See also Divorce and Remarriage.
For full reports and exact statements of the denomination's position on a particular issue, the reader should look to the references provided.
Marriage is an institution created by God. It is a covenant relationship established by mutual vows between a man and a woman united by God. Permanent unity in marriage is possible in Christ and is demanded of Christ's disciples who are married.
Marital matters were dealt with by the CRC numerous times in its history. Some of the struggles were over whether the Bible provides any grounds for divorce, whether remarried people are committing adultery, how to treat the membership of divorced and remarried persons, and what counsel to give persons experiencing marital problems, divorce, and remarriage. The long-standing position of the CRC from 1908 on was that people who remarry after an unbiblical divorce are living in continual adultery. That position was elaborated on in 1947 but was not changed until 1956. That year synod stated that there was no scriptural evidence to support the thesis regarding continual adultery. In 1968 synod decided that such matters are primarily the responsibility of the church consistory and that they should involve the classis only on appeal, instead of in every instance, as was previously the case.
Recent decisions on marital matters grew out of the 1971 appointment of a synodical study committee to draw up new counseling guidelines for pastors and consistories in regard to marriage, divorce, and remarriage. Synod 1973 did not accept that committee's report but commissioned a new committee, whose report was referred to the churches by Synod 1975. Synod 1977 could not agree on this report largely because of conflicting opinions on whether or not there are biblical grounds for divorce.
Another study committee was assigned to reexamine and set forth the biblical teachings on divorce and remarriage and to formulate pastoral guidelines with respect to divorce and remarriage. This third study committee reported to Synod 1980, which accepted the report's biblical teaching on marriage, divorce, and remarriage and adopted the report's Guidelines for the Ministry of the Church. This report is summarized in the church's position stated above. Later overtures and appeals regarding the guidelines have not been sustained by synod.
Synod 2013 received two overtures requesting guidance on applying the CRC’s position in light of the legalization of same-sex marriage in Canada (since 2005) and in many U.S. states, and synod responded by appointing a study committee to report to Synod 2016. (In the meantime the United States legalized same-sex marriage nationwide on June 26, 2015.) In response to the Committee to Provide Pastoral Guidance re Same-sex Marriage, Synod 2016 received the committee’s majority report and minority report as information and decided to “appoint a new study committee to articulate a foundation-laying biblical theology of human sexuality that pays particular attention to biblical conceptions of gender and sexuality” (Acts of Synod 2016, pp. 919). Synod also decided “to place a reference to the pastoral guidance of the minority report as a new Supplement to Church Order Article 69-c” (Acts 2016, p. 918). The new Supplement, Article 69-c states that “the pastoral guidance . . . recommended in the minority report . . . represents one example of how synod has determined that a marriage is considered to be in conflict with the Word of God.”
In response to an overture seeking a study of the morality and advisability of ecclesiastical (non-civil) marriage, Synod 2019 appointed an Ecclesiastical Marriage Task Force to search out the legality and moral legitimacy of performing such a marriage ceremony and to report to Synod 2021 (Acts of Synod 2019, pp. 791-92, 822-23).
References to Agendas and Acts of Synod
Acts of Synod 1908, pp. 31, 39, 42
Acts of Synod 1947, pp. 17, 47, 65-69, 77-80, 238-45
Acts of Synod 1952, pp. 20-23, 123-52
Acts of Synod 1956, pp. 15-17, 55-59, 117-19, 285-327, 379-80
Acts of Synod 1957, pp. 87-90, 93-95, 105-7, 335-47
Acts of Synod 1968, pp. 60-61, 577-78
Acts of Synod 1971, pp. 112, 148, 632-40
Acts of Synod 1973, pp. 58-59, 108, 595-607, 744-45
Acts of Synod 1975, pp. 104, 488-514
Acts of Synod 1976, pp. 38-39, 85, 104, 458-96
Acts of Synod 1977, pp. 134-37, 149, 510-48, 681-82, 691-94, 697-99
Acts of Synod 1979, pp. 45, 137, 467
Acts of Synod 1980, pp. 40-41, 467-85, 592
Acts of Synod 1981, pp. 62, 614-17
Acts of Synod 1983, pp. 671-72
Agenda for Synod 1994, p. 239
Acts of Synod 1994, p. 485
Agenda for Synod 2000, pp. 507-8
Acts of Synod 2000, p. 711
Agenda for Synod 2013, pp. 418-20
Acts of Synod 2013, pp. 640-41
Agenda for Synod 2016, pp. 361-443
Acts of Synod 2016, pp. 914-21, 926-27
Agenda for Synod 2019, pp. 518-19
Acts of Synod 2019, pp. 791-92, 822-23, 827