Can a divorced person expect equal treatment in the Episcopal Church?
The following was submitted by a visitor to my unofficial Episcopal FAQ’s site. Her questions are in plain type, and my answers follow below in italics.
What is the position of the Episcopal Church on divorce today?
While the Episcopal Church believes that marriageis a sacrament intended to be life-long, the Church recognizes that situations exist where divorce is necessary. The overall wellbeing of everyone, especially children, should be considered when making such a decision. Divorcees who do remarry may choose a church ceremony, according to diocesan guidelines, or a civil ceremony.
Are divorced persons treated equally to couples and/or those never married? Is their treatment different from widows/widowers?
Divorced people are treated the same as anyone else. Every person baptized with water in the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is welcome to communion, regardless of marital status. Divorcees are not excommunicated.
Anyone is welcome to participate in fellowship activities, and many parishes have special groups for singles, divorced, and widowed people.
Although a few individuals may be critical of divorced people, this is not typical of Episcopalians. In general, a divorced person can expected to be treated with great kindness and no condemnation. Many churches now offer divorce care groups.
Is there a service for dissolving a marriage? Or are both parties sinners for breaking a sacrament?
There is no church-sanctioned service for dissolving a marriage, however this has nothing to do with either party being seen as sinful for initiating a divorce. A friend gave his permission to use his quote: “In our understanding of marriage, the Church doesn’t actually “marry” the couple, but instead gives her blessing. Since the marriage is actually something that God creates, the Church can’t ‘dissolve’ the marriage. This is why God has not given us the authority to develop this type of service”.
One option that may be beneficial for both people who have been through a divorce is the sacrament of healing, and many churches offer healing services on a regular basis. Another option is to talk to the rector of your local Episcopal church and see if he/she has any ideas about this. With a few very rare exceptions, anyone divorced person entering the Episcopal Church can expect to be treated in a compassionate, non-judgemental way.
I’d like to offer a special thank-you to Kit Tobin who approached me with these questions for my FAQ’s page.
Please note: This post has generated a lot of great discussion. However, to keep the discussion clear and easy for everyone to follow, please read the post and my first few comments carefully before asking whether the divorced can receive communion or whether remarriage is permitted, as this has already been addressed. The answer to both is yes, where The Episcopal Church is concerned.