When I was a young man there were no divorced clergy or bishops, divorced people could be and were refused the Holy Communion, and there was no thought that divorced people could be remarried in church. Marriage was once, for life, and any deviation from that standard was thought to threaten the whole institution. It is certainly the case that there is apparently substantial Scriptural backing for that position – where Jesus says that anyone divorcing, except under very prescribed circumstances, is committing adultery.
Very slowly and painfully, and with great attention to the pastoral difficulties that this policy was creating in a society with significant numbers of divorced people not only on the streets but also in the pews, the Church has revised its understanding of marriage, divorce and remarriage. There are now hardly any voices to be heard to say that the new policy is unbiblical and sinful, and quietly, up and down the land, divorced people are marrying for the second time in church. We have among us divorced and remarried bishops and clergy. So the transition, the revision of our sexual ethics, in a way that honours the Lord of the Scriptures and also the society in which we are asked to exercise our ministry and mission, can be done, and unity and charity in the church can be maintained.
Friday, August 7, 2009
What about divorce?
From a sermon at Southwell Minster by Jeremy Pemberton about the Abps reflections on GC. Mimi has already posted much of this, but I really, really want to return your attention to this bit because the argument about divorce seems to be very important. Undeniably there are a lot more Biblical strictures explicit against divorce (and no arguing required about translations), yet movement on that issue occurred as described. Why are other issues that are much less clear Biblically, so much more intransigent?