Chapter 22 » 22.75
Ending of relationships
We need to encourage an understanding of, and action upon, our marriage testimony. This suggests three consequences for our meetings: we have to take greater care of those preparing for marriage; we have to encourage the strengthening and enriching of all marriages; and we have to consider how to help those whose marriages are in crisis to deal with their spiritual responsibilities. This … means having an understanding of our faith and of how we can reconcile the highest ideals with human failure. We must not give up the ideals just because acting on them is difficult. So we cannot say that the breaking of marriages is right. The attempt to reconcile, to forgive, to start again, must always be of first priority. However, from time to time, there may be situations where a couple have genuinely tried but have come to feel that their marriage is no longer sustainable. At this point, we have to recognise that Christianity places people and their needs before the keeping of rules. The question must become, what is now the most loving way forward for the family? It may be that the answer is … separation or divorce. This must be an occasion for sorrow and grief at failure, but also of hope for new life. The role for members of the meeting may be to provide support and reassurance that they too discern that a right decision has been reached.
However, where people are married and especially where there are children, the commitment to be loving and faithful cannot be cancelled but has to be renegotiated for a new situation. The partners still have a responsibility to each other, to care about and support each other… Too many divorces result in hostility and bitterness. Where there has been a decision to part, couples may need help in determining what love for each other will mean in the future. Clearness committees, and perhaps a meeting for worship to mark a divorce and to make a new commitment to lifelong friendship, may be ways.