Church of England to Permit Remarriage

Article excerpt

The Church of England has voted strongly to allow church weddings for divorcees whose former partner is still living. The church's historic ban was modified in 1981 to allow for "circumstances" in which a divorced person might be married in church, but no guidelines were provided until the recent general synod meeting in York.

The synod's decision, by 269 votes to 83, to allow remarriage in "exceptional" circumstances still leaves clergy free to refuse to marry a divorced person. The original ban has often been disregarded by Anglican parish clergy, however. More than one in six weddings--11,000 out of 65,000--in 1999 involved at least one divorced person, a Church of England spokesman said.

The decision raised immediate speculation that it opens the way for the heir to the British throne, Prince Charles, to marry his longtime companion, Camilla Parker Bowles, whose ex-husband is still living. Archbishop Rowan Williams, recently named the next archbishop of Canterbury, supports a church wedding for the couple if they wish it, according to unnamed sources quoted in the British news media. Williams was said to believe that the prince and Parker Bowles should be treated "as any other couple."

At the general synod on July 9, Michael Scott-Joynt, bishop of Winchester, introduced the new marriage policy on behalf of the House of Bishops, where the measure will return for further legislative action. "As things are, we present an uncertain, incoherent picture to those who want to know where the Church of England stands on an issue which sadly touches the lives of many thousands of people, of whom many are already within our churches, and many others are within reach of our service and witness. …


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