Religious Groups Nurturing Marriage/Marriage Savers update - 9/04

Smart Marriages ® cmfce
Wed Sep 29 03:31:00 EDT 2004

subject: Religious Groups Nurturing Marriage/Marriage Savers update - 9/04


Remarkable. Straightforward reporting on a Community Marriage Policy by THE
Washington Post - how times have changed for the "M" word. And, Mike's
update that includes, for the first time, social services and welfare office
sponsors for Community Marriage Policies. And, check out the new FOCCUS and
Marriage Savers models for working with public agencies, mentor couples and
poor unwed couples. Attend the Marriage Savers 2-day preconference training
institute (Smart Marriages Dallas June 22 & 23, 2005) where they'll
introduce these innovations. - diane

Dear Diane,
Heres is an article from Today's Washington Post (Sept. 28, page B6) on the
189th city to sign a Community Marriage Policy, in Leesburg, VA on behalf of
the Loudoun (County) Marriage Alliance last Saturday.

The Summit was paid for by 16 churches who donated $150 each and the
Virginia Department of Social Services.

Harriet and I will be training clergy and Mentor Couples on two upcoming
Saturdays, December 4 and January 8 in Leesburg at St. Peter's Episcopal

A week earlier, Community Marriage Policies were signed in Springfield,
Missouri and Springfield, Ohio -- two Springfields on the same day!

In Springfield, Ohio the clergy said their goal was to slash its divorce
rate by 50% within three years -- the most ambitious effort yet. However,
there have been 87 divorces for every 100 marriages in the area for a
decade (Clark County). To cut Springfield's divorce rate in half would only
be bringing its rate down to that of the rest of the U.S. Some 46 pastors
signed the covenant and many more are expected to do so.

Jeff Williams, Director of Marriage Savers of Clark County, and a therapist,
was quoted in a page 1 story, "Together we are about to do an absolutely
remarkably good thing. Challenging? Yes. Difficult? Yes. Worthwhile?

This is the first CMP that was organized by a local welfare office, the
Clark County Department of Jobs and Family Services (DJFS), which made a
grant of $60,000 to launch the policy. Its director, Bob Suver, said that
healthy marriages make for healthy families and children. "Especially the
children we get involved with, you can see the impact of dysfunction in
their lives. It is extremely hard to turn that around...So why wouldn't we
try to give everyone the advantage that we can?"

We at Marriage Savers' national office were so impressed with the DJFS
leadership, that we secured a federal grant to work with the welfare office
to design a strategy to help unwed couples having children consider taking a
course we are creating with DJFS to so enrich the relationships of those
having children out of wedlock -- that some couples might decide to marry.
Marriage Savers is working with Head Start of Austin, Texas with the same
goal. In both cases, public employees will ask if the couple is active in a
church. If so, we will train Mentor Couples in their churches to administer
a special FOCCUS premarital inventory. Otherwise, the inventory will be
administered by public agency officials we are training.

Dr. Barbara Markey, creator of the FOCCUS inventory, and a member of the
Marriage Savers Board, is trimming her 156-item inventory down to 80--90
items, because she found the full inventory was overwhelming to poor unwed
parents, with whom she is working in Omaha, on another federal grant. The
"Alternate Edition" of the inventory is written so that those with just 3rd
grade English can understand it. And, at our recommendation, it will refer
to the unwed person's "Partner" rather than "future spouse," because we do
not want unwed parents to think we are pressuring them to marry. We are also
revising our secular "Facilitator's Guide to FOCCUS" to make it simpler and
easier to administer. These new instruments will be used in Austin as well
as Springfield this fall.

The Springfield, Missouri signing of a Community Marriage Policy was
coordinated by Jennifer Baker who attended one of our Smart Marriages
Workshops. She is a therapist with the Forest Institute. Among the
speakers at the signing were Michigan Judge James Sheridan and Rev. LeRoy
Sullivan and Rev. Jeffrey Meyers of Kansas City, KS.

Michael J. McManus
Co-Founder, President
Marriage Savers

The Washington Post
September 28, 2004
By Lila Arzua

Leaders of two dozen Loudoun County churches and religious organizations
vowed over the weekend to support the institution of marriage, saying they
hoped to prevent thousands of divorces in the county over the next decade.

The pledge, signed at First Mount Olive Baptist Church in Leesburg by 24
pastors and heads of religious communities, seeks "to empower and enrich
life-long marriages and to raise up the standard of two-parent families in
the community," according to the document. "In this way, our community will
foster an environment that has the greatest likelihood of ensuring the
wellbeing of its members, especially its children."

At current rates, Loudoun, the fastest-growing county in the United States,
will probably record 8,000 divorces during the next 10 years, according to
Jack Stagman, president of the Loudoun Church Alliance, which is
coordinating the pro-marriage effort. By adopting the practices of Marriage
Savers -- a national group devoted to preserving marriage -- Stagman and
several of the pastors hope to cut that number in half.

Marriage Savers is an eight-year-old nondenominational organization that
has initiated similar programs in other communities, including Austin and
Kansas City, Kan.

"We're letting people know that we the church are going to take some
leadership in this," said the Rev. Harold Stinger, pastor of First Mount
Olive Baptist Church. "I feel we're going to accomplish an awful lot.

"And for every marriage that's saved, you're probably affecting three or
four people," Stagman said.

At the meeting, Marriage Savers co-founders Mike and Harriet McManus
presented statistics gathered by the Heritage Foundation and the Census that
they said show married people are happier, wealthier, healthier and have sex
more frequently than singles. Single parenthood, they said, increases the
incidence of suicide, incarceration and child abuse.

"Strengthening marriage is a concern that transcends religious
differences," Mike McManus told the gathering.

Marriage Savers emphasizes a three-tiered approach: preparing couples prior
to marriage, strengthening existing marriages and rescuing marriages in
crisis. Mentor couples, who are trained to provide guidance, are a key
component of all three approaches. The Loudoun Church Alliance has begun
recruiting dozens of couples, who will start training in December. They then
will be able to help others through the issues in their marriages as well as
conduct premarital "inventories" to help the engaged be certain that they
are making the right decision, Marriage Savers proponents said.

Stagman said that too many organized churches fail to combat the "chaos" of
divorce. "We are the cause of the breakdown of marriage in America," said
Stagman, observing that divorce rates among religious communities are now
comparable to those in secular ones. "Divorce affects everybody -- Democrat,
Republican, the wealthy, the middle class, the poor and all the races," he

Also at the weekend's meeting were David Weintraub and Jonathan Weintraub,
partners for 21 years and founders of Equality Loudoun, a group that
advocates on gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender issues. David Weintraub
said that he supports the idea of encouraging couples to take inventories
prior to marriage but that his agreement with the Marriage Savers ends
there. He said he is concerned that those involved in the weekend's
pro-marriage pledge are opposed to homosexual marriage.

"The right to marry doesn't mean anything without the marriage of your
choice," he said.

Stagman, however, said that question is outside the marriage preservation
effort in Loudoun. "We are not making a stand or a statement in that area at
all," said Stagman, who said he welcomes Christians as well as
non-Christians to sign the pledge. "The focus of what we are all about is
strengthening marriage and reducing divorce."

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