Synod tackles divorce rules<P><B>

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The Independent Online
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ANDREW BROWN

The Church of England has agreed to try to produce clear rules for the remarriage of divorced people in church, after a debate in the General Synod yesterday.

Dr John Habgood, Archbishop of York, told the Synod that the Church's present policy seemed ``a disgrace'' to the secular world. But, he said, the bishops had been unable to agree on any policy. He welcomed the Synod motion urging the bishops to report back with proposals.

This disagreement was obvious in yesterday's debate between those bishops who feel that recognition of second marriages weakens first marriages, and those who feel it more important, once first marriages have failed, to strengthen subsequent ones.

The Bishop of Sodor and Man, the Rt Rev Noel Jones, said that none of the priests in his diocese would remarry divorced people. ``If today's debate achieves anything, I hope it will urge the bishops to strengthen their guidelines.

``I want the Synod to give a firm message that we uphold the sanctity of marriage and that we refuse to be led by the nose by sentimental hype

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'' The General Synod declared in 1981 that there are circumstances in which a divorced person may be remarried in church in the lifetime of a former partner, but has been unable since then to agree what these circumstances might be.

All Anglican priests are legally able to marry divorced people in church, though few do. The debate was marked by a strong feeling that children's rights are too often ignored by parents eager to divorce.

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