General Synod Statements: Divorce and Remarriage

In 1962, a report to the General Synod stated that "God's intention for marriage is that it is to be permanent. Divorce involves sin." It also noted that the Reformed position has been that there are two grounds on which divorce is permissible: adultery, and the desertion of the believing spouse by the unbeliever. The synod approved the statement that:

A pastor may with good conscience officiate in the remarriage of divorced persons if in his judgment, and the judgment of the congregation's Board of Elders, the persons have met the following requirements: Recognition of personal responsibility for the failure of the former marriage, penitence and an effort to overcome limitations and failures, forgiveness of the former partner, fulfillment of obligations involved in the former marriage, and a willingness to make the new marriage a Christian one by dependence upon Christ and participation in His Church. (MGS 1962: 205-218)

The 1975 General Synod affirmed the statements of the 1962 General Synod, stating that:

Where the one flesh relationship has been irreconcilably shattered, there one has divorce (de facto) and it must be recognized. In fact, where a marriage has been destroyed, the Christian community may even counsel severance to prevent further damage to persons involved.

Those who have undergone the trauma of divorce need time to reflect upon their experience and time to rebuild. First, persons should take time for reflection on the causes of the previous failure. Repentance is necessary. It involves not only penitence for one's own part, but a change in one's attitude and actions. Harmful personality traits and behavioral patterns should be modified before any remarriage.

Second, personal realization of God's forgiveness is a vital part of one's readiness for remarriage. This includes forgiving the former partner and seeking forgiveness. Otherwise a residue of bitterness can cloud future interpersonal relations. Continuing obligations to the former mate or children, financial and otherwise, should be met.

Third, there must be a vision of what the new marriage can mean and the determination to make it Christian. Recognition of human limitations at this point rightly leads one to a reliance on Christ and on the supportive family of faith. Willingness to be a full participant in the people of God is prerequisite to proceeding with remarriage. Where the forgiveness of God has been accepted and life redirected to obedient service, the prospects for a sound marriage exist. (MGS 1975: 170-171)