OK, maybe the title is a bit over the top – because as we all know the pain and stickiness of divorce stinks. It is tragic, shattering, and in some cases, the best option available. But as many divorced people know, the Church is at its best when it tries to mend the brokenness instead of adding to the pain – which is what the Episcopal Church seeks to do.
The Episcopal Church sees marriage as a human endeavor entered into (usually) with the highest of expectations and the grittiest of determinations to make it all work out. But sometimes it just doesn’t. We’re human. Marriages involve humans. Both fail.
And when they do fail we believe our faith communities should be places that welcome the hurting and help put back the broken pieces. This is why annulments and the renunciation of previous marriages may be suggested, but are rarely required. It is why the Communion Rail at our churches is open to divorced people. It is why the clergy and parishioners generally open their arms to give comfort upon hearing such news.
This does not mean Episcopalians take marriage lightly. We have rules regarding pre-marital counseling, waiting periods before marriage, and take other wise measures. What this does mean is that despite (or because of) our heritage, as home to the oft-married King Henry VIII, God has sought to make us rather exceptional at forming authentic communities that are not afraid to welcome those who have been divorced.
And when the dust finally settles, and the prospect of remarriage appears, we rejoice, but don’t take that lightly either. Our charge is to make sure responsibilities from previous relationships are tended to, and that principles of honesty, integrity and respect are upheld. We all know it’s complicated, but your local Episcopal clergy person is well equipped to talk about it, find one at www.theredbook.org