MAKING IT WORK
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
2. „Against Divorce and Remarriage Evil‟
5. Marriage after Divorce
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
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
A. The New Testament Perspective
B. Important New Testament Principals
C. Turning to the Harvest
D. Ministerial Ethics regarding Sexuality
2. God‟s Sovereignty
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.
2. ‘AGAINST DIVORCE AND REMARRIAGE EVIL’
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
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
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
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
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)
Permanence (binding covenant)
Consummation of the physical union
C. Biblically unlawful marriage
Marriage deemed unlawful by Holy Scripture or illegal by the state
Same - sex union
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
5. MARRIAGE AFTER DIVORCE
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
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
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.
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
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
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