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For decades, the "fact" that one out of every two marriages ends in divorce has permeated the U.S. culture. And a raised eyebrow has been constantly directed at the Church, whose divorce rate was thought to have reached 50 percent as well.

These condemning statistics — and many more — have been repeatedly quoted by leading experts, the media, and even from the pulpit as fact.

But the results of an intensive study have revealed that oft repeated "facts" on marriage statistics are fiction. Moreover, these "facts" are not even close to accurate.

Shaunti Feldhahn
Feldhahn

Shaunti Feldhahn, a Harvard-trained social researcher, spent eight years researching the facts about marriage statistics with her senior researcher, Tally Whitehead. What they discovered surprised even them — marriage in the United States is an incredibly successful institution.

According to their findings, the urban legends that became "marital facts" were based on decades-old "projections," not facts. The actual numbers tell quite a different story.

When comparing the actual statistics to what are now nothing more than "marriage urban legends," the differences are shocking:

* More than 70 percent of all first-time marriages are still intact. Of the less than 30 percent no longer together, that figure includes widows/widowers whose spouses have died.

* The divorce rate of those who attend church is less than that of those who do not attend — up to 50 percent less. Based on her exhaustive research, Feldhahn says the divorce rate of those who regularly attend church is likely in the teens to single digits.

* Feldhahn's study found that 80 percent of married people consider themselves happily married.

* She also discovered that most remarriages are successful.

Dr. Greg Smalley, vice president of Family Ministries at Focus on the Family, adds that there's even a statistical difference when it comes to Christian marriages. "The truth is, there's a huge difference between Christlike marriages and two Christians who are married," he states. "There is almost no divorce with the first — people who pursue Christ, they're staying together because Christ makes a difference."

Smalley also cites another significant study concerning couples who described their marriages as "in crisis" five years ago. Of the couples who chose to stay together, two-thirds now rate their marriages as satisfying.

Greg Smalley
Smalley

"When people hit rocky times, their hearts tend to shut down, they give up and they believe their marriage is over . . . the media and statistics continually reinforce that message," Smalley observes. "But for those who hang in there, weather the storm, and get the help they need, two-thirds now love their marriage!"

Roger Gibson, senior director of Adult and Family Ministries at the AG national offices, was greatly encouraged by Feldhahn's findings.

"Overall, this is groundbreaking for the church and culture," Gibson says. "I think a lot of pastors, leaders and couples have been so influenced by the negative press of divorce statistics that we simply started to give up on marriage. Against such a pessimistic cultural view, Shaunti's research puts the fight back into the case for marriage."

In her quest for the truth, Feldhahn says that she "spoke with leading researchers, dug into the complexities, and began realizing the vast scope of misinformation, incorrectly-interpreted research, studies that downplayed positive findings, and quite often, commonly-cited statistics based on studies that didn't even exist."

One of the most troubling results of her findings is that for decades, some of the most common statistics about marriage were not only unfounded, they discouraged those considering marriage and those who were already married. The statistics seemed to unequivocally declare that the chances of having a lasting marriage, much less a happy one, were far from certain — and the odds were getting worse all the time.

But even that's not true. Feldhahn says that in fact, divorce rates have been declining, despite the promulgation of the urban legends surrounding marriage.

Gary Allen
Allen

Gary Allen, a former U.S. Navy and police chaplain who spent nearly 30 years pastoring Assemblies of God churches, is currently the pastoral advisor/counselor at the AG National Leadership and Resource Center (NLRC). He says Feldhahn's findings confirm what he has personally believed, but had no way to prove.

"In all my years as a chaplain, neither the Navy or police stations I worked with had a divorce rate near 50 percent," Allen states. "And in the churches I served, the couples I married, I believe nearly all of them are still married."

Allen adds that he read on an online dating site that in a survey of more than 19,000 couples married between 2005 and 2012 through the help of this online service, the marital break-ups were under four percent.

Although the time frame is relatively brief (7 years), Allen says this example shows the importance of being intentional in marriage. "As a pastor, couples who came to me went through six weeks of intensive pre-marital counseling," he says. "So, I believe, through my personal experiences, the online study, and Feldhahn's research, with just a little effort on the front end, marriage should be an anticipated successful venture — nothing like this 'roll of the dice,' 50-50 chance that we've been led to believe."

Smalley agrees and says that you can't underestimate the impact of hope — or the lack of it — in marriage.

"I've interviewed many millennials," he says, "and even though they've come from the most divorced generation in the history of our nation, their desire is to be married for a lifetime, but they're not sure it's possible. They've heard over and over again the 50 percent divorce rate; that statistic sticks with them and they're afraid."

And even when marriage is entered into, there is still the spiritual aspect to consider.

"Satan is so attacking us during this time," Smalley says. "We don't often talk about the spiritual battle that is going on, but Satan wants to destroy marriages - he's saying 'You're right, you'll never make it, your marriage is doomed.'"

Roger Gibson
Gibson

But Smalley says when young people are given hope, when they hear that 60-70 percent of marriages are making it, there's a different mindset about marriage, not to mention the ability to weather the difficult times marriages can experience.

"Give people even a tiny bit of hope to hold on to," Smalley observes, "and they start thinking that if someone else can make it, maybe they can too!"

Gibson says Feldhahn's research could ultimately shape the culture of future generations who might think marriage is "old school."

"With cohabitation on the rise over the years, it is obvious many couples don't value marriage or the covenant between husband, wife and God," Gibson says. "However, with Shaunti's new discovery of marriage between husband and wife showing a higher level of happiness, it could be the tipping point to the revitalization of the family."

Feldhahn's findings are also significant for churches and ministries.

"This is our opportunity to cultivate a different mindset about marriage," Smalley says. "Marriage is amazing. God designed it — it's His idea, and God doesn't create junk. It is not only possible, but it's expected that you will have a successful marriage!"

 


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Boards of Directors of three residential schools plan governance matters

Wed, 30 May 2012 - 2:37 PM CST

The Boards of Directors for the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary (AGTS), Central Bible College (CBC) and Evangel University (EU) met Friday, May 25, to consider governance planning for the consolidated university. These plans will be included in the application, which will go next month to the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

MISSION STATEMENT

The board approved the submission of a mission statement formulated as a result of an 18-month process, working with various committees and faculties of the three schools - the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary, Central Bible College, and Evangel University. The adopted mission statement is: "Evangel University is a comprehensive Christian University committed to excellence in educating and equipping students to become Spirit-empowered servants of God who impact the church and society globally."

The core values of Truth, Worship, Discipleship, Evangelism and Compassion were included with the mission statement.

PRESIDENTIAL SEARCH PROCESS

The three boards also approved a presidential opportunity profile, which will guide the presidential search process. There will be a search for the university president and a separate search for the president of AGTS, who will also serve as a vice president of the university.

The Presidential Search Committee will be inclusive of all major publics of the 3 schools (i.e. Board, faculty, alumni, student body, donors, faculty and staff). The Dingman Company, Inc., of Westlake Village, California, will serve as consultants for the university presidential search process.

The boards approved this plan to be included in the application, which now goes to the HLC.

TRANSITION OF CURRENT PRESIDENTS

AGTS - Dr. Byron Klaus was commended for his years of stellar leadership as president of AGTS. Dr. Klaus has expressed his willingness to be a candidate for consideration for that same position by the Presidential Search Committee.

CBC - The Board of Directors of Central Bible College has requested to take the 2012-13 academic year to honor the life and service of Dr. Gary Denbow. They also are being asked to establish the CBC Foundation, which will secure the school's assets and provide financial support to students in ministerial training. It is also recommended to the CBC Board that Denbow be elected to serve as president of the CBC Foundation.

EU - Prior to consolidation planning, Dr. Robert Spence had announced his intentions to retire in the spring of 2014. In keeping with that decision, it has been recommended to the Evangel Board of Directors that they plan celebratory events during the 2012-13 school year to honor the 40 years of outstanding leadership and legacy of Spence. It was further planned that a sabbatical program be offered to Dr. and Mrs. Spence during the first year of consolidation (2013) in which he also will counsel the president-elect of the consolidated university.

At the inauguration of the president-elect in the fall of 2014, Dr. Spence will be inaugurated as chancellor of the Evangel University.

The three boards of directors approved the above plan to become part of the application, which will go to HLC next month.

For more information on the consolidation of the three residential AG schools, click here.

Authors: AG News

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