Monday, June 04, 2012

Wesleyan Church's Divorce Decision

One of the issues before the WC's General Conference is whether to expand its membership boundary on divorce to allow for divorce in the case of spousal abuse. I don't know which way the wind will blow, but I did think I would sketch what I see the main options are:

1. The Legal Vote
Those who approach the biblical text more in terms of specific instructions will tend not to support the change because the New Testament does not mention spousal abuse as an appropriate basis for divorce. Mark gives no exceptional circumstance for divorce, and Matthew gives only one (sexual immorality), so the legal approach to the Bible would not likely allow for any additional reasons.

2. The Principle Vote
Those who approach the biblical text more in terms of general principles rather than specifics might put the Bible's teaching on divorce into the context of loving one's neighbor (in this case, one's spouse) and therefore not throwing your spouse away.  If this is the reason for the prohibition (rather than violation of some abstract law), then it would at least seem that divorcing a truly abusive spouse does not in any way violate the principle of love of one's neighbor.

3. The Slippery Slope View
This view doesn't necessarily have a problem with allowing divorce in the case of true spousal abuse.  It's problem is with the next exception that might come up at the next General Conference. There might also be the sense that some will claim spousal abuse to get out of marriage when in fact they're not really being abused.

4. The Practical Repercussions View
The slippery slope view would fall into this category.  Someone might also argue that allowing for divorce in this case would have bad practical repercussions in some way.  How hard would it be legally to defend removing someone from the membership rolls if they took you to court because a church did not truly believe a spouse was being sufficiently abused?  Maybe someone would argue that it can't be allowed to maintain the integrity of the "pro-marriage system," regardless of how justified it might be in an individual situation.

Those are the different angles I thought of.  Can you think of other positions?


Keith Jones said...

I believe there is time one must remove yourself and your children from an unsafe situation. Divorce is breaking the union God has made between a man and a women. If that union is broken by exta marrital afair, then that union has been broken. Union, however is not the same as unity. For there to be unity both must be like-minded, having the mind of Christ. In Romans 12:18 we see that we are to live in peace with everyone as much as we can, but at some point it is best to move out, but this does not we should break the union, unless there's infidelity. If we move beyond this on shaky, uncertain, and a basis of our culture, then, what is next - drug abuse by spouse, gambling, etc.?

Anonymous said...

I'm single so I don't really have a dog in this fight but I wonder, when we speak of permitting divorce are we always speaking about the freedom to remarry? In other words, do we regard the prohibition on divorce as one thing and the prohibition on remarriage as another? While this may appear as hair-splitting, what I wonder is, is it possible that there are three moral categories, one for those who have no biblical warrant to divorce and hence none to remarry, one for those who may legitimately terminate a marriage but not remarry (i.e. they are not sinning by getting divorced but would be if they remarried), and one for those who may get divorced and freely remarry? When I consider Paul's words in 1 Corinthians 7:10-11 it seems that what he is saying is that Christians should not divorce but if they do (outside of the stated exceptions), they must remain single. It seems to me that if he were saying that divorce itself were strictly and absolutely forbidden then there would be no question of prescribing how one should live afterward. There would be no afterward (short of reconciliation) for the offenders.

So, are we asking whether a couple must remain together even in the case of violence, that they may live separately but remain legally married, or that they may divorce with or without the freedom for the victim to remarry?

Thinking out loud.


Anonymous said...

Why should someone who has been abused and (rightly) divorced the abuser be punished, or excluded from church membership? Seems like common sense ethics gets lost in all this.

-alex j

Anonymous said...

All this theory. Does the church even know who Jesus IS?
Do you even know what behavior He would call breaking a marriage? He took a whip to get the money changers out of the temple. What are we but the temple of the Holy Spirit here? Does the church seriously believe Jesus the Messiah says its ok for a woman (or man) to be beaten? Threatened for their life? Having children beaten? What behavior do you think keeps a marriage intact? Would Jesus say its ok for someone to force sex in front of children in a marriage? Do you even know Jesus?
The Son of God knows how to treat marriage. Think about it church. If Jesus Himself, in the flesh, would not agree with what is happening in church marriages, it better stop. The Son of God is coming back and judgement begins at the house of God. Get Ready.

Ken Schenck said...

I personally rejoice that the GC overwhelmingly passed this addition. It will still have to be ratified by 2/3 of the membership of the district conferences.

One key point is to realize that "biblical basis" is not restricted to passages specifically dealing with divorce (that's the way those in favor of slavery argued) but to the broader principles of Scripture as well.

So which does greater damage to marriage, an affair or beating a wife senseless? An instructive thought experiment is to recognize that if Matthew had not expanded the bald prohibitions of Mark 10, those who take the legal perspective would be arguing against giving any permission for divorce.

Regina said...

I'm rejoicing too.
The Bride of Christ is not emotionally or physically abused by the Son of God. These things should not be happening here in the church.

Rev 19:7 Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready.

19:8 And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints.

19:9 And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb. And he saith unto me, These are the true sayings of God.

Anonymous said...

you have not addressed if the spouse is mentally ill and refuses treatment. You have not addressed when one spouse tries repeatedly to turn the children against the other spouse. I am talking about even during marriage as well as after separation and even after divorce.

Ken Schenck said...

I recognize there are complications, many complications for anyone who is focused on policing a boundary. I also recognize that there is a place to confront and a time to exclude. "Let each be fully convinced in his
/her own mind. Blessed are those who do not condemn themselves by what they approve." In other words, we must all stand before the judgment seat of Christ for what we have done in the flesh, and God is not fooled.

Vangie Adams said...

I'm confused about the spousal abuse statement. Does this address marriage between two believers or a believer married to an unbeliever? It is common sense to remove oneself from a potentially dangerous situtaion. Any form of abuse in a marriage is a form of desertion & a breaking of the covenant of companionship.