Is It Time for a Revival of Marriage in San Antonio?
by Carl Caton, San Antonio

There's an old adage that says “It's always darkest before the dawn.” That aptly describes where we are with the divorce culture in our country. And in San Antonio, like everywhere else, families are struggling to make sense of the chaos created by the atrophy of marriage.

But a new glimmer of hope has appeared on the horizon. More than 10,000 pastors in 42 states have come together to fight for this God ordained institution. Together they have signed "Community Marriage Policies" with the goal of radically reducing the divorce rate in their local churches. It's a hopeful new sign after decades of bad news. And it is working.

The "Community Marriage Policy®" is an innovation of Mike and Harriet McManus, co-founders of Marriage Savers. This Christian ministry has developed a proven strategy to slash divorce and cohabitation rates, and to raise the marriage rate. They have helped the clergy of 228 cities and towns to adopt a Community Marriage Policy® (or Covenant) with the goal to "radically reduce the divorce rate in area churches," as Modesto, CA pastors put it in the first covenant in 1986. Clergy join together across denominational and racial lines and sign a public covenant on the courthouse steps to make healthy marriages a priority in their congregations. Specifically, in Community Marriage Policies®, religious leaders pledge to train Mentor Couples to help other couples at every stage of the marital life cycle to achieve five great goals:

1. Give "marriage insurance" to the engaged -- a 95% guarantee that their marriage will go the distance. 

2. Enrich all existing marriages by conducting an annual week-end event at the church, using a marital inventory, speakers, or videos. 

3. Restore four out of five troubled marriages by training "back-from-the-brink couples" 

4. Reconcile the separated using a self-guided workbook course, "Marriage 911"

5. Help stepfamilies succeed by creating "Stepfamily Support Groups" 

Our sister city, Austin Texas, has been a standout in the program. Since adopting its city-wide policy, divorce in our state's capital has dropped more than 48%. Interestingly, of all 228 cities to adopt the program, the best results have been evidenced in the Lone Star State! In addition to Austin - Dallas, Abilene, Flower Mound, Forney, Lake Jackson, Tyler, Burleson, El Paso and Houston - have all signed on to this remarkable program. Nationally, an independent study by the Institute for Research and Evaluation
indicates that among the first 114 cities to sign the policy, divorce rates in those cities fell by 17.5 percent over seven years, which is nearly double the 9.4 percent decline in similar cities that did not sign the policy. Such a rate was enough to save 50,000 marriages. Nationally, the success of the Community Marriage Policy® program has been cited in publications among prestigious research institutions such as The Heritage Foundation, the Family Research Council, and was honored as a recipient of a 2001 Smart Marriages® Impact Award. At the local level, individual churches that adopt these reforms can virtually eliminate divorce in their congregations. And more import than any award is a single family that was once "at the brink" but is now lovingly restored - a family whose children still go to bed at night with both parents at home.

Why now?

Very recently, God has been at work in the hearts and minds of many churches to become more purposeful in the ministry of strengthening marriages. This summer, the Southern Baptists, in an admirably honest and transparent statement, issued a remarkable resolution entitled, "On The Scandal Of Southern Baptist Divorce". Therein, they pledge to bring about comprehensive changes to their approach toward dealing with troubled or broken marriages. In a major Pastoral Letter, the Catholic Church passed a comprehensive declaration of support for marriage in a letter titled "Marriage: Love and Life in the Divine Plan." The Church profoundly claims that, "The Church is built on a foundation of marriage and family life, which it cherishes as the school of a deeper humanity and a cradle of the civilization of love." In a common refrain, churches and denominations throughout the country are proclaiming the importance of marriage and are reallocating resources to deal with what has become a systemic problem in churches, problems which present themselves any a myriad of symptomatic ways. In short, the Body of Christ is serious about building stronger marriages and stronger families. It is time that the faithful in San Antonio get serious as well.

For Such a Time as This

Isn't it amazing that more than 10,000 pastors in 228 cities have signed onto the Community Marriage Policy® movement? And here we are, in San Antonio - seventh largest city in the United States - still struggling with the fallout of divorce, fatherlessness, and the poverty that invariably follows! I don't understand the timing, but I do believe the church is ready. The first glimmers of a breaking dawn are appearing on the horizon in our beautiful Hill Country city. God in powerfully at work in our community.  And the hearts of leaders throughout San Antonio are ready - to join together in a mighty work of God - a work to restore God's perfect design for marriage and family.

This fall, community leaders, pastors, agencies, and lay persons will join together to find common ground in the God ordained mission of restoring strength and dignity to the institution of marriage in San Antonio. If you would like to be a part of this historic and powerful movement, please contact Carl Caton at (210) 651-5050 or Mike McManus of Marriage Savers at (301) 469-5873.