In your shepherding of individuals desiring marriage in our church, you will encounter individuals who have been previously married. Mindful that these situations require pastoral sensitivity, we must also follow our canonical requirements in these matters. Title I, Canon 18 “Of the Celebration and Blessing of Marriage”, and Canon 19 “Of Regulations Respecting Holy Matrimony; Concerning Preservation of Marriage, Dissolution of Marriage, and Remarriage” provide the necessary guidelines. In order to facilitate the permission process, let me share with you my perspective with regard to remarriage cases, based on my understanding of the Canons and my own pastoral experience.
Guidelines for Marriage after One Divorce
- In all cases where one or both of the persons seeking marriage have been divorced, I ask that you use the enclosed request application form: “Celebration and Blessing of Marriage.” The petitioning clergy person should include a letter with the request outlining the special circumstances of the remarriage and indicating that all the conditions required in these guidelines have been addressed.
- Include a letter from each person to be married in which they explain what this service means and how it will change their lives.
- The priest making the application should have an ongoing pastoral relationship with one or both of the persons seeking remarriage. Preferably they should be participating and supporting members of the congregation, or have the intention to become full members.
- Regarding the previous marriage(s) the following concerns should be addressed: a) Our pastoral concern should be that the issues that ended the marriage have been addressed and that sufficient time has passed to grieve the previous marriage(s). My guidance is that one year from the date of the filing for petition of divorce or six months after the date of the final divorce or annulment decree. b) Obligations to the former spouse and/or children have been or are being fulfilled responsibly. c) You should be assured that the new partner was not in any way party to or responsible for the breakup of the previous marriage. d) The person or persons seeking a second marriage must demonstrate that he/she brings strength and insight into this new relationship, and has a strong spiritual understanding of the sacrament of marriage.
- Copies of all Certified final divorce or annulment decrees must accompany each application.
- Both parties must sign the Declaration of Intention required by Title I, Canon 18, Sec. 4 and a copy should accompany the request form.
- The priest applicant must be canonically or legally resident in the Diocese of San Diego. Any judgment given by the bishop of another diocese must be submitted to me for my reaffirmation.
- A date for the proposed marriage should not be formally set until permission has been obtained. My response to requests to solemnize such marriages will be made within three weeks.
- When consent is given, a response form will accompany the approval of the request. This form must be returned to me after the marriage is solemnized, indicating the date that the service was held and the place. These guidelines are provided to you to provide appropriate direction and clarity. Couples for whom these canonical provisions are required may be in a vulnerable place. They will no doubt have concerns about what may seem to be a legalistic process. While I take seriously my role in giving approval to you to solemnize these vows, I want you to know that I will trust your pastoral heart to guide you. Please do not hesitate to contact me directly if you have some particular concerns.
Guidelines for Marriage after Two Divorces
Requests for remarriage after two divorces have taken place present special challenges to our pastoral sensitivity and care for others, and to the church’s concern for the sanctity of the wedding vows. The following policy is set forth with these concerns in mind.
Diocesan Policy Regarding Marriage after Two Divorces
Under special circumstances I will be willing to give permission for persons to have their third marriage in an Episcopal Church. I have found that these situations occur infrequently and usually are complex. When clergy are presented with such requests, I ask that they contact me directly so that we can make a mutual determination about how best to proceed. In exercising this part of our ministry, please know that I am most eager to support and assist you. Do not hesitate to seek my counsel as you proceed.