Local churches team up to support marriage - 8/28/02
cmfce at smartmarriages.com
Wed Aug 28 16:45:40 EDT 2002
subject: Local churches team up to support marriage - 8/28/02
from: Smart Marriages
Here is an interview of Pastor Susan Zencka who has attended the last two
Smart Marriages conferences - and it shows! Follow her lead - call your
paper and tell them you have a story and great plans to strengthen marriage
in your community. - diane
Local churches team up to support marriage
Tri-Town Ministerial Association creates standard premarital policy.
BY EMILY HISER
Northwest Indiana Times Staff Writer
Wednesday, August 28, 2002
In an effort to reduce the divorce rate and strengthen the institution of
marriage, the Tri-Town Ministerial Association (TMA) has created a
"Community Marriage Policy" that will standardize some of the premarital and
marital support practices of member churches.
"We know that 74 percent of weddings are performed in churches," said Susan
Zencka, pastor of Dyer Presbyterian Church.
"There's a 50 percent divorce rate. We know it's high. Once we recognize
that churches perform 74 percent of weddings, it makes it clear to the
clergy that we have a special responsibility to help couples do this better.
No one who gets married plans to get divorced."
In June, Dyer Presbyterian, Immanuel Presbyterian, Sun Crest Community
Church, Holy Shepherd Lutheran, Grace Lutheran and Crossroads Community
Church signed off on the marriage policy that was jointly drafted by members
of the TMA earlier this year.
Other churches like Dyer United Methodist Church and Rivers of the Living
Waters Church have said they will sign the policy, but have not had an
opportunity to do so, Zencka said. The policy is not enforced by the
Tri-Town Ministerial Association, but is rather a document each church must
approve individually and set into practice within its own congregation.
The policy sets minimum guidelines to which all participating churches agree
to adhere, such as encouraging an engaged couple to meet with clergy before
finalizing a wedding date, observing a minimum of four months before a
marriage to allow time for scheduling four sessions of premarital
counseling, and encouraging couples to complete a premarital inventory as
part of the premarital process.
Churches may exceed the guidelines of the policy; for example, a church may
elect to require six premarital counseling sessions as opposed to four.
Zencka said the idea for this policy came from her involvement with a
national organization called Marriage Savers. She learned about other church
organizations that had enacted similar policies to help reduce the divorce
rate in cities like Chattanooga, Tenn., Kansas City, Kan., and Modesto,
Zencka and her colleagues in the TMA compared their church's marriage
policies and drafted a document that reflected the lowest common denominator
of the congregations' policies.
The associate pastor of St. John the Evangelist Church in St. John was
instrumental in developing the policy, Zencka said.
"(The policy) extends to the Protestant community some of the policies that
were (already) in effect in the Catholic Church," she said. "The Catholic
Church has a long history of supporting the integrity of marriage and has
some way been in the forefront."
The policy also encourages the idea of engaged couples working with "mentor
couples" before and after the wedding day.
"It's good for couples to be involved with someone in addition to the clergy
person," Zencka said. " A couple may relate more strongly to another
Zencka said the policy is in no way intended to pass judgment about divorce.
"A lot of us have experienced divorce," she said. "It's because of the pain
we have experienced that we know how hard divorce is, not because we're
sitting in some sort of exalted position of presumed perfection."
Zencka said working with her colleagues in the TMA provides all of the
member churches with the valuable opportunity to share resources not only
about marriage issues, but family issues as well.
"Marriages that are in trouble can work," she said. "People who are in
unhappy marriages can become happy without getting divorced. And once we
recognize what the impact on individuals is and on children and families,
and recognize that there is an alternative, the next step is (to) try to
help people have happy, successful, lifelong committed marriages."
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