Fri | Jan 18, 2019

Divorce and the church

Published:Saturday | February 25, 2017 | 12:00 AMTamara Bailey

The case of a Christian couple who has decided to end their marriage is not unheard of, but is this an act openly supported by the Church?

Family ministries director at the Jamaica Union of Seventh-Day Adventist Dr Lorraine Vernal sought to shed some light on the matter.

"The Church endorses marriage as based in the Bible. We know we are not living in a perfect world and things happen, so the Church bases its belief on what the Bible says as it regards marriage and divorce."

But what is that stance?

"Malachi actually says God hates divorce, but where there are grounds for divorce, the Bible gives two reasons: sexual immorality (found in Matthew) and abandonment by an unbeliever," she continued.

Vernal further stated that other grounds may be considered for divorce, but a couple falling out of love is not part of it.

"The Church's stance is that that would not be grounds for divorce. We use the Bible as a guideline: We (General conference/World Church) look at other things such as a party committing incest, child sexual abuse. These are other things that are seen as a violation to the intention of marriage."

For any other problem, the Church sees reconciliation through counselling as the solution.

Many question whether it is within the laws of God to remarry. Vernal says that this can only be done in the case where the party who chooses to remarry is innocent.

"The person who is guilty would not be accepted to walk from the marriage and remarry, based on the Bible. The innocent party has the option to stay single or remarry if reconciliation is not accepted."


It is said that the guilty party who remarries commits adultery and may be censored by the Church.

While many who enter into marriage will have challenges and may possibly contemplate separation or divorce, the family ministries director is of the view that more work needs to be done leading up to that point in a relationship.

"There is no one solution. We realise some persons maybe weren't really prepared for marriage. Individuals should not come to the pastor with just the date. Individuals are advised to do six months of pre-date-setting counselling,"

She added, "Marriages have eternal consequences as this, we feel, is a part of what we need to do to get into Heaven. When a couple of divorces, it not only affects them, but also their families, in-laws, children, even some brethren at church."

Vernal revealed that though the right hand of fellowship may be withdrawn from the guilty party who remarries, the Church does not condemn.

"We want to see divorce as a last resort, but we cater to our members who are divorcees. We have to take note of this reality and help people to cope.

"It's not about taking membership; it's about restoration and healing, and sometimes, it's really some simple things that lead to divorce, and had there been a third party to help them reconcile, it may not have ended up at divorce," she ended.