Can a Pastor Divorce?

Husband of One Wife

“A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behavior, given to hospitality, apt to teach… Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well.” 1 Timothy 3:2,12

These verses teach that a “bishop” (a. overseer of one of Christ’s flocks) and/or a “deacon” must be the husband of one wife.

Some good Christians think these verses simply teach that a pastor or a deacon must be the husband of one wife at a time. They think these verses do not prohibit a man who has been divorced from serving as a pastor or as a deacon. Most of Christendom, however, holds that a pastor or deacon must be one who has never experienced the sorrow and tragedy of divorce.

This does not mean divorced persons cannot serve in the church. Although the offices of “bishop” and “deacon” may be closed to the divorced man, there are many ways in which a divorced Christian can serve Christ in positions which do not require ordination. Our own church has people who have experienced divorce serving as teachers, counselors, and workers throughout our ministry. We use them in every way possible for the glory of Christ and the satisfaction of the yearning in their souls to serve Him.

Ordained positions may be closed for those who have suffered divorce, but God can and does use divorced persons. Many are excellent witnesses for the Lord, lay-evangelists, church workers, and missionaries (ordained positions are not the only tasks performed in the mission field–some mission boards use divorced persons in full-time Christian service in engineering; construction; program production for radio and television outreach; writing, printing, and distribution of literature; medical services; teaching; administrative and clerical positions, etc.).

When someone has truly repented of any sin or sins–whether that person has been or is divorced, married, or never married–God will forgive for Christ’s sake and will use that person, within the boundaries of what He has laid down in His Word. He wants to use each Christian to serve Him to his/her utmost. Although some doors are closed, he will open other doors of service, and it is important for us as brothers and sisters in Christ to remember that God’s Word teaches forgiveness, acceptance, and blessings for all who turn to him and are willing to serve Him.

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Dr. Elmer Towns is a college and seminary professor, an author of popular and scholarly works (the editor of two encyclopedias), a popular seminar lecturer, and dedicated worker in Sunday school, and has developed over 20 resource packets for leadership education.His personal education includes a B.S. from Northwestern College in Minneapolis, Minnesota, a M.A. from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, a Th.M. from Dallas Theological Seminary also in Dallas, a MRE from Garrett Theological Seminary in Evanston, Illinois, and a D.Min. from Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California.He is co-founder of Liberty University, with Jerry Falwell, in 1971, and was the only full-time teacher in the first year of Liberty’s existence. Today, the University has over 11,400 students on campus with 39,000 in the Distance Learning Program (now Liberty University Online), and he is the Dean of the School of Religion.Dr. Towns has given theological lectures and taught intensive seminars at over 50 theological seminaries in America and abroad. He holds visiting professorship rank in five seminaries. He has written over 2,000 reference and/or popular articles and received six honorary doctoral degrees. Four doctoral dissertations have analyzed his contribution to religious education and evangelism.

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