'TIL DIVORCE DO US PART!; Church Set to Concede Marriage Is Not for Ever Change Could Pave Way for Charles and Camilla the Church of England Is Set to Lift Its Ban on Divorcees Marrying Again in Church - but the Decision Will Not Be as Clear-Cut as Expected
Handley, Report: Alison, Birmingham Evening Mail (England)
SALLY Cooke was devastated when her marriage broke up. The Birmingham secretary tied the knot at 19 with her childhood sweetheart - and three years later she discovered he had been having an affair with one of her closest friends.
Sally admits that the experience left her badly hurt and very mistrustful of new partners.
But when several years later she fell in love with Mark, a 32-year-old car worker, and he proposed to her, she had no doubts at all when she said 'yes' that she was making the right decision.
But problems lay ahead for the couple as they began to make plans for their big day.
"Mark hadn't been married before, but he's not particularly religious although he was brought up in the Anglican Church," says Sally. "He was happy to get married at the Register Office, but I really wanted a church wedding.
"I'd always gone to church, although I didn't know our local vicar very well, because I'd only moved to the area a couple of months earlier.
"When I went to talk to him, he was very kind and sympathetic, but he said that because I was divorced there was no way he could marry us in church. The only thing he could offer us was a blessing, after a civil service."
Sally admits the clergyman's hardline approach was a bitter disapp- ointment.
"I looked into the whole issue and I found out that vicars were in fact legally entitled to marry divorced people like mysel" she says. "But he said he didn't feel he could go against Church rules like that.
"I think I was particularly disappointed because I knew the relationship was forever. The vows, 'til death us do part and all that, really did mean something.
"It had been the same the first time round for me - it wasn't my fault the relationship broke up. Although to be fair, you could say we were perhaps too young as teenagers to make that sort of lifetime commitment.
"This time I was 27 years old, with much more experience behind me, and the whole thing was completely different. We both felt 100 per cent committed to each other, and I knew Mark was the sort of man I could trust, and that was no easy thing for me.
"We were committing ourselves for the rest of our lives, and I wanted to do that in the eyes of God.
"We thought about the blessing, but at the time I felt that if the Church thought I wasn't good enough to marry, then I didn't want some sort of consolation prize, although I regret that a bit now.
"When we actually did get married, in a Register Office, it was a lovely day, of course, but deep down I know it wasn't the same.
"Like most people I expect, divorce wasn't something I ever expected to happen to me. But it did, and I'm proud of the way I came through it - Mark and I are still together five years later - and I think it's about time the Church moved with the times."
IT'S a view that is shared by the Archdeacon of Aston, the Ven John Barton. "The Church has a dilemma," he says. "On the one hand, we must uphold Christian teaching on the permanency of marriage 'til death us do part', but on the other we have to allow f or the fact that people fail.
"Christianity has at its core God's recovery plan for imperfect human beings.
"It seems to me that we need to try and devise a service for people who acknowledge they have failed. The service would be very similar to the normal marriage service, but also slightly different in some way - although I'm not sure how."
Rev Barton believes such a service should enable many of the 160,000 couples who divorce in the UK every year, to remarry a new partner in a church - but with certain conditions.
"For example, new partners should not have been the cause of the break up of the first marriage," he explains.
"Any children from the first marriage must be properly cared for, not just abandoned - and the question should be asked whether they have learnt anything from the experience of divorce. …