Photo credits

The Embalse de Riano in northern Spain. The picture was taken by .... me!

Thursday, June 28

White knuckles, divorce, and bare knuckles

Not mine!

It was a rather tense meeting of our workplace christian fellowship.

One chap was getting off about the need for moral purity among PCC members.  At his church there is a couple who are co-habiting and decline to marry, yet want to go on the PCC.  I agree that this would be inappropriate.  But it led on to a discussion about those who have remarried after divorce being in leadership.  My friend was clearly against it.  Others, including myself, take the view that we all make mistakes, but once we have repented we move on with God.  It is not possible to go back and untangle the mess.  But we get a fresh start.  So it would be inappropriate for a person who deliberately advocates serial monogamy to be on the PCC, but in my view someone who has entered marriages with the best of intentions only for them to fail, should not be penalised for ever.  Move on. 

I related the tale of a clergywoman I know.  Her first husband was gay and the marriage was never consummated.  Even so the congregation treated her with contempt when she escaped that situation.  Under stress and on the bounce, she remarried too quickly.  It seemed to be going well but when the Lord called her into ordination the man reacted badly and started to abuse her psychologically (this is not my assessment - it was Relate.  The woman tried to get him to go to Relate with her but he refused.  She had to go alone.  Relate analysed the situation and classified his treatment of her as being significantly beyond the level at which they would be concerned).  The woman accepts that she could have done more to save the marriage, but I knew her at the time and testify that she had already done more than was reasonably expected of her.  Also, the Bishop was kept informed of all these developments, and in his view he was happy to ordain her despite the second divorce, nowing the circumstances.

So lots of people have theoretical objections to remarriage which I fully understand, but as a church we fail to manage the gap between the theoretical ideal and the practical reality.  Marriage is for life and has to be entered into with that understanding.  But once it is broken, it is broken.  Jesus teaches it is wrong to divorce and marry another.  I read that as refuting the idea that you can sanitise adultery (or deliberate serial mongamy) by divorce.  I don't read it as forbidding remarriage of someone who has already suffered a divorce and is now making a fresh start in a new life in which they unintentionally meet someone else.

I think Jesus manages that gap between theory and reality - pure doctrine and compassionate practice.

I don't think my friend handles that gap.

As we talked his knuckles were white, his forearms and clenched hands shaking with tension.  I rather got the feel that if his hands had not been clenched together, he woudl have hit me.

I like people to be passionate about their beliefs.  But his mannerisms did nothing to pursuade me that he was right - quite the opposite.

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