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Day 2

Marriage Council Looks to the Future in General Synod Report

The work of the Church of Ireland Marriage Council was presented at General Synod this afternoon by its chairperson the Revd Jonathan Campbell–Smyth.

He said the work of the council was becoming ever more important. He noted that recent statistics from the EU showed that in the period from 1965 to 2015 (a period of half a century) the rate of people getting married in the UK has reduced by 41%, and thankfully only reduced by 12% in Ireland. The rate of divorce in the same 50 year period within the UK has increased by 70%, but Ireland has remained reasonably static year on year. The most startling statistic, he said, comes from the Office for National Statistics in the UK showing that in 2017 42% of marriages in England and Wales ended in divorce, and whilst this is out of our jurisdiction, it gives an unhealthy picture into the future, he suggested.

“Therefore this very much prompts a call on the Church to refocus its support and mission for a culture that is changing dramatically, and where the biblical values which we hold on to from Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 19 are in jeopardy of being lost in a society that considers these to be outdated. I have said in previous years to Synod that the impact of marriage breakup has a dramatic impact on children, and therefore as chair of this Council I feel we could benefit greatly in working closely with other committees to ensure children of divorced couples or those witnessing frightening disruption within the family home are supported properly by the Church,” he stated.

Mr Campbell–Smyth said that it was encouraging to know that in the midst of challenging times for churches, the council was still considering ways of providing support to couples considering marriage, enriching those already in marriage and clergy who support them.

He said that the council had undergone a review to create a clearer focus for the future. This followed three strands: communication to make the council more accessible and more visible to the church; counselling marriage enrichment and marriage crisis; supporting clergy couples.

The report was seconded by the Revd John Ardis.