Study Committee on the Problem of Divorce [1965]

Study Committee on the Problem of Divorce [1965]

[1965 Yearbook. Pages 48 – 60]

True marriage is instituted by God. It is spoken of as “the covenant of God,” according to Proverbs 2:17. Originally it did not need any religious or civil ceremony for its validity, but took place whenever a man and a woman, in the sight of God, voluntarily, mutually, and publicly took each other as husband and wife for life to the exclusion of all others. In marriage a bond is established that is represented as being stronger than even the moral relation between parents and children so highly esteemed in the Scripture. It is a life-long relation, not merely of two bodies of flesh and blood, but a union of two beings together constituting “one flesh, that is to say, one complex of life or personality, thus becoming an illustration of the great mystery of the spiritual union between Christ and His church.

The original and ideal form of marriage is monogamous. The wife is to be the “only one,” and each spouse, forsaking all others is to cleave to the other one alone, The description of a wife in Proverbs 12:4; 19:14; 31:10, and in particular the representation of the covenant between Jehovah and Israel as marriage shows how highly the position of the wife is regarded. It is the symbol of the communion into which God has entered with His people. The original declaration still holds good: “What God hath joined together, let no man put asunder.” “They are no more twain but one flesh” (Gen. 2:24), and the bond in the divine intent, is to be lifelong. In God’s institution of marriage no provision was made for divorce. The Lord when questioned on this subject, appealed at once to God’s original intention, so must we. Death alone, in His intent, could dissolve the tie.

Recourse cannot be taken by making a distinction between marriage and divorce prior to regeneration, and marriage and divorce subsequent to regeneration. Some on the basis of the alleged distinction assert that individuals married and divorced before regeneration may marry after being regenerated. The basis for this assertion is the fact that the first marriage and divorce were entered into when each party was an unbeliever. Hence the first marriage is not of the Lord; furthermore, the sin of divorce is said to be part of one’s past life which is no longer remembered by God.

When one bears in mind that marriage is a creation ordinance, ordained of the Lord and given to man as man, and this prior to the fall, it becomes evident that being regenerate or unregenerate does not alter the divine provisions pertaining to marriage. To introduce this distinction here brings in a host of problems, denies much of God’s revelation to men, and denies responsibility of creature to Creator. Much of God’s revelation applies to His creatures whether or not they admit His sovereignty and their responsibility to their Creator. God’s revelation concerning marriage is part of the revelation given to men as men, hence being unregenerate does not make a man free from God’s law.

Jewish law seems never to have contemplated a wife divorcing her husband, but the standard for both spouses in the New Testament is now the same (Mark 10:11, 12), and the subject place of the woman does not deprive her of this equality in moral standing. In true marriage each spouse is the other’s possession and form one complete personality, and the marital satisfaction of each is to be according to the rights of the other. (I Corinthians 7:4).

Believers need to seek God’s grace to maintain God’s ideal in marriage.

Having stated what marriage is, let us notice what divorce is. Divorce is the dissolution of the divinely instituted bond and the breaking of the relationship established by marriage. We shall notice in the study of scripture that this definition is substantiated by the Word of God. The key passage of the Old Testament relevant to the subject of divorce is Deuteronomy 24:1-4. It is necessary to have a proper understanding of this passage because many of the other Old Testament and New Testament passages quote from this passage.

One of the key considerations in interpreting this passage is the textual problems. Most of the English versions translate this passage with the conclusion that the apodosis (conclusion in a conditional sentence) of the protasis (clause stating the condition in a conditional sentence) begins in the middle of verse 1, at the words, “then let him write her a bill of divorcement.” The conclusion of many is that divorce is commanded in the event of the uncleanness mentioned in the beginning of the verse. It is plain that the reader could be justified in regarding the law of Moses as not only permitting divorce, in the case of the uncleanness mentioned, but as also to require it.

It is important to recognize that many commentators do not agree with this syntax of the passage. Note the following quotes regarding this passage:

Andrew Harper. Expositor’s Bible, Commentary on Deuteronomy pg.403

“All the passage provides for, therefore, is that a divorced woman shall not be married to the divorcing man after she has been married again, even though she be separated from her second husband by divorce or death.”

John Peter Lange. Lange’s Commentary on Deuteronomy pg. 176

“The pointing in the original makes it clear that Moses does not institute or command divorce. He is merely prescribing limitations or regulations to a prevailing custom, which was not in accordance with the institution of marriage, and was only permitted….”

John Calvin. Commentaries on the Four Books of Moses Vol. III, pg. 94

“Some interpreters do not read these four verses continuously, but suppose the sense to be complete at the end of the first verse.”

Keil & Delitzsch. Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament Vol, III, pg. 416

”. .. divorce is not established as a right; all that is done is that in the case of divorce a reunion with the divorced wife is forbidden, if in the meantime she had married another man, even though the second husband had also put her away, or had died. The four verses form a period, in which verses 1-3 are the clauses of the protasis, which describe the matter treated about; and verse 4 contains the apodosis with the law concerning the point in question.”

It also should be noted that the Septuagint version adopts the construction in its translation which makes verse 4 alone the apodosis. Thus we can state that this passage simply provides that if a man puts away his wife and she marries another man, the former husband cannot under ally conditions take her to be his wife. There is nothing, therefore, in this passage itself to warrant the conclusion that divorce is here given divine approval and is morally legitimate under the conditions specified. Many passages however in the Old Testament prove that divorce was practiced. This freedom of divorce which was conceded or suffered under Mosaic Law is removed under the gospel dispensation.

The other key consideration in this passage outside of the textual problem is the interpretation of the phrase found in verse 1, “because he hath found some uncleanness in her.” The Jews were divided into two schools concerning this very problem. The school of Shammai regarded it as unchastity of behaviour or adultery, while the school of Hillel regarded it as any indecency or anything displeasing to the husband, making it purely subjective.

Murray makes the following observations to prove that the uncleanness could not refer to adultery:

“Lev. 20:10 prescribes death for adultery.

Nums. 5:11-31 deals with cases of adultery where proofs are not on good grounds.

Deut. 22:13-21 deals with a man charging a newly-wedded wife with uncleanness.

Deut. 22:23, 24 provides for uncleanness on part of a virgin betrothed to husband.

Deut, 22:25-27 provides for a betrothed virgin who was forced.

Deut. 22:28, 29 provides that a man must marry a virgin not betrothed if he lies with her.” (John Murray. Divorce pages 10-11)

While falling short of illicit sexual intercourse, it may be that the indecency consisted in some kind of shameful conduct connected with the sex life. Or it may have been some other kind of impropriety worthy of censure on the part of the husband.

Thus we may conclude that divorce was tolerated under law, but there is no real justification for the supposition that the law sanctioned or approved divorce. We thus see that the law is in harmony with the original institution of marriage established by God in Genesis 2:23, 24. It also helps in trying to reconcile the problem of divorce as Christ deals with it in the New Testament. In other words, Christ is not prohibiting that which was sanctioned in the Old Testament.

The first passage in which Christ deals with the subject of divorce is Matthew 5:31, 32. It must be noted that the background of this passage is stated in verse 17 “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill.” Verses 18-20 go on to illustrate that Christ in effect brings to completion and fulfillment the law which was given in the Old Testament. Thus as we look to the question of divorce in this context, we cannot conclude that Jesus is relaxing the commandment and the demands given in the law concerning divorce. What Jesus is really doing is giving His own authoritative interpretation of the true meaning and intent of the Old Testament law and contrasting this with the perversions and distortions to which the law had been subjected.

There can be no doubt that Christ is here alluding to the Deuteronomy 24:1-4 passage. It must be noted that verse 31 is not a verbatim quote of Deuteronomy 24:1.

There can be no doubt that Christ is here alluding to the Deuteronomy 24:1-4 passage. It must be noted that verse 31 is not a verbatim quote of Deuteronomy 24:1, thus we may imply that the Lord speaks of the distorted view held by the Jews. Strictly speaking, Christ says nothing more than that if a man did put away his wife, it was necessary for him to give her a bill of divorcement.

Verse 32 makes it plain that Christ is dealing with the right of divorce only as it relates to the man. Nothing is said of the rights which a woman may have. Christ says that fornication is the only legitimate grounds for divorce, but He does not say that the husband in such a case is obliged to put away his wife. Christ says nothing here in respect to the remarriage of the man who puts away his wife for the cause of fornication. Some seek to make distinction between fornication, illicit sexual relations on the part of the unmarried; and adultery, illicit sexual relations on the part of the married. They would restrict divorce to cases in which the wife was discovered to have been unchaste before she entered into marriage. She is said to have been guilty of fornication (Matt. 5:32; 19:9), hence the husband can put her away. This distinction rests on the assumption that the Bible always uses “fornication” and “adultery” with strict technical precision. Such is not the case.

Commenting on Matthew 5:32, A. T. Robertson says, “…it is plain that Matthew represents Jesus in both places as allowing divorce for fornication as a general term which is technically adultery.” (A. T. Robertson. Word Pictures in the New Testament page 155) Speaking of this alleged distinction between fornication and adultery, Meyer says, “How can one seriously suppose that Jesus could have laid down so slippery an exception…a welcome opening to all kinds of chicanery. And the exception would have to hold good also in the case of marriages with widows. (H. A. W. Meyer. Commentary on the New Testament Vol. 1, page 132) See also Broadus and Plummer on Matthew 5:32 and 19:9.

Without resorting to commentaries for help, who when reading the ten commandments restricts the words “thou shalt not commit adultery” to the married only? Who does not take it to prohibit all forms of illicit sexual relations?

It is worthy to note that Christ in this text mentions the sin of the woman divorced for the reason other than fornication. The husband who divorces his wife thus is said to be guilty of placing her in a position either of being tempted to be joined to another man or of being offered opportunities for union with another man. When this new marriage is undertaken, adultery is committed on the part of that woman and also of the man whom she marries. The only reason that this new marriage could be called adultery on the part of both the woman and the man is that the first marriage is still in God’s sight regarded as inviolate.

The answer Christ gave to the Pharisees when they questioned Him concerning the Deut. 24:1-4 passage on divorce is given in Matthew 19:3-9. It is certain that they had a misunderstanding of the passage either by error or intention, and that their design was to refute and ensnare Christ. They assumed that Moses commanded divorce, and thus they asked how Christ could reconcile this with the original institution of marriage which God said was indissoluble. In verse 8 we see that Christ says that Moses “suffered” or permitted divorce only because of the hardness of their hearts. Murray makes the following statements:

“hardness of heart – Where no law is there is no transgression. The fact that they were condemned for hardness of heart proves that they had broken the only law or standard relevant to this particular case as expressed in Gen. 1:27; 2:24, The bill of divorcement was directed to this perverse situation and not to the abrogation of the divine institution.

permission given by Moses – The word that Jesus uses is one that implies sufferance or tolerance but in no way implies approval or sanction of the practice, far less authorization or commandment of it.

from the beginning not so – It is not simply that the practice was not commanded, not simply that it was not authorized, not simply that it was not approved, but rather that it was not even permitted.” (John Murray. Divorce. Page 31-32)

In verse 9 we have the second exceptive clause relative to divorce in this gospel. This verse is of more importance because this is the only passage in scripture where we have combined the exceptive clause and the remarriage clause. Some try to make a textual problem here as well as in Matthew 5:31, saying that the exceptive clause was not the teaching of Jesus because it is omitted in the Luke and Mark passages. The following quote from Robertson’s Word Pictures is of importance:

“Here, as in: Matt. 5:31, a group of scholars deny the genuiness of the exception given by Matthew alone, McNeile holds that the addition of the saving clause is, in fact, opposed to the spirit of the whole context, and must have been made at a time when the practice of divorce for adultery had already grown up, that in my opinion is gratuitous criticism which is unwilling to accept Matthew’s report because it disagrees with one’s views on the subject of divorce. McNeile adds, ‘It cannot be supposed that Matthew wishes to represent Jesus as siding with the school of Shammai.’ Why not, if Shammai on this point agreed with Jesus? Those who deny Matthew’s report are those who are opposed to remarriage at a11. (A. T. Robertson. Word Pictures in the New Testament page 155)

We must conclude that the exceptive clause is certainly the teaching of Christ. The question now is: does the exceptive clause which surely applies to the right of putting away or divorce, extend to the right of remarriage? This is the point of great controversy in the church. Many scholars do not deal with the problem. Murray makes the following concluding statement after discussing the problem at length: “In the syntax of the sentence as it actually is, the meaning and relevance of the exceptive clause cannot be maintained apart from its application to the remarriage as well as the putting away.

There can be little doubt about the fact that Christ does teach that fornication is a legitimate grounds for both divorce and remarriage. The question now is; what about illegitimate divorce and remarriage? Again the answer is very evident that in such cases the new marriage consists of adultery on the part of both the husband and wife in the new marriage. However, the crux of the whole divorce problem seems to hinge on the question; does illegitimate divorce and remarriage constitute perpetual adultery? The following quote from a master’s thesis written by Richard Mitchel seems to clearly give the answer, “Another possible consequence of unfaithfulness automatically breaking the marital tie is that a second marriage which began in adultery due to an unlawful divorce might therefore continue as a legitimate marriage. That is, for example, if a husband unlawfully puts away his wife who soon remarried while he remain unwed, would her first relations with her new husband sever the original tie, thus allowing a marriage which began in adultery to continue as a lawful marriage in the eyes of God or must the marriage continue to be adulterous as long as it lasts? Such an idea at first glance may appear to be ‘doing evil that good may come.’ Nevertheless there are two factors which make its interpretation reasonable. First, adultery had taken place as soon as sexual relations are begun during the new marriage. Secondly, a divorce is in effect between the original pair. These are the two ingredients which elsewhere provide for the complete separation of the original marriage tie. Why then should not these elements provide for the same here. Such conclusions may give some people incentives to ‘do evil that good may come.’ There are such situations in life. Those who are born of God and love His word are obligated not to ‘do evil that good may come.'” (Richard Mitchel. The Exegesis of the Synoptic Divorce Passages page 60)

The problem in the Mark 10:2-12 passage is the apparent discrepancy between it and the Matthew 19 passage. In Matthew the Pharisees say that Moses commanded divorce and Christ says that Moses only “suffered” it. In Mark it is reversed and Christ asks, “What did Moses command you?”, and the Pharisees replied, “Moses suffered to write a bill of divorce.”

The problem is answered by the fact that Christ in Mark refers to the command of Moses relative to marriage in Genesis 2:24. If he does refer to the Deuteronomy 24 passage, He is simply reminding them that although He does admit that Moses did suffer divorce as they had stated, Moses even with this “suffering” did make strict and distinct commands to be followed.

The second problem in the comparison of the Matthew account with the Luke and Mark is the fact that Luke and Mark omit the exceptive clause. As we mentioned before, there is a textual problem in the minds of some relative to the Matthew account. It is in fact, however, not a textual problem, for all will admit that the exceptive clause is really a part of the Matthew text. There are those who attempt however to deny that this exceptive clause is part of the teaching of Christ. The main argument that is given is the omission of the exceptive clause in the Mark and Luke accounts. It is incompatible with the inspiration of scripture to reject Matthew in favor of Mark and Luke.

It must be noted that Christ is really dealing with divorce as it relates to the Mosaic Law. In Mark and Luke He states the fact that the law made no provision for divorce because of adultery. Death was the prescribed penalty in the case of adultery. Christ in these passages is reminding and seating emphatically that from the beginning and also under law, divorce was not allowed and if practiced it resulted in adultery. He however does state in Matthew the one change from the law. Instead of death by stoning for adultery, the innocent party in the adultery was free not only to divorce but also to remarry. There is thus no real contradiction between Matthew, Mark, and Luke. It is quite evident that Mark and Luke would not have a remarriage clause, since they do not deal with the subject of legitimate divorce.

Mark also introduces us to a new consideration. Christ now tells us of the rights of the woman. Under Old Testament law the woman had no rights at all relative to divorce. This passage makes it clear that the woman has the same rights afforded to the man in the case of marital unfaithfulness.

An appeal is made to I Corinthians 7:10,11 by those who wish to destroy the right of divorce and remarriage for the cause of adultery. Paul here distinctly forbid remarriage on the part of either husband or wife. It is also apparent that Paul in this context is not dealing with the case of adultery, but is writing to Christians and is seeking to establish the claims of honor, purity, and piety in the marriage relationship. The fact of the omission of the exceptive clause on the part of Paul does not presuppose ignorance on, his part of the provisions of Matthew. Verses 10 & 11 are referring to Christian couples. Paul says, if there does come a breach, then both must remain unmarried until the breach is healed.

Beginning with verse 12, Paul deals with the problem of the continuance of the marriage bond in an already existing marriage when one of the parties become a believer. Paul is now dealing with a problem in marriage of which Christ did not speak. The believer has no right to leave an unbeliever, for the difference between belief and unbelief constitutes no grounds for separation or divorce. Although the believer has no choice but to remain with the unbeliever, it is possible that the unbeliever may want to leave.

This passage is not a command to the unbeliever to depart. It is not a concession to the unbeliever of the right to depart, but rather it tells of the liberty that is granted to, and the attitude that is to be assumed by the believer in this event.

Romans 7:1-3 is the other text which some feel deals with Paul’s teaching on divorce. It must be observed that this passage does not really deal with the subject of marriage and divorce, but rather uses the biblical fact of the indissolubility of marriage as an illustration of a spiritual relationship which the believer has to Christ and the law. This passage does state a way, by which the marriage bond can be broken, namely, death. Some would appeal to this text to disprove the exceptive clause of Christ in Matthew. It however must be remembered that the law did in effect hold that the marriage bond could not be broken. This does not prove that the exception before stated is not valid. Moses did “suffer” divorce “because of the hardness of their hearts.” Christ taught that adultery was grounds for divorce and remarriage. Finally, it must again be noted that this is not a proper text on which to base teaching relative to divorce, because Paul merely uses the teaching relating to the bond of marriage, to represent the spiritual relationship between Christ and believers.

The teaching of the word of God concerning divorce must be applied to real life situations. In so doing the church must steer a course between two shoals. On the one hand, it must avoid the temptation to go beyond the warrant of scripture; on the other hand, it must not fail to include all that scripture teaches. Believing that the Word of God teaches that one may divorce and remarry in the case of adultery, it is not the prerogative or desire of the church to exclude such from membership. Believing that those divorced on grounds other than adultery or those who marry one divorced for grounds other than adultery violate the teaching of the Word of God, it is not the desire of the church to encourage such or to treat lightly the effects of such actions.

In some cases it is not difficult to apply the teachings of scripture to real life situations. At other times it is not easy; the wisdom of Solomon would scarcely be sufficient. Furthermore, each case of divorce is a personal situation, quite different from all others. Thus it is not easy nor possible to have a set of rules which call be arbitrarily and objectively applied to every situation. In the Word of God there are principles which can be used to guide the church in dealing with the problem of divorce.

As a church we must recognize that what ought not be often is. What then should we do about it?

Divorce is one of the “ought nots” that often is. On the one hand, the church cannot countenance illegitimate divorce, Jesus did not. On the other hand, can the church close its doors on the truly repentant one in an illegitimate divorce? Can the church shun the problem of illegitimate divorce by calling it unscriptural when at the same time it tolerates other unscriptural acts that ought not be but are? In other words, is the problem of divorce in a category all by itself? Is divorce the unpardonable sin? We have no biblical basis for calling divorce the unpardonable sin, neither can we place it in a category all by itself.

On the other hand, can the church by ignoring the problem of the illegitimately divorced person give a tacit approval of something the Bible clearly teaches is contrary to the will of God? Can the church by silence and disregard of discipline encourage the unmarried to treat lightly an institution as ancient and sacred as matrimony? Can the church by taking a weak position on the binding nature of marriage be a partner in the tearing down of the very society it seeks to save from sin?

The application of the church’s standard on divorce applies to the pastor in several ways, primarily to his role in solemnizing marriages.

Believing as we do in the legitimacy of divorce and remarriage in the case of adultery, there is no biblical basis for denying a pastor the right to solemnize such marriages if he chooses. This does not mean a pastor must officiate in such marriages if he is requested to do so. After all, the primary task of the pastor is not the solemnizing of marriages; he may, for reasons sufficient to himself, decline to marry some who request it.

Believing as we do in the illegitimacy of divorce and remarriage subsequent to divorce for any ground other than adultery, there is no biblical basis for sanctioning such marriages and clear instructions from our Lord are against it. In light of this, no Bible Fellowship pastor should be part of a marriage ceremony in which an illegitimately divorced person is involved.

The application of the church’s teaching concerning divorce and remarriage involves office bearers in several ways: eligibility to hold office, the matter of receiving new members and the exercise of discipline.

The question which immediately confronts us is this: Can a divorced person be an office bearer? To answer this question involves far more than the question of divorce per se . Some, overlooking or neglecting the biblical teaching concerning office bearers, make no distinction between church members and church officers. Finding no prohibition against office bearers in the context of the divorce passages, some would apply no standards to church officers that are not applied to church members. Others, having a different concept of church officers, would subscribe to what we might call the double standard, namely, that the Bible teaches one standard for members and another for officers. If this latter is not accepted, it seems impossible to exclude from office those whom we accept for membership. What then is the basis for excluding some from bearing office if we do not have the double standard?

The basis for the double standard is primarily the teaching of the Apostle Paul in I Timothy 3:1-13 and Titus 1:5-9. The question before us does not require a detailed interpretation of these passages. We are interested in one thing, namely, the biblical basis for a double standard. Perhaps one concrete illustration of the double standard in these passages will be sufficient. In Titus and Timothy we read that the church officers must be the husband of one wife. This seems clearly to mean that one could not be a bigamist and be a church officer. The Old Testament contains many references to polygamy. Abraham, Jacob, and David, to name only a few, were polygamists. Yet note that nowhere in the Old Testament is there specific condemnation of the practice, in fact, Moses’ legislation provided for it. cf. Exodus 21:10; Deuteronomy 21:15-17. In Timothy and Titus, polygamy disqualifies one from church office (elder or deacon). Polygamy was prevalent among first century converts, yet the New Testament requires monogamy for church officers. It would seem safe to conclude that polygamy did not

disqualify one from being a church member. If it disqualified one from being a church member there was no need to list it as disqualifying from office. In other words, when one reads qualifications such as “given to hospitality, apt to teach” he would conclude that some members were disqualified from office due to unwillingness to show hospitality or inability to teach. Yet these same people were members. It is the same with bigamy.

Going a step further we might ask if there is not an analogy between polygamy in the first century milieu and divorce in the twentieth century? In any case, the illustration of the double standard stands.

In the matter of accepting for membership and in the matter of discipline of members, the office bearers play a significant role. It is here that we get into specific cases and hard and fast rules with easy application are impossible. Truth is personal as well as propositional. Discipline is according to rules, yet not impersonal. Care must be exercised, love must be manifestly; yet the Word of God must be upheld. Divorce ought not exclude from membership in the church nor bar from useful involvement in the life of the church. The assumption, of course, is that true repentance has been manifest in the case of illegitimate divorce and remarriage. Sometimes church discipline is an aid in bringing a child of God to a place of repentance. It is here that the office bearer plays an important role.

Applying the problem of divorce to the members, one must take great care lest, on the one hand, the church give tacit approval to what is contrary to scripture, or, on the other hand, the church give offense to those within and without by failing to show love and consideration to one who is truly repentant for a sin which may have originated in ignorance or unbelief.

Taking as our example the teaching and practice of the early church on bigamy, we believe that divorce per se should not bar one from membership in the church or involvement in the life of the church. In the case of one who is a member and flagrantly violated the teaching of scripture and the church in pursuing a self chosen course of action by getting an illegitimate divorce or by marrying one illegitimately divorced, the church cannot stand by and approve. Some measure of discipline is demanded. But it should be born in mind that in such cases divorce is more the occasion than the cause for discipline.

The teaching of the church concerning divorce and divorced office bearers should be made clear to any who indicate a desire to unite with us. The prospective member should be made to understand that true repentance does not bar anyone from membership and participation in the life of the church, but that divorce does bar one from being an elder.

On the basis of our study and written report, we submit the following as an answer to the Lehighton petition. The petition has four main parts as it appears in the 1963 yearbook, pages 25, 26.

The only biblical basis for divorce is adultery. (Mart. 19:3-9), and marriage is not broken for any other reason. According to Matt. 19:9 the exception is made for the innocent party, thus he is free to remarry. In the event of any question relevant to divorce in the local church, the Membership and Discipline Committee shall deal with the problem.

We regretfully admit that in the past there have been deviations from our Discipline (Faith and Order), however, Annual Conference recently established the Credentials Committee which has as part of its responsibility to assure compliance by our pastors to the Faith and Order. It is also the responsibility of every member of each local church to uphold the Faith and Order.

The request here is a good one. In essence, the petitioning church is asking for a “thus saith the Lord” for the article on divorce. The inference seems to be that Annual Conference has prohibited more than the Bible does. If so, then it has erred and must modify its position; if not, the petitioning church must modify its position. The question is: does the Bible really prohibit a divorced person, or one married to a divorced person, from holding office in the church. After prayer and study, we must conclude that the scriptural position is that no person who has been divorced or who has married a divorced person for any reason, may be a member of the Official Board. It is not the severity of divorce, but the dignity of the office as detailed in scripture (I Peter 5:1-4; I Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9) that prevents divorced persons or persons married to divorced persons from holding office in the church.

Due to the grace of God, those who have been divorced and those who have married divorced persons and have truly repented may be admitted to church membership, and they do not forfeit the right to be used in Christian service within the church.

J. E. Hartman, chairman

B. N. Brosius, secretary

D. T. Kirkwood

T. D. Gehret

A. L. Seifert

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