The idea is to encourage engaged couples to have a courtship of at least a year and to meet four times with a trained, married couple. The churches hope this will reduce the number of couples who marry and then divorce.
The idea seems to be originating with and intentionally limited to the conservative evangelical churches. Among other things, it defines marriage as a “lifelong and unique covenant between one man and one woman,” which seems almost designed to make it hard for churches that support the marriage rights of homosexuals to sign on.
The Catholic diocese is holding back too, while it studies the policy more carefully to ensure that it’s compatible with Catholic teachings on the subject of marriage and divorce.
The policy has no numerical goals and includes no plans to measure whether it is effective. “Some places have numerical goals, but it’s difficult to give statistics that are reliable,” [the spokesman for the policy] said. “My goal would be to see families stay intact in a healthy way, which will really benefit the whole community.”
Philosophically, I’m in favor of community marriage policies where all those of faith speak with one voice and encourage couples to get to know each other well and explore their fiance’s personality and character thoroughly before marrying. As my good friend Jim Robey says, “If I can talk you out of marrying, I should.”
Whenever I read about a policy like the one in Fresno, however, I get the impression they’re more concerned about getting in the newspaper than about reducing the divorce rate. If you want a community marriage policy to work, here’s Lee’s quick list of things to do: