MODESTO'S VALENTINE: DIVORCE RATE PLUNGES 47.6% - McManus
cmfce at his.com
Thu Feb 15 10:35:45 EST 2001
subject: MODESTO'S VALENTINE: DIVORCE RATE PLUNGES 47.6%
from: Smart Marriages
McManus - Ethics & Religion
February 14, 2001
Advance for Feb. 16, 2001
MODESTO'S VALENTINE: DIVORCE RATE PLUNGES 47.6%
By Mike McManus
On Valentine's Day four years ago, Curt Seigfield received a call in
Arizona, where he was
living with his parents, from his estranged wife in Modesto, Cal. They had
been separated for six months because Debbie discovered her husband was so
addicted to gambling he had squandered $50,000 of family assets. And he
concedes ''There was a lot of deception and lying.''
Nevertheless, Debbie said, ''I forgive you and I want you to come home,
working on these issues. I will stand by you no matter what.''
What moved on her heart was not a new compassion for him, but the
taking of a course
called ''Reconciling God's Way,'' created by Joe and Michelle Williams at
Big Valley Grace Community Church. First, Debbie realized the Bible gives
only one reason for divorce, adultery, and Curt had not been unfaithful.
Second, she says, ''I came to the point where I cared more about what God
wanted, and got my eyes off what my husband was doing.''
God ''hates divorce,'' says Malachi. Therefore she had to hate it too.
Yet, ironically, when
she told Curt she would stand by him, no matter what - he began to change.
They have now not only rebuilt their marriage, but are leaders in the course
that has reached 793 people since 1997.
Reconciling God's Way is a small reason why Modesto's divorce rate has
astonishing 47.6 percent in 15 years. The deeper reason is that 95 pastors
signed America's first ''Community Marriage Policy'' in 1986, pledging to
take steps ''to radically reduce the divorce rate among those married in
No other American city has slashed its divorce rate in half. If the
nation could achieve that
goal, nearly 600,000 marriages a year would be saved.
And 134 other cities have adopted a Community Marriage Policy (CMP),
Modesto's pioneering model. In only three years, divorces have fallen 19
percent in Chattanooga, 31 percent in El Paso and 32.5 percent in Kansas
City, Kan. and its suburbs. The divorce rate is falling faster in these
cities than in Modesto.
I should say, at this point, I've been involved in these efforts, and
am not disinterested. I
made a speech which challenged Modesto clergy to create the CMP, and now
direct Marriage Savers (marriagesavers.org) which helps clergy adopt reforms
to cut divorce rates.
What reforms? As Modesto clergy put it, ''It is the responsibility of
pastors to set
minimum requirements to raise the quality of commitment in those we marry.
We believe that couples who seriously participate in premarital testing and
counseling will have a better understanding of what the marriage commitment
Therefore, Catholic, Protestant and Jewish clergy agreed to require a
''minimum of four
months'' marriage preparation that includes a study of biblical doctrines
and the taking of a premarital inventory, such as FOCCUS or PREPARE. Either
can predict with 80 percent accuracy who is likely to divorce. A tenth of
couples who take this step break their engagement.
Studies show that those who do have the same scores as those who marry and
later divorce. Thus they are avoiding a bad marriage before it has begun.
The inventory also provides a way that older, solidly married couples
can mentor the
younger couples, talking through the issues they have identified as being
areas of conflict. In my home church, for example, since 1992 we trained 52
Mentor Couples who have helped 308 couples prepare for marriage. Of that
number, about 50 broke off before a wedding. But there have been only six
divorces of more than 250 who married in eight years.
One core principle of CMPs is that the churches pledge to take steps to
marriages in churches. For example, hundreds of couples are taking a course
in Sioux Falls, S.D. called ''Ten Great Dates,'' sparked by a video series
by David and Claudia Arp. Churches are providing babysitters while their
parents enjoy fun exercises that help them rediscover each other.
Another commitment of clergy is ''to create a Marriage Ministry of
whose marriages once nearly failed to work with troubled marriages,'' as
Peoria pastors put it. Finally, churches pledge to reconcile the separated
and to help stepfamilies be successful.
Every Sunday, 100 people attend Reconciling God's Way, with the men and
opposite sides of the room. Each gender faces similar issues and both
sexes feel freer to talk if their spouse is not present. In fact, the course
has developed two manuals, that are being used across the nation by
thousands of hurting spouses and by a same sex Support Partner to help hold
them accountable. To order a set for $27, call 209 578-4357.
The clergy of Modesto meet weekly for prayer. Clearly, those prayers
are being answered.
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