Divorced and remarried church leaders

This question comes in from time to time:  Does the Apostle Paul’s insistence that a church leader should be “husband of one wife” exclude divorced and remarried leaders?  In this article from Johnson Bible College’s ChurchLink webzine, I make a case for when a leader’s marital status should, and when it shouldn’t, make a difference.Ω

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2 Responses to “Divorced and remarried church leaders”

  1. Darris Says:

    Good article. I’ve been working on this issue too for IBLT classes. Most recently I’ve been interested to read Dale Martin’s take on divorce hermeneutics in Sex and the Single Savior. He is very radical in some respects. In fact, he argues that Luke 16 *requires* divorce for the sake of the kingdom. Really thought he was out in left-field with that one. The upshot of the whole article is that the standards for divorce are not at all “standard” and may even be contradictory – if his reading of Luke 16 is accepted.

  2. Tony Grubb Says:

    The article covered a lot of good soil, some very distinctive in this context, and kudos are well-deserved for the author daring to mention several real-life issues such as pornography, child custody arrangements, etc. That said, the article ended with much unqualified and idolatrous verbage about the reputation and appearance of the church. This area of the article could be greatly strengthened with attention to an authentic church, both in underlying principles, in observable fruit and, in many ways as a by-product, the reputation in a community. While it is obvious the Apostle Paul covered the church’s reputation in a community and spoke of the reputation of its leaders among outsiders, it was always within the context of being the visible part of an authentic Christian community. This Christian community included such jailbirds as Paul and Silas, who although authentic, willed to stand for the Good News to their own pain.

    When the reputation of the church is pursued as the ends and means, by extension, each individual is encouraged to maintain appearances. I’ve only in recent years heard meaningful discussion from authors such as Townsend and Cloud, such as in their “Boundaries” series, and on the “New Life Live” radio show (www.newlife.com) about how staying in a bad relationship can unscripturally ‘enable,’ pave the way for, aid and abeit, or allow evil to continue.

    While our ‘best intentions’ may be to preserve the marriage, by implying that separation and divorce are an insurmountable stigma on a person’s reputation and consideration for leadership, we may automatically imply they should do almost anything to avoid those waters, including becoming a doormat under an unhappy and mentally, emotionally, and verbally abusive spouse. If there are no conflicts, no power plays, and no disharmony, this would be irrelevant, but in the real world these things often appear, and the spouse who cares the most about the relationship, taught by many Christian institutions to avoid all appearance of a sloppy homelife, can step-by-step be turned into a passive peacekeeper (instead of the Scriptural “peacemaker) and a classic ‘enabler’, while trying to balance everything out and make it all work.

    To finish that statement with different words, the spouse who cares the most about a relationship often ends up with the least influence, unless they know how to take a stand and even introduce a separation into the relationship themselves when necessary! This ground was not distinctive to the authors Cloud and Townsend, for Dobson additionally covered them in an earlier form in “Love Must Be Tough” and another real-world Christian leader, Dave Ramsey, also mentions some of the same dynamics that must be confronted to have an authentic marriage.

    The purpose is not to cause a divorce, but to stand for the right, even when a wayward, manipulative and immature spouse would try to throw a series of trantrums to get their way. The idea is to pull the wayward spouse to a point of maturity, to leave an affair, to get help for unresolved and out-of-control problems, to find that marriage is not an option they can play around with, but that it is a priority. The idea is to allow the spouse willing to take a stand to go ahead and stand for what is right, without being beat down in a co-dependant church atmosphere that would allow any evil to continue, that would do anything in the short run to avoid unpleasant public opinion, that would set up the church’s reputation as a godless idolatrous image which a Three Times Holy and Righteous God would never endorse.

    We need to find meaningful ways of leaving this open door for meaningful interventions and stands by spouses in such discussions as this. Church leadership and church reputation cannot become the Achille’s heel, the chinks in the armor for the enemy’s unguarded and subtle attack.

    Perhaps we need to say, “That sloppy situation may be hard on the church in the short-run, and this may or may not be indicative of your role as a Christian leader at this point in time, but you need to do what you need to do and not enable evil as both a solid principle, and as a top priority. You need to put your standards and obedience to God ahead of keeping up a facade or even appearances. Whether you’ve attempted to maintain them for yourself or for the Kingdom, or both, this falsehood is not serving anyone’s best interests in the long run.”

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