Marriage and the Methodist Church – Part 2

After being derailed by ‘events, dear boy, events’ I would like to return to the subject of marriage celebrated in church, with an emphasis on the Methodist Church.

Unlike the Roman Catholics and the Anglicans, the Methodists will marry divorcees when their former spouse is still alive, although there is a requirement for a minister who believes that to conduct such a marriage is wrong to refer the matter to another minister. Is it wrong to marry when you have been divorced and your former spouse is still alive? There are two sincerely held views on this, which arrive at opposite conclusions. Dr. John Piper of Bethlehem Baptist Church has published a position paper at which has reached the conclusion that remarriage with a former spouse still living is always wrong, and that held by Dr. David Instone-Brewer which argues that the Bible permits divorce for certain serious and specific grounds. Across evangelical Christianity, I am not aware of any serious scholars who would accept frivolous divorce.

The Methodist church website states “The Methodist Church is generally willing to marry people who have been divorced, while their previous spouse is still alive, as long as there are not major obvious reasons why it would be inappropriate to do so” while failing to be specific about what would be major obvious reasons.

I am in favour of giving the minister absolute discretion over whether he conducts any one marriage or not, but I do wish that the website had said so. If everyone knows that marriages are conducted at the minister’s discretion, then there is no argument possible about whether or not X and Y should have been allowed to marry in a Methodist church. I would hate to see any other church get into the same bind that the Anglicans are in in England, where the vicar cannot refuse to marry two people who have never before been married, even if s/he can see it is a train crash in the making.

About UK Fred

A Christian who cares that the church in Britain conforms to societal demands, rather than transforms society. I am particularly concerned with the lack of support for marriage and the acceptance of divorce in the church. I also care that the body politic in Britain seems to be corrupt and in need of a good shake-up.
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