Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Divorce (Continued)

I assume that divorced ordinands are required to explain their theology of divorce, and the advice they would give for troubled marriages, because it is regularly observed that people's experiences influence their theology. As a Wesleyan denomination, we do value experience as part of the Quadrilateral, as it is held in tension with Scripture, Tradition, and Reason. It is much harder to be dogmatic and graceless for events that one has personally experienced. No one comes to the conversation about divorce objectively, whether or not they have experienced a divorce personally.

I believe that divorce is always a tragedy. It always results in and from people's brokenness, sin, and pain. Even when divorce is the best course of action in a particular situation, it is only better than some greater evil and not the best possible outcome for a marriage. Divorce breaks a covenant - a sacred vow - and the consequences within one's own soul and within one's community are far-reaching and devastating for such an action.

The Church traditionally sites two circumstances in which divorce is acceptable for a Christian - when one's spouse has committed adultery, and when one's spouse has abandoned the marriage. Recently, many Evangelicals have also come to accept divorce in cases of spousal abuse. While I affirm all three of these circumstances as justification for divorce, the decision to seek a divorce remains a highly contextualized decision that should be made with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and with the counsel and support of Christian community. Even in 'justifiable' circumstances, the possibility for healing and reconciliation should not be ruled out quickly. Many marriages that seemed past hope have been restored, and as a pastor I hope never to give up too soon on the broken marriages of those I may counsel. In each situation, I will pray, listen, and seek understanding and the guidance of God's Spirit before ever lending my influence to someone's decisions in regard to marriage and divorce.

For those who are faced with the reality of the divorce, I hope to offer the grace of God and the hope of Christ. Divorce is both a tragic end, and a new beginning. As Christians we rejoice in the grace of God that brings healing to our broken lives and hope for new seasons of life following divorce. I hope to encourage people who have experienced divorce to throw themselves into healing, forgiveness and restoration as they seek God and discover God’s will anew in their lives. I am also passionate about the care of children who have experienced the divorce of their parents, and will encourage parents to attend to their children’s grief and recovery. As with others, those who are or have experienced divorce, need the community of believers to support and care for them, nurturing their faith, meeting their needs, and equipping them for the future. As a pastor who has gone through divorce, I am grateful to be able to offer the encouragement of personal experience as one who has been down the roads of both recovery and single-parenting with its tremendous joys and challenges.

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