Marriage and Divorce


Out of its commitment to the stability and strength of marriages and families and out of concern about the prevailing breakdown of both in our time, Fuller Theological Seminary wishes, in the following statement, to affirm its commitments and policies with respect to God's will for the permanence of marriage and the tragic realities of divorce.

  1. As in all of its policies and practices, so also in its policy with respect to marriage and divorce, the seminary intends to embody the mind of Christ and the teaching of Holy Scripture.

    Christ teaches that God the Creator intended marriage to be an unconditional covenant between a woman and a man that unites them into one corporate body. Guided by the love and grace of God to all persons, each spouse vows to love, honor, and cherish the other in all circumstances without exception (Mark 10:2-12). Christ's teaching is clear in recalling the creation story. He says: "But from the beginning, God made them male and female. 'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.' So they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, let no one separate."

    The apostle Paul, having reaffirmed the Lord's teaching about the permanence of marriage, adds the richly suggestive metaphor of the marriage of a man and a woman as a mirror of the abiding union of Jesus Christ and his Body, the Church. From these words, it is clear that God wills marriage to be a permanent partnership of love. Surely God wills for every marriage something far richer than permanence. God wills that both partners subordinate their individual expectations to their shared growth into the disciplined maturity and wholeness of Christ. God wills that healthy marriages be pivotal supports for all other human relationships. God wills that a wife and husband model together the whole mind of Christ for human community. The concern of this statement, however, is with his will for the permanence of marriage. It is motivated by a desire that Christian marriages in particular survive the erosions of a culture in which pursuit of each individual's personal satisfaction has replaced lifetime commitment as the norm for marriage.

    Fuller Theological Seminary seeks to be a community of men and women, single and married, who are striving to make their lives reflect the healthy, generous, attractive, and enduring embodiments of God's unselfish love in a selfish world.

  2. Sensitive to the fragility of any marriage, and to the fact that the price of fidelity to the biblical ideal is often paid in the hard currency of patient courage, Fuller Theological Seminary intends to do whatever it can to encourage and comfort those members of the community who walk the path of fidelity in lonely need and turbulent pain. It is concerned not only to help people salvage their distressed marriages, but to be a community of support for all who strive to make their healthy marriages and their strong families even healthier and stronger than they are. The seminary expects that persons who are experiencing a troubled marriage will recognize the importance of this community of support and will make good use of seminary and other resources in their effort to bring healing and wholeness to their marriage.

  3. The Fuller community intends to respond to its divorced members with a compassion that in no way compromises our conviction. We believe that God wills marriage to be permanent and that he is deeply grieved when any marriage fails. We do not intend to alter this conviction. In compassion, however, we recognize that, in our broken world, it may sometimes be the case that people do end their marriages. In accordance with Scripture and the theological heritage of the church, we must ascertain the circumstances and causes of the failure of the marriage. Some relevant circumstances taken together, and not as a checklist, may include personal motivations, history of the relationship, counseling efforts, questions of abuse, care of any children, remarriage, reconciliation efforts, and fidelity. While the seminary community does not reject members on the simple ground that they have experienced the pain of a broken covenant and a failed marriage, the seminary will review the circumstance and causes according to the seminary's Response Procedures for Alleged Violations of Community Standards.

  4. The seminary attempts to respond redemptively to people within its community whose marriages have, in tragic fact, failed. It means to do so in ways that reflect both its commitment to the permanence of a marriage covenant and its compassion for those whose covenants have been broken by divorce. We do not intend to compromise the biblical ideal; we acknowledge that the breakup of a marriage always grieves God. Yet, compassion leads us to discern that, in our broken human condition, divorce may sometimes be an unavoidable last resort to end a cycle of pain and sin within an unwholesome marriage. In this delicate balance of commitment and compassion, Fuller Theological Seminary hopes to be a redemptive community in which those who have experienced the pain of a covenant broken, a love failed, a marriage lost, are renewed.

  5. The Fuller community remains convinced that Christ's ideal of permanent marriage must be reflected, however imperfectly, in the lives of its faculty, administration, board, students, and staff. For this reason, it has established certain procedures for evaluating the circumstances and causes of any divorce that may occur.

    It expects that a member of the seminary Board of Trustees, faculty, administration, student body, or staff experiencing a divorce will self-report the relevant circumstances of his/her divorce to his/her provost council level supervisor. The purpose of the review will be to help colleagues ascertain whether the reasons for the divorce and the mind of the colleague concerning it are such as to recommend his or her continuing to function as a member in the Fuller community. The review shall be attended with utmost concern for the special needs and rights of all parties to the divorce; it shall be private, collegial, and as fair as possible to all concerned. The review process is outlined in the seminary's Response Procedures and, under certain circumstances, could result in dismissal of a person from the seminary community.

    Likewise, when someone who has been invited to join the seminary's Board of Trustees, the faculty, or senior administration, has experienced divorce, the candidate is asked to participate with a committee of his or her potential colleagues in a review of the circumstances of the divorce before any appointment is made.

  6. Finally, Fuller Theological Seminary applauds and encourages the creative efforts of those Christian agencies who, together with faithful Christian churches, are dedicated to the renewal and healing of marriage and family life in our society.