Thinking Anglicans

marriage in church after divorce

The policy of the Church of England on this matter is well documented but, as the items are not obvious on the CofE website, they are listed here. There is a link to them from the main CofE advice page on Weddings.

The general information page is Marriage in Church after Divorce.

This refers to several other documents. The two key ones are:

Marriage in church after divorce – Form and explanatory statement – A leaflet for enquiring couples but this is available only in PDF format – four of the six pages are the application form, but the one-page explanatory statement is reproduced here below the fold.

Advice to the Clergy which is naturally more detailed, and is available from the CofE website only as an MS Word document. An html version is accessible here.

Marriage in church after divorce

The Church of England teaches that marriage is for life. It also recognizes that some marriages sadly do fail and, if this should happen, it seeks to be available for all involved. The Church accepts that, in exceptional circumstances, a divorced person may marry again in church during the lifetime of a former spouse.

If you are thinking about asking to be married in church, you should discuss this with your local parish priest. Please do this well before choosing a date for your wedding.

Some priests may be willing to take such a marriage, others may not be prepared to do so, on grounds of conscience, and may not allow the use of their church either. The law of the land permits them this choice.

If your parish priest is willing to discuss the possibility of conducting your marriage, he/she will want to talk to you frankly about the past, your hopes for the future and your understanding of marriage. You and your intended spouse should therefore be prepared to consider some questions. You are advised to reflect beforehand on the issues they raise – and should be prepared to answer them honestly.

  • What does marriage mean to you?
  • What have you learned from your previous marriage?
  • Has there been healing of past hurts?
  • If you have children, how are they being looked after?
  • What do others think of your marriage plans?
  • When did your new relationship begin?
  • Have either of you been divorced more than once?
  • Are you wanting to grow in the Christian faith?

If you wish to proceed with your enquiry, both of you should complete the attached application form and hand it to your parish priest. You will also need to bring with you written legal proof that any divorce decree is absolute. (A decree nisi will not be sufficient.)

It is likely that your priest may ask for more than one confidential interview with you and your intended spouse together. Your priest may also feel the need to consult with the bishop or his adviser, before making a decision, although the decision remains with the parish priest.

This process could easily take some time, and you should discuss how long it might take with your parish priest at your initial meeting. If it is not possible for your proposed marriage to take place in church, your priest may consider other alternatives with you. If your priest agrees to conduct a marriage service, you may be invited to take part, possibly with other couples, in marriage preparation.

The process this leaflet describes reflects the Church’s commitment both to lifelong marriage, and to taking seriously your wish to marry in church. You may be certain that your application will be received and considered with dignity, care and loving concern. Whether or not you proceed to marriage in church, your priest and your local church are available to offer you guidance and support as you proceed on life’s journey.

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you.

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