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Faith and Practice

Pacific Yearly Meeting

of the

Religious Society of Friends

a guide to quaker discipline in the experience of pacific yearly meeting of the religious society of friends.
published 2001

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pym in context
quaker faith & spiritual practice
testimony & experience of friends
organization of the society
activities & organization of the YM
sources of quotations
index of sources
subject index

We gratefully acknowledge the generosity of Friends who have permitted us to use material for this Faith and Practice.


separation and divorce

 Marriage is a covenant. Marriage vows should not be taken lightly or broken easily. Nevertheless, some couples find themselves unable to overcome difficulties in their relationships and find it necessary to separate or divorce.Many people experience a sense of failure for promises not kept. In such situations, Meeting can help them remember that God’s grace is available to all.

 A crisis in a marriage is a spiritual crisis.† The Meeting’s first responsibility is to minister to this spiritual crisis by providing a clearness committee, offering prayer, and holding individuals in the Light. The pain of separation and divorce, even in the best of circumstances, can take years to heal.Meetings may provide helpful referrals to professional counseling resources and vital support such as childcare, a listening ear, or a holding hand.

 Although it is not the role of a clearness committee to offer legal advice, such a committee can be a welcome adjunct to an oftendivisive legal procedure. Within a clearness committee, mutual accords may be reached and noted to remind the couple of their agreement. Peaceful mediation should be sought whenever possible, either within or outside the Meeting. If it becomes necessary to seek legal counsel, Friends are advised to do so with careful consideration.

 A member of the Oversight Committee should consider approaching a couple they know to be struggling with their relationship to offer a clearness committee. Friends need to be courageous about reaching out to a couple that otherwise might not be ready to ask for help. Tenderness towards the needs of the individuals in the relationship should always be paramount, holding each of them in the Light and offering appropriate assistance when they are receptive to it.

 If, after prayerful consideration and using the resources of a clearness committee, separation or divorce seems inevitable, the Oversight Committee of the Monthly Meeting should be informed. Dissolution should move forward only when the couple is clear that a marriage no longer exists.

 Friends should be tender to the needs of any children involved. They have a right to be heard. The Meeting’s role may be as simple as appointing individuals to listen to the children’s fears or taking them on an outing. It may be advisable to offer a separate clearness committee for the children so they may freely express their desires.

† A clearness committee for separation or divorce may wish to consider such matters as: 1) how the separation or divorce will affect the spiritual life, sense of self, and relationships of each of the partners; 2) alternatives to divorce; 3) how children will be affected; 4) how finances and property will be affected; 5) how legal obligations will be met; and 6) how involvement in the life of the Meeting will be affected.