Divorce and Church dwindling in the Presbyterian Church Cameroon. A Sociological perspective

Essay, 2016

21 Pages, Grade: 2.0





A. The Biblical background of Divorce
B. Divorce in the PCC.
C. Causes of Divorce within the PCC
D. Effects of Divorce
E. Proposed Recommendations on the Issue of Divorce




a) The world of entertainment
b) Fashion
c) Unemployment
a) Negative and boring sermons.
b) The quest for miracles
c) Financial contributions/local rules of the church.



Marriage can be summarily defined as an agreement for an intended lifelong union established between a man and a woman for the simple purpose of staying together. The homosexual may define it differently as well as other groups of persons. Marriage in the Cameroonian context is a common family experience between most men and women. In this relationship, there is always the expectation of a happy life mentally, socially and psychologically balanced. While this union is established, there is often the danger that looms around it for crashing when misunderstandings creep in to it. This paper wants to discuss the problem of divorce in the midst of the marital life of some couple in the PCC. Around the world, there seem to be about 30 to 40 percent of threat to couple to go separate ways (Edinyang: 2013). Divorce is typically a painful process for all concerned. It takes time for parties involved to regain psychological equilibrium. While the adults may regain, the children continue to suffer one form of pains to the other (Edinyang: 2013). Engelbrecht et al (1999:4) defines divorce as a choice that two people make, not to live together as husband and wife. The effect of divorce is often catastrophic to the continuous development of a smooth family life. The causes of marriage and divorce vary from context to context. Though it is not as rampant in the Cameroonian context as it is in other areas, there are still traces of divorce that need to be understood and studied.

Divorces are often caused by the couple’s inability to resolve disputing or conflicting differences between them. According to Wikipedia the free encyclopaedia, divorce is the final termination of marital union, thus putting to an end the legal duties and responsibilities of marriage and dissolving bonds that hitherto bind couple together. Even though there are other causes of family instability, divorce is one of them and has come to fully constitute a social problem. Why it is so is because it does not end up to affect only the parties concerned but rather extend to the children and in the African setting to extended families. Once it affects the families, it means that the society too can be easily affected if the syndrome of divorce starts affecting many families within a single area. By this way, it can easily pass in to becoming a social problem. Horton and Leslie (1974) define a social problem as anything that many people are concern about and also talk of it and whose effect has left the realm of one or two people to engulf many others. Also that so long as there is the hope that a collective social action can provide a solution to an issue, it must constitute a social problem. Once an issue becomes a public affair that requires the action from many people to handle, it easily constitutes a social problem. Therefore the fact that the issue of divorce is no longer private but has called for the general concern of the public has qualified it to be suitably called a social problem.


We are going to discuss divorce as a social problem that has began to or is already affecting the church. We are not too concern with the general perspective of divorce but on that section which concerns the Christians and particularly from the context of the Presbyterian Church in Cameroon, PCC. We are going to seek to understand a possible background on the issue of divorce from the bible and also try to provide an answer to questions such as: What are those circumstances that may cause couple to divorce? What are the effects of divorce on the society and what can the PCC do to help this situation in Cameroon? It will only then be proper to first of all consider a biblical background on the issue of divorce. The questions that will be of direct concern here are: does the bible support the issue of divorce between couples? Has the issue of divorce been rather misinterpreted from the stand point of Christian ethics? Will the church rather prefer couple to kill themselves trying to cope together or is there room for saving lives with the option of letting divorce take place? The objective of this paper will be to try as much as possible to provide an overview proposed solution to the situation of divorce as a social problem and the way it can be discouraged from continuing in the society.


A. The Biblical background of Divorce

Most of the official stand of many denominations today holds that divorce is forbidden and that no true Christian should go for the option. They rather prefer to emphasize the part of tolerance and forgiveness given that it is the direct teachings of scriptures. Hardly would any church in the past easily accept that divorce could be possible between two disgruntled people. But it seems today that there are divergent views concerning the biblical stand point on divorce. Before now and in Deuteronomy 24:1-4, the instruction on divorce says that there should be nothing like it unless it is accompanied by a letter of divorce. In Malachi 2:16, the Lord says “I hate divorce” and in Matthew 5:32 and 19:9 Jesus Christ teaches against divorce. Paul in the letter to the first Corinthians in chapter 7 insists on the issue of maintaining the marriage relationship free from the threat of divorce so that the name of the Lord may be glorified (Archibald, T. R. 1931). Culturally, the Jews were allowed to marry as many women as they can and they could even keep concubines. The men could divorce at will over little issues such as the exposing of hair in public, too much salt in food or even when a man sees a more attractive woman than his wife (Denison, J: 2009). The Jews in their context saw nothing wrong in being fed up with a marriage and this explains why according to Denison, J (2009), Moses’ law was meant to curb the excesses of the men’s injustice over the women. This meant that before the dawn of the scriptural texts, divorce was already a long practice amongst the Jews. An attitude which seems they copied from their interaction for 400 years with the Egyptians (Josephus F. in Whiston, H. Rinehart, and Winston (n.d).

Contemporary scholars have therefore held on to a completely different interpretation of the scriptural dictate in recent times. They are of the opinion that the bible has been misunderstood on the issue of divorce. According to them, God never said He hated divorce as it seems; rather what has been translated as divorce has been a wrong translation. The first of them is Don Moore who holds that if a careful studies of the original Hebrew and Greek words are considered, then and only then can we get the true meaning of understanding the issue of divorce correctly. It is held here that the Hebrew word for divorce is keriythuwt which comes from the root karath (to cut) and which gives it a meaning which sounds more to be translated as Divorcement. Rather, what most scholars have done is to often translate shalach which means (put away) as if it were to mean divorce (Strong Dictionary), (Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon (2003). The Greek support for the scholars for shalach comes from the word apoluo which means to freely put away ( Orr J. 1915). Moore says that what the Jews practiced was the act of putting away their wives and of which according to God, if that must be done then it must be followed by a divorcemen t which was a legal letter written and signed by the man as a sign of freedom for the woman to remarry and also as a document that guaranteed her claims for her dowry from the man. So, what God said He hated was the shalach or apoluo- the act of putting away of wives and not the keriythuwt, the act of giving a divorcement letter. It is said then that for justice’s sake God allowed that a man who wants to put away his wife should not just sent away the wife but must issue this divorcement. Consequently they say God endorses divorce only if all it conditions of granting letters of divorcement are fulfilled. Josephus Flavius support this when he writes; “ he that desires to be divorced from his wife for any cause whatsoever, let him in writing give assurance that he will never use her as his wife anymore: for by this means, she may be at liberty to marry another husband... This gave public assurance of the end of the marriage and allowed the woman to demand for a legal refund of her dowry on which she will depend”. Barclay (1975:238) writes that the divorce certificate was easy to obtain and it reads as follows “Let this be from me thy writ of divorce and letter of dismissal and deed of liberation, thou mayest marry whatsoever man thou wilt”. The law of Hammurabi says that if a man is to divorce a woman with whom he has children, he must provide adequate property with which to bring them up. For George Lamsa Jesus was not opposed to legal divorce but rather against those who deserted their wives without cause. Garcia-Navarro, (2010) says that the charge of adultery against any divorced couple was directed to the woman who has just been ‘put away’ without an official divorcement for she was still bonded to the husband.

The conclusion drawn by this scholars was that divorce is not prohibited by the bible as translators have used contemporary eisegesis (fitting meaning into a text by applying what contextually pertains) to make it look so. Thus they see divorce as any other sin such as killing or stealing which can still come under the mercy of God. As an answer to the question: should there be divorce? They say the same question can be; should there be killing and stealing? They think that the church cannot attempt to stamp out divorce in the world by trying to improve upon the word of the scriptures. Garcia-Navarro says; “to tell the spouse of a violent and abusive partner that they must stay in the marriage is to lower God’s standard for marriage”

From the above background, it is possible to ask the question whether divorce can be allowed within the church based on the arguments of the above scholars. Is it possible for the PCC to apply such teachings in the context of the African soil on which she is established? Let us examine the stand of the PCC on this issue and also try to see if there are situations of divorce in the church whether from among the laity or the clergy.

B. Divorce in the PCC.

The PCC, at a certain point joins her voice with that of the universal Church to say that divorce is ungodly. In the Book of Orders of the PCC, it is almost clearly stated that divorce among believers is not allowed as it goes against the will of God to establish God’s love in the hearts of the Christians. By this the church deals severely to a certain extent with issues of divorce. In principles, the PCC does not encourage divorce but rather insists tolerance and understanding among couples. But the PCC seem on a second look to prefer to save lives than to destroy them. She say “but where due to our human frailty, the marriage union has become threatened and can no longer holds, divorce should be considered as a last option only after [some] following steps have been exhausted...” (B.O: pg 36, article 1.9). The church often insists on showing the social ills associated with the outcome of divorce. She often sites examples of children having been affected as a result of broken homes and the disregard that accompanies families involved in it. Especially among the elders and the pastors the church insists to highlight the scriptural teaching on how a church leader who cannot manage the home is not qualified to lead the church. As a result, any hint of divorce is often accompanied by sanctions and sometimes terminations. This is because the church can only consider a divorce when life is at stake. Outside that, she prefers to preach reconciliation. Among the clergy in particular, the church shows a lesser concern on how partners are chosen but holds on strict rules as regard the maintenance of the union of an established marriage. Thus, we can say here that the PCC holds on to the older biblical injunction against divorce but she is also sharing the contemporary opinion that divorce is possible in some cases.

But there are many cases of divorce among the lay and clergy folks. Almost every parish of the PCC has experienced a few or many cases of believers having divorced for various reasons. The clergy have had to tackle many issues as regard couple about to separate or who have already done so. The last resort is often (though not final) to lean on the scriptures and the encouragement to repair the relationship. Sometimes there have been successes recorded as well as failures. It is regrettable to say that at certain points the over insistence on the dictates of the scriptures had worsen than helped some marriages. The truth remains clear that the PCC has the problem of divorce to face as both a spiritual crisis as well as a social problem. As a spiritual problem, it seems to be a failure on her part to curb the excessive human natural dominance of her Christians. And as a social problem, she has to face the fate of those involved in or affected by the problem of divorce. The future of the church lies oblique if she cannot exercise spiritual control over such a social problem. Even among the clergy, there are signals of divorces already done or about to be done. There are about six pastors of the church who are already divorced and there are many other complaints at the synod office pending review. In all, the church’s position sometime is to remain silent or to issue a threat or apply counseling as the last option. If the pastors themselves start divorcing, the church certainly fears a calamity for the families of the believers and of the future generation of the believers. But what could be the possible causes of such attitudes looming around the church?

C. Causes of Divorce within the PCC

The causes of divorce within the church are almost the same as those outside it. A small observation done among the Christians of PC Kang Barombi in Kumba in the Southwest Region of Cameroon shows that together with the sample of Tembe, M.M (2010) on the Evangelical Church of Namakgale, the following causes can be found within a church setting. Tembe’s work has greatly influenced this paper at this section but a lot of contemporary analysis has also been done from the perspective of the PCC.


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Divorce and Church dwindling in the Presbyterian Church Cameroon. A Sociological perspective
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Divorce, Church attendance, youth and church, Christians, divorce rates
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Emmanuel Wayi (Mico) (Author), 2016, Divorce and Church dwindling in the Presbyterian Church Cameroon. A Sociological perspective, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/336991


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