Thursday, August 6, 2009

AAW - Marriage, Divorce, Remarriage, and Church Leadership

The first thing we dealt with last night was the importance of doing “THEOLOGICAL TRIAGE”. Triage is what medical professionals call the process of discerning who needs the most urgent medical attention and whose treatment is not as urgent. In theology, some issues are critical to defining Christianity, some are essential in determining fellowship and cooperation, while others are very debatable and should not separate brothers in Christ. Following the lead of people like Dr. Mohler and Dr. Brand, I offered the following categories:
- Dogma – Issues that make us Christian
- Doctrine – Issues that define the nature and ministry of the Church
- Beliefs – Issues that are genuinely debatable and do not constitute a
denial of essential Christian faith OR require removal from fellowship

As we begin each of the questions over the next few weeks we will try to determine where they fall. Hopefully, this will help us to know how to respond to the answers given!

This was the question received via Facebook:
"My question is in regard to the high percentage of non beleivers who are divorced/remarried with blended families. Some churches limit the level at which these folks can serve while other churches all but ignore these circumstances. Since the RRBC target is the unsaved and unchurched so how will this be approached?"

Esssentially, the issue is: What is RRBC's disposition toward divorced (and possibly remarried) individuals serving in leadership. To respond, we first need a general understanding of the Bible's teaching on Marriage, Divorce and Remarriage...and then we will apply that to the question of Church Leadership.

First...What category do the issues of Divorce and Remarriage fall into?
Marriage, divorce, and remarriage are "largely" in the third category: beliefs. This is because the bible's teaching is open to some difference of opinion.

For example,
John Piper has written that “All marriage after divorce is prohibited while both spouses
are alive.” You can find his rationale at:
Meanwhile, John MacArthur would say that remarriage is permissible in some circumstances.
You can find his ratinoale at:

Since we have two fairly prominent, conservative, bible believing pastor/scholars who come to an honest difference of opinion - yet would not prohibit their fellowship - it would seem that this is likely a third category issue.

Here are four General Biblical Principles regarding Marriage & Divorce, as I understand them:

1. Marriage is intended by God to be between one man and one woman for a lifetime. (Mt 19:1-9; Mk 10:1-12; 1 Cor 7:10-16). This is God's purpose for marriage and it precludes homosexuality being part of God's design.

2. Marriage is a physical picture of the spiritual reality of Christ and the church. (Eph 5:21-32)
The way we treat our spouses makes a spiritual statement about Christ and the church. Consider that the next time you get in a spat!

3. God hates divorce (Mal 2:13-16)
And, I would does everyone who has ever been involved in one.

4. Remarriage is an option if:
- reconciliation is not an option (1 Cor 7:15)
- divorce occurred prior to salvation (2 Cor 5:17)
- remarriage is to another believer (2 Cor 6:14)
- one does not have the gift of celibacy(1 Cor 7:6-9)

These principles should cause us to have a very high view of marriage and reject the culture of divorce that seems to believe that marriage is something you can "try out" to see if it "works for you."

Now, whether formerly divorced persons may serve in leadership is probably in the second category: doctrine…I say probably because I am not 100% may be in the third fact, I might put it right on the line. It may be 2nd category because it affects our understanding of the nature and ministry of the church. However, you may find that you could be a part of a church that held to a view on this particular issue that differed from yours - in which case it would be more of a third level issue. At any rate, the real question is how will we at RRBC deal with it?

Let's first look at our official document:
From Appendix of RRBC Constitution:
Overseer Qualifications:
3. Husband of one wife. (1 Timothy 3:2, Titus 1:6)

Deacon Qualifications:
A. Husband of Only One Wife (1 Timothy 3:12) We believe that God has placed the responsibility of the office of deacon upon men (Acts 6:3). A deacon must have a healthy, Bible-based view of marriage and the home. A man shall be eligible for serving as an overseer or deacon provided he has not experienced a divorce within the past ten years and his immediate family is presently in stable condition. The previous marital history of his spouse shall not be taken into consideration. Men who have never been married or widowers are not to be excluded from the deacon body.

In both overseer and deacon qualifications we recognize that a healthy marriage is vitally important. We also recognize that a previously divorced man is not automatically ineligible for serving in either capacity. Let's examine why this is the case...

General Biblical Principles regarding Marriage, Divorce, Remarriage as it pertains to Church Leadership

1. “Husband of one wife” clause is NOT a blanket rejection of anyone who has been divorced.
What do we do with a man who was divorced as a non-believer? Is he a new creature in Christ or not? It is an affirmation of a demonstrable commitment to his wife, and to her alone.

2. “Husband of one wife” clause literally means a “one woman man.”
- Commitment to current spouse is implied.
- Faithfulness to current spouse is implied.
Commitment and faithfulness extend beyond the act of adultery to emotional affairs and to pornography. These demonstrate a lack of commitment and faithfulness.
- Rejection of “culture of divorce” is implied.

3. Commitment and faithfulness are demonstrated over time.
I believe the RRBC “10 year” rule is attempt to quantify this reality. A man who was divorced three months ago, and is already remarried and "promises" to be committed to his wife needs to demonstrate that. While there is no biblical requirement for such a quantifiable time frame, the intention is consistent with the biblical principles of commitment and faithfulness.

4. A number of factors must be taken into account:
- Spiritual condition at time of divorce (beleiver or non-believer at time of divorce?)
- Circumstances of divorce (abandonment? abuse? adultery? self-centeredness?)
- Current spiritual condition of man and wife (are both believers?)
- Current condition of marriage (is marriage health, stable, Christ honoring?)

My conclusion:
- My preference is for men who have been married once to a godly woman and who have exemplary, stable marriages to serve as overseers and deacons.
- For those who are under consideration and have been through the trauma of divorce: Those men must be evaluated, in light of factors above, on a case by case basis with respect to this qualification.
- Ultimately, I believe my conclusion and the RRBC policy are consistent with the biblical injunction for an overseer or deacon to be the "husband of one wife."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Very good and very well explained. Definitely an issue with strong feelings attached to it, and you handled it well. And, as always, Biblically based - cudos.