Marriage and family
Religious commitment, rather than mere religious affiliation, contributes to greater levels of marital success. – Glen T. Stanton.
According to the Saturday Sun of May 18, 2013, Reverend John Rogers of St Luke’s Anglican Church opined, among other things, that “. . . marriage does not belong to the church . . . . It is a cultural institution”.
I find this to be a very riveting comment coming from a “young man of the cloth”. I have watched his growth as a member of the local clergy and have been very impressed so far. I think he has a good future, possibly in the hierarchy of the Anglican Church.
I also commend the Family Life Commission of the Anglican Church for mounting the panel discussion on the topic The Barbadian Family Structure. This kind of balanced discussion is important, especially since the institutions of marriage and family have recently taken a beating from persons who should know better and who many believe to have their own personal agendas.
This discussion is timely in that it comes on the heels on the well articulated statement from His Lordship the Bishop of Barbados, Rev. Dr John Holder. There was a time when there appeared to have been some vacillation on the part of the Anglican Church on the issue of same-sex marriage and the issue of homosexuality. Bishop Holder and the Anglican Church must be highly commended for being undoubtedly clear on the issue.
The comment by Father Rogers needs some analysis. It is reasonable for me to assume that by church he means the Christian church or perhaps the church universal. It is my contention, Father Rogers, that the Christian church is easily the strongest champion of the institution of marriage. The Bible is the blueprint of Christian principles that relate to every aspect of life and living and there are over 500 references to marriage, husband, wife and married across the Old and New Testaments. According to http://www.openbible.info/topic/marriage there are 182 Bible verses about marriage.
To say that marriage is a cultural institution smacks of saying that it is not of the church but of the secular realm. The word culture is defined as how people do things, including cook, play, dress, worship and so on. In this context marriage is part of our cultural experience but is certainly not secular.
Traditionally in our culture, nine out of ten weddings took place in the church. In fact, when this is not the case, it does not feel the same. Some couples would not feel as though they are married unless the ceremony takes place in a church. Ninety-nine per cent of wedding ceremonies are conducted by priests, pastors, reverends or bishops. Further, many couples have been given pre-marital counsellors who are priests. So it is extremely difficult to separate or to distance marriage from the realm of the church and certainly from the Christian experience.
That God spoke to marriage so often in His Word would indicate that it is blessed, honourable and sacred. The fact that many marriages end in divorce does mean that it is less than honourable.
Kathleen Kiernan, a professor of social policy and demography at the University of York, said the figures reflected the rise in the number of couples opting for “informal unions”. That more and more couples are settling for “shacking up” together without blessing their unions through marriage does not render marriage flawed. It is still a case of whether we see the glass as half empty or half full.
If, according to statistics, between 41 and 43 per cent of all marriages are likely to end in divorce, conversely it means that more are likely to be successful than to fail.
Now is the time for the Christian church collective to champion the cause of marriage. Yes, many will end in divorce but more will survive. The Christian church must engender an environment that encourages couples to get married. In the same way we must tell our children that homosexuality is not an option, we must tell couples that the family unit that God endorses is the one that is blessed through holy matrimony.
In conclusion, I challenge both the sociologists and the other social scientists to bring the statistics that show how many informal unions end in separation and in disarray.
I decree and I declare that the nuclear family and the institution of marriage are restored to their original glory and given their rightful place in the contemporary Caribbean.
For sure, Father Rogers, the Christian church cannot disown marriage as just a cultural or secular institution.
• Matthew Farley is a secondary school principal, chairman of the National Forum on Education, and a social commentator.