Alan Neale

Relationships / Weddings

Yes sometimes… divorce happens! Does God look aside?

When I was at Oxford University, eons ago, I was faced with the prospect of writing many essays to subjects given by tutors and professors. I confess that generally I had already decided the conclusion and so carefully selected (and discarded) concepts, arguments that would bolster my pre-selected conclusion. Only once did this process signally and definitively fail. The proposed subject was “Can the church approve of marriage after divorce?” Of course not, I thought.

After hours of reading Bible texts and learned commentaries I did a complete about-turn, a radical volte face. Yes, I concluded, the church can (and should) approve of marriage after divorce. And this, my friends, was ten years or more before I found myself asking for divorce so that I could be married to my true, and constant love and that, as they say, is another story – in a few days we celebrate our 30th anniversary.

But I am not writing to present pastoral, reasonable, theological reasons for marriage after divorce. No, I am writing because this weekend I shared with someone that I have used a “Liturgy to Recognize the End of a Marriage.” Such a liturgy assumes the ready, though often hesitant, participation of both partners. It strongly assumes, takes for granted, that God’s grace is present wherever, whenever we find ourselves. Such a liturgy strongly assumes, takes for granted, that there is no place, no action that can separate us from God’s love, strength and grace and also the power of forgiveness and absolution. Forgiveness and absolution both received and shared.

Over nearly forty years of ordained ministry I have often, maybe generally, officiated at weddings where one or both have been divorced. I have studiously tried to steer away from using “re-marriage” because it seems to suggest a “re-tread of an old tire” or a “re-try attempting to get it right this time”, second/third marriage always seem to suggest second/third best! Here the English language fails and so I resort to a “marriage after a divorce.”

For your review and consideration, I attach below a link to such a ceremony. Contact me if you have questions,

Liturgy to Recognize the End of a Marriage