Diocese of Sodor and Man

Marriage in church after divorce when former spouse is still living

Advice issued by the Lord Bishop of Sodor and Man

All marriage is holy. The Church recognises all marriages as "holy matrimony", whether celebrated in Church or a civil ceremony. However, there is something very special about marriage in Church because vows are made in the sight of God and his blessing is given to the marriage.

Our Lord Jesus Christ taught that all marriages should last for life and the Church clearly upholds his teaching on this: so a wedding in Church is based clearly on the couple's intention that marriage should last until the death of one partner. On the other hand, many parts of the Church recognise that marriages can 'die' and divorce is sometimes a sad reality.

The Church of England acknowledges that "there are circumstances in which a divorcee may be married in church during the lifetime of a former spouse". The assumption behind any marriage in these circumstances is that:

The parish priest will spend time discussing these issues with the couple before making a decision as to whether they may be married in Church. Clergy must see the originals of the provisional and final orders of divorce (formerly decrees nisi and absolute). In the unlikely event of a difference of opinion the couple and/or the minister may contact the Bishop and ask for a discussion with him.

In certain cases it may be more appropriate for couples to ask for a service of Prayer and Dedication after a civil marriage – and this does not have to take place immediately after the marriage.

It must be understood that the marriage in church of a divorced person during the lifetime of a former spouse is an exception and not the norm.

The Church of Jesus Christ is a body of people who know that they are forgiven sinners and that no-one is beyond the love of God.

+ Robert Sodor as Mannin
10 August 2009