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LifeWay at forefront of movement to uplift lifelong ‘covenant’

NEW YORK (BP)–LifeWay Christian Resources has joined with approximately 20 Protestant, Catholic and para-church groups to encourage married couples to stay committed for life.
A representative group of the national organizations, with a combined constituency of more than 30 million, publicly kicked off the “Covenant Marriage Movement” May 11 in New York City at the Regency Hotel. The group signed an agreement committing to help couples make their marriages stronger.
In addition to Southern Baptists, participants in the Covenant Marriage Movement include the Assemblies of God, Focus on the Family, Promise Keepers, Moody Bible Institute and Marriage Savers.
“The focus of the Covenant Marriage Movement (CMM) is to uplift the positive in marriages and challenge couples to stand in support of a lifelong commitment,” said Phil Waugh, LifeWay family enrichment specialist who is co-chair of the Covenant Marriage steering team. “As a collective body of cooperating ministries, our desire is to affirm God’s design for marriage.”
Waugh, of Nashville, Tenn.; Tony Perkins, a legislator in Louisiana; and Leo Godzich, an Arizona pastor and president of the National Association of Marriage Enhancement (NAME), are heading up the Covenant Marriage Movement and hope to start a “marriage revival.”
“We want to provide couples from all walks of life an avenue through which they can individually or collectively affirm their marriages as Covenant Marriages,” Waugh said. “We want to help the clergy see its role as more than just performing weddings.” Members of the clergy should see themselves as counselors, both before a couple gets married and before they head down the road to divorce, Waugh said.
“The way to strengthen our families, churches and nation is through a revival of God’s intent of marriage and family,” he added.
The Covenant Marriage Movement has designed a perforated commitment card couples can sign, keeping one half for display in their homes and mailing the other half back to LifeWay to be entered into a database, Waugh said.
The “Covenant Marriage Movement” commitment states:
“Believing that marriage is a covenant intended by God to be a lifelong relationship between a man and a woman, we vow to God, each other, our families and our community to remain steadfast in unconditional love, reconciliation and sexual purity, while purposefully growing in our covenant marriage relationship.”
Perkins, a Louisiana representative who was the driving force behind instituting the Covenant Marriage Law in his state (the first to adopt it), said, “Revival in our country needs to begin in the home with the couples.”
The Louisiana law essentially gives couples a choice between a traditional marriage license and a covenant marriage license, which requires premarital counseling and sets strict limits on divorce.
Waugh said before a Covenant Marriage Law can be established in every state, “we have to help people and legislators get their hearts on the right track about the institution of marriage.”
Almost two dozen states have tried to reform no-fault divorce laws and for the most part have been unsuccessful, according to Perkins’ Internet site at www.tonyperkins.com/covenant.html.
Only Louisiana and Arizona have passed legislation offering couples a choice between traditional and covenant marriage licenses.
Perkins said the success of his bill benefited from the failures of other states trying to reform no-fault divorce laws.
“Rather than being on the defensive against no-fault divorce, we decided to go on the offensive for marriage,” he states on his website. “Being for marriage and family was a key element of this bill. We repeatedly stated that this was not about making divorce more difficult, but about making marriage more successful.”
Godzich, associate pastor of North Phoenix (Ariz.) First Assembly of God, said, “Marriage in our nation is in a very sad condition.”
That’s why the entire ministry staff at Godzich’s church has taken marriage training, and all have promised not to marry a couple unless they have signed a covenant marriage agreement.
In three years, the church’s divorce rate — which was once at 50 percent — has fallen to “less than one-fourth of 1 percent,” Godzich claimed.
Waugh said he recently was sitting on an airplane and heard a woman in the seat behind him talk about purchasing a divorce kit from a computer store.
“She was really upset that she was going to have to spend five extra dollars because the one she purchased wasn’t valid in her state of California,” he said.
A quick search on the Internet using the key words “divorce kits” turns up dozens of “self-help, do-it-yourself” software programs that make splitting up as easy as 1-2-3. A separate Internet search for divorce on Amazon.com, an on-line bookstore, calls up 2,797 titles, such as “101 Ways to Get Back at Your Ex,” “Affairs: Is Your Partner Having One? A Humorous Collection of 101 Clues and a Quiz,” and “Divorce for Dummies.”
The painful truth that divorce is just a software kit and book away “makes me sick,” Waugh said.
Another source of concern, he said, is that 80 percent of all weddings are performed in churches “and pastors aren’t taking responsibility” for the unions they are creating.
According to the Barna Research Group, 27 percent of Christians have been divorced compared to 23 percent of non-Christians.
“That’s not acceptable,” Waugh said. “If 80 percent of the marriages in this country are performed by the clergy, and Christians are getting divorced in larger numbers than non-Christians, then something is falling through the cracks.
“The clergy have a responsibility to the church to be something more than a wedding mill,” he said.
Waugh said groups participating in the Covenant Marriage Movement have agreed to “hand out one of our commitment cards at every event they sponsor.”
“The key is the grassroots movement of these organizations mobilizing people,” Godzich said.
“It’s not the politicians, the pulpits or the precincts. It’s the people who will make a difference,” he said. “We are challenging every couple in America to examine their definition of marriage. It is more than a contract or convenience or even a commitment. It is a covenant.”
Couples, churches and potential cooperating ministries can call 1-800-268-1343 or e-mail [email protected] for more information about the Covenant Ministry Movement.

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  • Terri Lackey