In Modesto, California, 95 pastors, priests and a rabbi signed
America’s first Community Marriage Policy in 1986. They well
exceeded their goal “to radically reduce the divorce rate in
their area churches.” Here’s what happened:
- The Stanislaus County (Modesto’s metro area) divorce
rate was cut 56%! This was the finding of the Institute for
Research & Evaluation in comparing the rate during the three
years before the CMP was adopted to the rate for 2001 (the
most recent date covered by the data). This means the
Modesto area is saving more that 1600 marriages a year that
likely would have ended in divorce. In their CMP Covenant,
the signing clergy said it was their “responsibility to set
minimum requirements to raise the quality of the commitment
in those we marry.” An unanticipated outcome also occurred.
CMP signers began attending an annual four day “prayer
summit” and meeting weekly for prayer. They began to develop
a stronger sense of “the Church in Modesto” and not just the
particular churches in Modesto.
- Modesto’s marriage rate increased 12% while the U.S.
rate has been plunging. Nationally, the rate has plummeted
43% since 1970, an 18% decline since Modesto’s CMP was
signed in 1986. Though it took until 1995 for a significant
increase in yearly marriages to manifest, the number of
yearly marriages more than doubled from 1994 to 2003.