Although the covenant-marriage movement has gained wide support among conservative churches, the national effort to safeguard marriages against easy or no-fault divorce has stalled, according to Chronicles magazine (May).
The covenant-marriage movement began in the late 1990s under the leadership of Southern Baptist pastor Phil Waugh. The movement sought to encourage churches to promote extralegal covenant-marriages in their own congregations and denominations–largely through premarital counseling and eventually couples signing a covenant-marriage contract–as well as calling on Christians to exert pressure on state legislatures to enact laws that would make covenant-marriage legally binding While 50,000 couples have joined the covenant-marriage movement, with the support of 65 pro-family ministries and organizations, the movement has so far failed to gain much momentum on a political level.
Only Arkansas, Arizona and Louisiana were able to get covenant-marriage laws on the books. Similar bills were unsuccessfully introduced in 21 other states. Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, who has championed covenant-marriages, attempted to jumpstart the effort by sponsoring a national made-for-television event on Valentine’s Day in 2005.
While Huckabee claimed that the event brought in more covenant- marriages to Arkansas in one month than had occurred in the previous four years, it was more complicated than that, writes Aaron Wolf. Over the three-plus years preceding the event, less than one percent of Arkansans had opted for covenant-marriage. While the figure is slightly higher in Louisiana and Arizona, the divorce rate has not dropped in any of these states. Wolf adds that Waugh has attempted to “cement the identity of the Sunday nearest Valentine’s Day as `Covenant Marriage Sunday,’” where congregations will be supplied with literature as well as a ledger of covenant-marriage certificates.
(Chronicles, 928 N. Main St., Rockford, IL 61103)