Canon Thirteen — Divorce and Remarriage
The Church has always been involved in the work of healing and reconciliation. The Lord Jesus made no distinction between either physical or emotional healing. We as the Church of God are called by our Lord Jesus to bring healing and reconciliation to a broken and divided world. This sense of love and compassion must be extended to those faithful who experience the sting of divorce and subsequent remarriage.
For many churches, divorce is "the unforgivable sin," forever separating Christians from Church and sacrament. We recognize that divorce is a major trauma for all who experience it, whether we speak of the spouses or the children of a family. While the ideal is to avoid divorce, and that spouses be reconciled with one another through the grace of God, we are aware of its reality and ask God to heal our hearts when they have been broken by this reality.
Saint Paul, the apostle, in his epistle to the church at Rome, asks, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” Too often, however, it is the church itself, which provides the answer. At the precise time when we have been broken and made vulnerable by the experience of divorce, our misery is compounded by a sense of condemnation by our Christian church. It is not the healing voice of Jesus we hear, like the Samaritan woman at the well in John’s gospel, but rather it is the voice and weight of law and the judgment of church leaders, which confront us and add to our grief. It is apparent that those who have divorced and remarried are in greater need of the sacramental life of the Church.
We join our Eastern Christian brothers and sisters in an ancient tradition of supporting those who have remarried by counseling them to now reflect upon all that has passed and to grow in all that will come during their new marriage. Such growth can only be successful in union with the sacramental life of the Church and in the Church’s teaching on the life of prayer and the excellent way of love as taught in the Holy Scriptures and practiced by faithful families. To deny the gift of sexual union to those who have remarried is to destroy rather than to support the success of a remarried couple. Sexuality is a source and a celebration of love between husband and wife. It is a special and secret place, which allows intimate sharing. It is the measure of a healthy relationship between two individuals who are of the age and health to share in this manner.
Rather than condemnation and separation from Church and sacrament, compassionate guidance and loving support are the appropriate responses, which clergy and laity should offer. The strength of the Church depends upon the strength of our families, whether those families are formed by an original marriage or by a subsequent remarriage.
Both those who are divorced and remarried deserve to find prayerful support from their faith community. Our hope and our dream is that of wiping away every tear with the grace of the risen Christ, and celebrating the love of God as it exists between husband and wife, parent and child, our brothers and sisters of the Christian community, and between all of the human family. Every family is valuable and every marriage deserves support for its emotional, sexual, and economic stability.