church of England, can it be a matter of "faith and order" for The Episcopal Church?

Putting it another way, is the General Convention of the Episcopal Church less sovereign over that Church than the Queen-in-Parliament is over the Church of England? Or, in the alternative, does the Archbishop of Canterbury hold (like Bolt's version of Richard Rich) that "Parliament hath not the competence" to remove the impediment of same-sex marriage? To think so is no longer treason: but that doesn't make it a wise position for a member of the House of Lords to hold.

Posted by: 4 May 1535+ on Sunday, 20 June 2010 at 3:32am BST

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.

Where are the conservative orthodox and evangelical revivalists? Why are they not thundering against this innovation from the pulpits, forming dozens of new organizations, writing long treatises, making loud and public threats on all sorts of media, trying to leave their provinces with their buildings and all the accoutrements?

I shudder to think that they are not quite as exorcised over this blatant violation of God’s plain law as they have been over Gene Robinson and Mary Glasspool.

Posted by: Priscilla Cardinale on Sunday, 20 June 2010 at 2:18pm BST

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 dissolving a marriage makes no difference to the eligibility of such people for ordination one way or another.

Posted by: Robin Ward on Sunday, 20 June 2010 at 3:29pm BST

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

Posted by: Prior Aelred on Sunday, 20 June 2010 at 4:48pm BST

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 making a mistake. Obviously people do make mistakes, and I do feel for them. Someone trapped in an unhappy marriage, or a divorced person who is unable to marry, is indeed in a very sad situation, and we need to empathize with them. However, Jesus said that remarriage after divorce was technically adultery, and I think we should honour that. Marriage is a sacrament just like confession, the Eucharist, baptism, etc., and just as baptism is indissoluble, so is marriage.

I know that some divorced people will inevitably remarry, and though it's a sin in the eyes of Christ and the Church, I believe that God has infinite mercy on sinners, and I know that some remarriages end up being healthy relationships full of genuine love, affection, and spiritual growth. God worked through the marriage of Esther and the King of Persia, after all, even though that was a second marriage following a divorce, and I don't doubt that they are both in heaven now. However, that's a matter between God and the people involved. In the eyes of the church, I don't believe that a second marriage can be a genuine, sacramental, Christian marriage. And a divorced/remarried person should not, I think, be a candidate for holy orders.

Posted by: Hector on Sunday, 20 June 2010 at 9:01pm BST

check my blog then Priscilla and you can rest easy

Posted by: Ed Tomlinson on Sunday, 20 June 2010 at 10:05pm BST

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)

Posted by: Prior Aelred on Monday, 21 June 2010 at 1:30am BST

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 !

Posted by: Pantycelyn on Monday, 21 June 2010 at 4:52pm BST
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