Marriage - DOC by Louisa_Givans

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                       A practical guide

         to implementing the recommendations of the

Assembly Committee for Biblical Doctrine and Polity’s report on

 ‘The Biblical Institution of Marriage: Marriage, Divorce and


                                           Church of God of Prophecy
                                                     United Kingdom
                                                            July 2008

1.    Introduction

2.    „Against Divorce and Remarriage Evil‟

3.    Marriage

4.    Divorce

5.    Marriage after Divorce

6.    Celibacy

7.    Conclusion

8.    Resources

9.    Postscript

10.   Appendix

1. Introduction

At the 94th General Assembly of the Church of God of Prophecy held in

Nashville, Tennessee, USA, in August 2006, the Assembly Committee for Biblical

Doctrine and Polity made several recommendations with regards to the Church‟s

doctrinal position on marriage, divorce and marriage after divorce.         These

recommendations are contained in the report: „The Biblical Institution of

Marriage: Marriage, Divorce and Remarriage‟ (see Appendix). The report calls

for a preparedness to understand the working of God in the lives of individuals. It

further highlights the need to be cautious as we strive to uphold God‟s design for

marriage whilst recognizing that in trying to achieve God‟s purpose we are

working with a fallen humanity. The conclusion of this study significantly alters

the historical position of the Church of God of Prophecy on the matter of

marriage, divorce and marriage after divorce. The Assembly report is presented

in the following format:


A. The Divine Design of Marriage

B. The Consequences of the Fall

C. The Tragedy of a Broken Marriage


           1. Marriage Affirmation

           2. Family affirmation

           3. Priorities

         4. Reconciliation and Healing

         5. Forgiveness and Healing

         6. Christian counseling

         7. Educational Resources


  A. The Historical Perspective

  B. Four Current Views on Divorce and Remarriage

  C. What Constitutes a Lawful/Legal Marriage?


         1. Unlawful Unions

         2. Celibacy


  A. The New Testament Perspective

  B. Important New Testament Principals

  C. Turning to the Harvest

  D. Ministerial Ethics regarding Sexuality


        1. Annulment

        2. God‟s Sovereignty

        3. Forgiveness

        4. Ministerial Ethics

At the Pastors and Ministers Conference of October 2006, the National Overseer

Bishop Wilton Powell established a Task Group from among the Church‟s

leadership. This Task Group was asked to prepare a framework policy document

that would serve the purpose of helping the ministry in the United Kingdom to

implement the recommendations of the „Biblical Institution of Marriage‟ report.

The Task Group was given the following remit:

      To study the recommendations of the 94th General Assembly on the

      “Biblical Institution of Marriage” and prepare a policy framework, which

      could be used as a model of good practice across the Church in the

      United Kingdom.      The policy may include structures, procedures and

      processes for helping to understand the current circumstances.

Members of the Task Group are:

   Bishop Dr Joe Aldred – Chair

   Reverend Barbara Campbell

   Bishop Tedroy Powell

   Bishop Allan Simpson

   Reverend Beverley Sinclair

   Reverend Mary Wiltshire

   (Bishop Allan Sam resigned as Chair in July 2007)

   It is very important to note that the work of this Task Group is not to conduct a

   new study into the „Biblical Institution of Marriage‟, but to provide guidelines

   for the implementation of the report passed in the General Assembly of 2006.


Historically, the Church of God of Prophecy has included in its teachings,

“Against Divorce and Remarriage Evil”. This disallowed any consideration of

marriage after divorce, except in the rare case where the situation matched what

is now accepted to be a narrow definition of fornication. The recommendations

from the 94th General Assembly alter this position by now allowing flexibility to

consider particular cases. They permit reflection on individual cases that can

lead to persons who have married after divorce remaining or becoming members

of the Church of God of Prophecy. A thorough reading of the report and its

recommendations explains the shift. Concerning this shift, the report illustrates

that not withstanding the Church‟s teaching on „Against Divorce and Remarriage

Evil‟, it should be noted that since the 3rd General Assembly of 1908 this matter

has never been settled and has caused much controversy over the years

(General Assembly Minutes 1906-1914, pp. 45-47).

Section 3.5 of the 94th General Assembly report highlights that recent practice

has been based on a disputed understanding of fornication. As noted in the

minutes of the 17th General Assembly of November 1-7 1922, pp.2-24, the

General Overseer in his Annual Address, used the now familiar John Jenson and

Sallie Pratt illustration, stating that; “…I am not giving this argument as my settled

opinion, but only in search of a middle ground upon which two contending parties

may meet”.      The moderation of „Against Divorce and Remarriage Evil‟ is

recognition of the need to reconsider an issue that has remained unsettled over

these years.


The 94th General Assembly report points out that contrary to modern thinking,

marriage is not a human expediency.           It was designed by God as the

foundational element for all human interaction and for society as a whole. It is

God‟s platform for creation, maintenance and development of the family. The

biblical standard for this sacred institution is a relationship in which a man and a

woman share a lifetime commitment to each other in happiness and well being.

In view of this Churches and Ministers should:

A. Insist on pre-marital counselling and marriage preparation for every couple

      The length of courses or number of sessions will depend on

       circumstances, but a minimum of three pre-marital counselling sessions

       should be applied.

      Couples should be signposted to good pre-marital counselling material

       that is available on the market. (See resources list)

      Ministers and leadership are responsible to set up appropriate resource

       base locally.

B. Encourage marriage enrichment

       Each church should make provision to promote healthy marriages through

        marriage enrichment weekends, seminars and relevant materials.

       Ministers should maintain, as far as possible, an interest in the wellbeing

        of couples they have married without interfering – but always be available

        should the couple need to talk.

       Couples should consider it important at every stage of married life to seek

        to improve the quality of their marriage.

       Couples – ministers included, should be encouraged to take time out to be

        together. Take holiday breaks together. Make time for each other.


C. Encourage a good healthy sexual relationship

       Marriages should remain monogamous.

       Couples should work at the quality of their sexual relationship within their


       Where necessary the services of Therapists and access to appropriate

        resources should be sought.

D. Encourage couples not to wait too late before seeking help

       When difficulties arise within the marriage, couples should seek help early.

       The support of the pastor, reputable qualified counsel, or other trustworthy

        parties should be sought.

       Couples should not wait until they have reached the point of no return

        before seeking help.

      The culture of “don‟t let people know your business” should not be allow to

       get in the way of seeking help.

E. Affirm marriage and the family

      From the pulpit: the pastor is responsible to minister to the whole person.

       We therefore recommend that ministers include in their preaching and

       teaching sermons and lessons on marriage and relationships and

       encourage other ministers to do the same.

      In youth groups: those who facilitate youth development should be

       encouraged to lead the youth in discussing and examining issues dealing

       with relationships and courtship. Where appropriate, parental should be


      In Bible studies: Minister/s should conduct studies on the institution of

       marriage, relationships, courting and other relevant topics.

      Educational resources: Churches should build up a library of resources –

       DVD‟s, videos, CDs, tapes and books which include material on marriage

       and relationships.

F. Each local church should have a counselling service in place or know where to

refer to appropriate services.

      The pastor should utilize the services of professionals in their

       congregation or area.

      The contact details of external services should be identified and made

       readily available.


A. Definition

According to the 94th General Assembly report, divorce is the legal dissolution of

a marriage.      However, there can be legal separation of two married people

recognized as being separated, yet not divorced.

B. Biblically lawful marriage involves more than legal registration

The report states that according to God‟s created order and design in marriage

there must be:

      Two eligible people (male and female)

      Mutual consent

      Permanence (binding covenant)

      Public witness

      Consummation of the physical union

      Honest testimony

      Holy vows

      Equally yoked

      Parental blessings

C. Biblically unlawful marriage

         Marriage deemed unlawful by Holy Scripture or illegal by the state

         Same - sex union

         Polygamy

         Incestuous marriage

         Forced marriage

         Marriage of convenience, e.g. for immigration purposes.

If people are in a marriage not divinely ordered and where biblical elements of

lawful marriage have been violated (where some or all of these elements are not

present) divorce or dissolution is legitimate in these instances. Marriage after

divorce from an illegal or unlawful marriage is always biblically permissible.

D. Dissolution of a biblically lawful marriage

This disrupts God‟s plan and should never be the first option, neither should this

be taken lightly. However, the Bible cites fornication as a legitimate reason for

divorce. Fornication is any and all illicit sexual relationships including lesbianism,

homosexuality, adultery, incest and pedophilia. Divorce may even be considered

in the case of desertion and where domestic violence and abuse threaten the

spiritual, physical, emotional and mental well being of family members. In any

and all circumstances, dissolution of a biblically lawful marriage is always a last


When a marriage is in trouble, for any reason, the pastor or competent qualified

individual/s should work with the couple towards restoration of the marriage by

helping them to understand the reasons behind their difficulties.

In the case of biblically lawful marriage where divorce is allowed but not required,

desired or encouraged:

       The couple should seek forgiveness and reconciliation.          Every effort

        should be made to restore the marriage.

       The couple must take into consideration the impact a separation or

        divorce will have on them individually, their immediate and extended

        families, the church family and the wider community.

       After all attempts have been made and reconciliation/restoration proves

        impossible, the minister should help the couple to come to an amicable

        separation, if this is their desire.

E. Being divorced should not prohibit anyone from remaining or becoming

members of the Church

Divorce is not God‟s ideal, and individuals in this situation are in need of pastoral

care.   They need the loving support of the church family and should not be

stigmatized nor excluded from the life of the church. Serial divorcees may need

challenging    regarding     possible    underlying   causes of   multiple   marriage



The document on „The Biblical Institution of Marriage‟ highlights four current

views on marriage after divorce.

      No divorce and no remarriage

      Divorce but no remarriage

      Divorce and remarriage for adultery and desertion

      Divorce and remarriage under a variety of circumstances

The Assembly recommendations do not take a view on which one/s it favours.

However, the spirit of the report recognizes marriage after divorce in certain

unspecified circumstances.

When a person divorced from a previously biblically lawful marriage decides to

marry again, if invited to get involved, the minister should:

      Thoroughly investigate the background to the previous marriage.

      Investigate the circumstances of failed marriage.

      Satisfy him or her self that issues have been resolved satisfactorily.

      Be satisfied that every attempt has been made to bring peace and healing

       between all parties concerned and there are no “open wounds” left


      Where outstanding issues persist, offer pastoral assistance to bring about

       restitution and healing.

      Emphasize the seriousness of marriage.

      Stress the need for great care and diligence when considering marriage

       after divorce – this should never be taken lightly.

      Encourage the couple to engage in an appropriate length and depth of

       pre-marital counseling.

      The pastor and ministry team should provide counseling and support to

       help them to understand the reasons for the breakdown of the previous

       marriage so lessons are learned and mistakes are not repeated in the new


Where a person has been married before and where diligence has been taken to

investigate the background of the failed marriage and where the minister is

satisfied there are no aggravating outstanding issues, it is still up to the minister

to decide whether his/her conscience would allow him/her to perform the

marriage. The Minister should never go against his/her conscience or


Given that ministers are called to a higher code of conduct than members, they

should set good examples in the quality of their marital relationships by modeling

good healthy marriages.

6. Celibacy

The Assembly report recognizes that some people may chose to remain celibate

rather than marry after divorce. Those who choose this way should be respected

and supported.


It is hoped that this document will assist our churches and ministers to better

understand their role in maintaining healthy marriage relations for themselves

and among their flock, offer appropriate help and support to all and at all times,

and have a clear understanding of the minister‟s role when dealing with pre,

current, and post-marriage relationships.

Where questions arise in local churches that cannot be resolved locally, the Task

Group is available to be consulted for advice, on an ongoing basis.           The

emphasis of this framework paper and the intent of the Task Group is not to

encourage divorce or marriage after divorce, rather, our emphasis is on making

marriage work for the well-being of couples, children, families and society on a

whole. However, where marriages fail, the church has a responsibility to stand

by those who are involved, working towards their holistic health and well-being.

Note: Training for ministers in pre-marital, marital and post-marital counseling is

provided by Timothy School of Ministry. Section 8 contains a list of resources

which churches and ministers may find helpful.


Title                        Author               ISBN              Publisher

The TOTAL MARRIAGE           J&P Brown           1-873796-75-7     Autumn House Publishing

Preparing Couples for        Les C Wicker         0-788-1980-5     CSS Publishing Company

Marriage: A Guide for

Pastors to premarital


The Premarital counseling Norman Wright          0788019805         CSS Publishing Company

Book: Before You say I Do

How to counsel a couple in

Six Sessions or less

Premarital Counseling         Mary Wiltshire                      COGOP

The Act of Marriage            B&T La Haye        0310212006       Zondervan

Marriage in Church            Rev M Scott-Joynt                   Church House Publishing

After Divorce

Marriage Alive                 R &J Conner        094817109x       Diasozo Trust

Marriage and Family            Freda Rochester     1900529238       Emmanuel House


Love & Respect:               Eggerichs           591451876

The love she most desires

The respect he desperately needs

Divorce and Remarriage:        H. Wayne House                      InterVarsity Press

Four Christian views

Divorce and Remarriage:        Ralph Woodrow        0916938069       Ralph Woodrow

What does the Bible really


Divorce and Remarriage          Robert Warren       1 851742190      Grove Books Ltd


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