Marriage again

Layclerk asked a question in one of the comments on one of the threads about the Mothers’ Union about whether people could get married in church if they had previously been divorced.

The broad answer is that they can do so, but there is a pastoral process which has to be gone through. Clergy can marry people who have been married before if the bishop of the diocese consents to the marriage. This means that some process has to be put in place in order for the bishop to make up his (or in the future her) mind.

In practise, that means that I would meet the couple and hear something of the story and refer the matter to the bishop setting out what I think a reasonable recommendation would be. The bishop may chose to see the couple and this very direct contact between a church leader and the couple preparing for marriage can often be positive though I think that it is something which many couples find a bit frightening.

I cannot really imagine us having a bishop who would not consent on principle to such weddings though we have had in the past. It is my view that refusing weddings to some people has done them great harm and was wrong. I’m glad we have moved to a new place in this regard.

The Scottish Episcopal Church offers no right to be married to anyone.  I would never recommend to a bishop that a marriage be allowed if the marriage would cause obvious scandal in the church or in society. I would also never recommend to a bishop that a marriage be allowed if either party had children from a previous relationship who were not being appropriately cared for including in terms of financial provision.

How the bishops make their minds up about what weddings to allow and what not to allow seems to be based on their pastoral judgement. I’ve never seen written down any criteria against which these decisions are made.

I’ve personally never put a couple forward to a bishop to see them refused permission to marry in church. All applications have been successful and all subsequent wedding celebrations joyous.