Anglican Church May Lift Divorce Ban

Amid Wide Support for Remarriage

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LONDON, JAN. 21, 2001 (
The Church of England could permit divorcees to remarry in church as early as next year following a consultation with its members that has so far shown a large majority in favor of change, The Sunday Times reported.

The results have shocked traditionalists, who fear the move could damage the moral standing of the church by ending the centuries-old prohibition, the London newspaper said.

In seven of the eight dioceses that have conducted a vote, including Durham and Norwich, church representatives have expressed their support by a wide margin. In one, it was 100% in favor. In the eighth, Chichester, probably the most conservative of the 44 Anglican dioceses, it was still voted through. The clergy voted narrowly in favor, with the laity voting for the change by a bigger majority.

Traditionalists were surprised to discover so many churchgoers prepared to ditch centuries of practice. Edwin Barnes, the bishop of Richborough, said: «The church should be making it quite clear that marriage is a lifelong commitment and anything that undermines that understanding weakens both church and nation.»

The dioceses have been asked to vote on proposals to revoke the 1957 Act of Convocation that bars the use of the marriage service for divorced people with spouses still living. With more than four in 10 marriages now ending in divorce, many clergy believe the Anglican church´s policy against second marriages prevents it from serving large numbers of its own followers. The consultation is expected to end in March, when the bishops will decide how to proceed.

It is possible the synod will consider the change later this year and, if it approves, divorcees could marry in church next year. It is believed the majority of synod members, including most bishops, support a change. George Carey, the archbishop of Canterbury, is believed to be sympathetic.

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