Divorce and Deacons

Some wish the Bible gave more instructions, because the questions that remain in the minds of many have sometimes fueled controversy within churches.

The question of divorced candidates is not a new one.  Everyone knows the Bible says that a deacon is to be the husband of one wife.  Those who say that this statement leaves no room for discussion readily admit that a man who is remarried after first wife has died is within the biblical guidelines.  Yet, he is no longer the husband of one wife, if one is to simply take the statement at face value.  What about a man who has never been married?  Most churches would prefer that a man be married, but they would not want to rule out Jesus, Paul, and many other notable leaders in Scripture, as being unqualified.  It is not difficult to see that there is room for some discussion on the matter.

What has evolved in all too many churches, is that the question of divorce and remarriage has become the end-all litmus test for the qualifications of a prospective deacon.  In biblical reality, this is merely one of several qualifying factors given in the Bible.

Some argue that the statement, “husband of one wife,” is in reference to being a “one woman man,” in other words, not a poligamist.  If the terminology, “two living wives,” applies to a divorced man, then the question arises as to whether or not he should be admitted to church membership.   If a drug pusher desired church membership, but wasn’t willing to stop selling illegal drugs, the attitude of the church would likely be that he would need to be committed to ceasing his sinful activity before coming into the church family.  Most people really do not view a divorced person as having two living spouses.  Jesus demonstrated that this was not His view point, when He talked with the woman at the well.  He agreed with her that she did not have a husband, although she had been married to five different men, and the man she was now with was not her husband.  Sounds like our day and time, doesn’t it?

While we recognize the compexity of the above questions, and we recognize that most churches have some men who have been divorced and remarried, who are godly men with servant hearts, we also recognize that our first responsibility is to be as true to the teachings of the Bible as we know how to be.  When the answer to a question is not abundantly clear, we believe that if we err, we ought to do it on the side of biblical obedience.  Therefore, we think it best not to ordain those who have been divorced and remarried.

Why would God give such instructions?  Perhaps, it is because God knew the twenty-first century would be riddled with broken homes and broken hearts, and that the only institution that would still be standing for traditional family values would be the church.  Maybe it is because His foreknowledge saw that there would need to be some people to whom others could look as an example, that eventhough the going gets tough, marriage can still last for a lifetime.

We do not believe those who have had the misfortune of divorce are second class Christians in any way, or that they can’t serve in other positions of responsibility within the church.   We do not believe that divorce is the unpardonable sin, but we simply defer to our best understanding of biblical teaching.  It seems that it would be better, at the judgement, to hear God say, “That’s not what I meant by that,” than to hear Him say, “Why didn’t you take my word seriously?”

10 thoughts on “Divorce and Deacons

  1. Our Church is in the process of electing new Deacons. One man that is under consideration is married to a divorced woman. I used your same logic in the Deacon ‘debate’ last night and I was one of two votes cast against this man. I love this man dearly and in fact his wife is my cousin. This man will be presented to our church for general election now that the vote was over 75% in favor of him from the deacon body. I am the youngest deacon in our church (39) and I know I am being looked upon as being too young to understand – but I am also a Licensed Evangelist and preach in many churches and understand how important Godly leadership is. I have already dealt with this issue on a Pastor search committee and felt it would not come up again – but it did. I say all this to thank you for your kind words. I wish the tempers from my fellow deacons would have been as tempered as yours – last night. I am hurt and somewhat lost but I know that Caleb and Joshua stuck with the Children of Israel thru the 40 years of wondering for their disobedience of God – so also I will stick to our church until God calls me out. God Bless.

  2. Paul had killed lots of people so we can know for sure that the common teaching on this passage cannot be true. This passage is all in the present tense.
    Whear are we at in our spiritual walk right now. It took Paul a long time to get to whear he was when he wrote this passage.
    Jesus Christ said that if your mate committed adultry you were not guilty. So why would the judging people of our time try to put down people who were declared not guilty by Christ? Laroy

  3. I was ordained as a deacon in 1982 at the age of 24. I had a wonderful family and a wonderful church. My ex-wife left me for another man after 26 years of marriage. I attempted
    to work with her for reconciliation, she refused because she stated it was not about us anymore but what she wanted. i was devestated! after months of trying she continued to
    refuse reconciliation. I filed for divorce because she was going with another male church member. I felt I had Biblical principle to divorce her for adultry. I stepped down being a deacon because there were those who took sides. it was not about me but, it was about the Lord’s work. It was God who called me to be a deacon, a position I desired. Should I be held in contempt, judgement and scorn because of a tragedy that I had no control over. I left my home church after 42 years after my ex and her husband began attending. gossip starting flying and my current wife of 7 years could not take it anymore. we now serve in another church down the road and I have recently been re-activated as a deacon because they knew my story. it was county wide as you can well imagine. I believe that a man, who was an active deacon should not be held in contempt because of what their spouse did. When the Lord asked the woman “where are thine accusers? He said neither do I condemn thee, go and sin no more”. Now my current wife and I are happily married and we are happily engaged in God’s work and very much loved by our new church family! At one time, I believed in one only until death do us part. now that I have unfortunately been divorced, there are those who have never been divorced and I say Praise God however, unless you have been through it, you will never fully understand! I would never wish this pain on my worst enemy. I believe Christians need to beware and not stand in judgement until they have heard the whole story. I believe that God will allow this if we go and sin no more as Jesus told the woman especially if the spouse refuse to reconcile.

  4. Jim, thank you for sharing your story, and I am happy that you are at peace with your situation. Every local church, at least in Baptist life, makes its own decisions on such matters. From a logical standpoint, I agree with you, but there is a higher rule here than human logic, there is the Bible. In Pr.3:3, we are told not to lean to our own understanding. I can sense that you have suffered great heartache, and I pray God’s best for you.

  5. The Bible states husband of one wife. That is clearly saying that someone that is a polygamist cannot pastor a church. There is nothing in that verse about only having one living wife. The word “living” is not there. If God calls a man to preach, then he better be about the Father’s business. If God calls a man to pastor, then again, he better be about the Father’s business. God sometimes calls men who have been divorced to preach and/or pastor. If the Holy Spirit bears witness with these men, then you better leave them alone. I think people need to be more concerned about winning lost souls than worrying about someone that’s divorced doing what God wants them to do.

  6. If the terminology, “two living wives,” applies to a divorced man, then the question arises as to whether or not he should be admitted to church membership. If a drug pusher desired church membership, but wasn’t willing to stop selling illegal drugs, the attitude of the church would likely be that he would need to be committed to ceasing his sinful activity before coming into the church family.

    This is not qualifications for membership but for being in church leadership. The drug deal would not be blameless or beyond reproach.
    “Most people really do not view a divorced person as having two living spouses.”
    God does.

    “That is clearly saying that someone that is a polygamist cannot pastor a church.”
    1 Timothy 5:9 Rules this out. NKJ, or 1984 NIV.
    “God sometimes calls men who have been divorced to preach and/or pastor.”
    God calls all men to teach, not to be shepards.

    1 Timothy 5:9 clearly shows it is divorced, with perhaps divorced/abandoned and never remarried allowed. Jesus allows for Divorce, but never says one should remarry, (actually says one should not), and not every christian needs to be above reproach.

  7. Mr. Hudson,
    I can see from what you wrote that you took great pride in your ‘wonderful family’, but did you put your wife first. I mean after your relationship with God? So many times it is easier for a man to spend the majority of his time on the things he gets pats on the back for. This might be his job, or for deacons, doing things at church or for other members. When things are stale or neglected at home, it is too difficult to ‘minister’ at home, rather console himself with his good deeds, eventually to the breakdown of the marriage. Your wife didn’t decide overnight to ‘live for herself’. A deacon should be mindful of his marriage relationship above all other duties, then perhaps he won’t find himself, a deacon, married to a second woman.

  8. I find it hard think that any man can still be married to his first wife if she left him for another man and/or money. Seems to me that money rules a household nowadays. Anyway, I love God. I love what Jesus did for us. My first wife left me because I didn’t make enough money. She never wanted to know god or wanted to go with me to church. I felt so comfortable at the church I visited that I wanted to join. It wasn’t possible unless she wanted to also. I went to every event, mens breakfast every month, volunteered for whatever I could and of course went to church every week. It still didn’t matter. A few months later my wife filed for separation then divorce. I prayed about it and after moving into a new home alone, I felt a feeling of renewal and a chance to make things right. To make a long story short, im married to the love of my life. We new it the moment we met. We have a son who means everything to us. We are both church members. We are however moving to her hometown and we have to find a new church. I would love to be a church deacon. I am concerned about my past marriage and I wonder if its even possible?

  9. When someone says they would love to be a deacon or they want to be a deacon, I like to hear why, they want this position. If we are obeying God out of love then we will be content to serve where ever He puts us. If God wants us to serve as a deacon he will open the door.
    Because you are not allowed to be a deacon does not mean you are not a child of God.
    Serving as a deacon is a privilege not a right.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>