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Marriage Savers Ceremony in Elkton, Maryland, July 2007

Press Release

Contact: Rev. Alan Bosmeny 410 398-4234
Mike McManus: 301 469-5870

Clergy To Slash Cecil County Divorce Rate

Twenty diverse Protestant and Catholic clergy will create a Cecil County Community Marriage Policy whose goal is to radically reduce the divorce rate. Pastors will sign the covenant at 2 pm Friday, June 22 on the steps of the Cecil County Courthouse in Elkton. It will be the 220th city in America and the 3rd in Maryland to take this proven initiative to reduce both divorce and cohabitation rates.

Clergy will require three to six months of marriage preparation. This represents a dramatic change from the day Elkton was known as a wedding capital, with more wedding chapels per capita than any city on the East Coast. Why? Clergy want to slash Cecil County’s divorce rate which averaged 59% from 2000-2005, well above the national average.

Rev. Alan Bosmeny, Pastor of the First Assembly of God, who organized the clergy to participate, confessed that he and his wife, Donna, were “just a couple of weeks away from divorce” three years after they married in 1971. “We loved each other but hated each other,” he says. “Alcohol and drugs were part of it.” She had moved out, but returned three months later to get her things. However, they attended a Catholic charismatic prayer meeting, “gave our lives to Christ, which instantaneously put our marriage back together,” he recalls.

That experience motivated him to seek out Marriage Savers, an organization that has helped the clergy of 219 other cities/counties to create a Community Marriage Policy to reduce the divorce rate. He wanted to help Cecil churches to “raise the standard for the preparation, strengthening and restoration of marriages,” as their covenant puts it. He worked with Richard Ricciuti, Director of Cecil County’s Department of Social Services, who won a federal grant to strengthen marriages.

Mike and Harriet McManus, co-founders of Marriage Savers, will speak at the clergy signing of the Community Marriage Policy and will train clergy and mentor couples from participating churches June 22 from 6:30 pm till 10 pm and on Saturday from 8:30 am to 5 pm. “Harriet and I are thrilled to help you launch the Cecil County Community Marriage Policy and to train clergy and mentors in how to virtually eliminate divorce,” Mike said.

The churches say they will reduce divorce rates by helping couples achieve four great goals:

  • “Provide a premarital preparation of three to six months, which includes” taking a premarital inventory and meeting with a Mentor Couple to discuss its results.
  • “Provide enrichment opportunities in the church…by marriage retreats, classes on communication, conflict resolution and building intimacy.”
  • “Identify, inspire and train couples with strong marriages to serve as marriage mentors for: couples in serious relationships, engaged couples, newlyweds, couples wanting to strengthen their relationship, couples experiencing marital stress, couples in second marriages or with step-children.
  • “Provide mentoring for marriages in crisis and in need of reconciliation and restoration that are at the brink of divorce through specially trained mentor couples who have reconciled and restored their own relationship.”

These strategies work. The McManuses trained Mentors in their home church in Bethesda, MD who helped 288 couples prepare for marriage from 1992-2000. A surprising 55 couples decided NOT to marry, 19%. But of 233 who did marry, there were only 7 divorces. That’s a 3% failure rate or a 97% success rate over a decade.“That’s marriage insurance,” says Mike McManus.

Trained Mentor Couples can save 80% of troubled marriages, while therapists save less than 20%, the mirror opposite. Stepfamilies normally divorce at a 70% rate, but a Stepfamily Support Group” routinely saves four of five marriages with stepchildren.

Divorce rates of the first 114 cities with Community Marriage Policies fell 17.5% on average over seven years, saving 30,000 to 50,000 marriages by 2001 that would have ended in divorce, reports an independent study by the Institute for Research and Evaluation. With six more years and 104 more Community Marriage Policies, perhaps 100,000 divorces have been averted. The cohabitation rate also fell in CMP counties by 13% from 1990-2000 while it grew 19% in similar areas. By decade’s end, CMP counties cohabitation rates were a third lower than others.

For example, Springfield OH clergy signed a Community Marriage Policy in September, 2004 and saw its divorce rate fall 22% by 2006, saving 310 marriages that would have ended in divorce. One study estimates that each divorce costs government $30,000 in increased costs for welfare, food stamps, Medicaid and other subsidies. Those 310 avoided divorces thus saved taxpayers $4.5 million in the first year, and another $9.2 million in the second.

Modesto, CA, the first city to create a Community Marriage Policy in January, 1986, slashed its divorce rate by 50%, saving 1,677 marriages a year that would have ended in divorce. Also its marriage rate has risen from about 1,100 a year to 2,500. By contrast, the U.S. marriage rate has plummeted by 50% since 1970. Austin, Kansas City, KS and El Paso also cut divorce rates in half.

Mike and Harriet McManus have been on Focus on the Family, the CBS Early Show, the subject of a Washington Post Magazine cover story Feb. 29, 2004. Their work has been featured on Oprah, PBS, NBC NBC's Nightly News, CBS' "48 Hours, MSNBC, TIME, and Newsweek, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today and hundreds of newspapers. McManus is the author of Marriage Savers and of Insuring Marriage and is a syndicated columnist. See