Should Divorced Men Be Ordained?

marriage-1Should men that have been divorced be ordained to the ministry? This question has been debated for centuries, but has become a vital question in today’s age, considering the rampant growth in divorce.

 Let us first establish a command by St. Paul himself, in 1 Timothy and Titus (Canon Law) as well; that an overseer must be the husband of “one wife” and have his children “in order.” Without doing a literary gymnastics show, I would like to say that if you do not believe that St. Paul is speaking literally in this passage, then you might as well not read the rest of this post. In fact, you might as well not read anything from this site because the very hermeneutic that is used to determine the literalness of these verses comes from a conservative and classical viewpoint; the same viewpoint used in all of my posts.

  1. If you have been married more than once, then you have had more than one wife. There is an argument that states St. Paul could have been speaking of polygamists; that if you are a polygamist you cannot be an overseer. But this implies that polygamy was, to a certain extent, acceptable in the early church. Some would say that if a man already had multiple wives, then the church would not command them to divorce. I think that there is little, if any, evidence that the early church held to this ethic! So let’s move on.
  2. If your children are not “in order,” then you, like the divorced man, are not qualified for the ministry. Now, St. Pauls says in 1 Timothy that the children should be “in submission” and that he needs to “rule his children and household well.” This obviously means that the children must at least be in submission to Lord’s Day worship, the very starting point of submission for all people.

There certainly are exceptions to these rules. For instance, if a man was married and received a genuine annulment (annulments are a dime a dozen these days), having no children, then mercy should certainly be exercised in this matter.

Also, it needs to be considered whether or not the man was married within a Christian church. There is an argument that states that any man that was not married in the church was not really married. I would say “yes” and “no” to that. If a man has children he is bound to this secular union which constitutes a type of marriage. Also, what was the state of the man’s heart when he got married out of the church? Did he know better or did he really think he was being married?

I would humbly say that any man that has a third marriage (more than one divorce or annulment) should by no means be ordained and that anything he leads could be in great danger. As St. Paul says, how can a man lead the Church if he cannot lead his family? Yes, unbelieving children (even as they are older) should raise flags as to whether or not the man led his family properly. More questions should be asked about the way the man led his family in circumstances with unbelieving (those that do not regularly worship), older children. Did he neglect them for his “studies?” Did he send his wife to work when he really did not need to, giving the children over to secular leadership? What kind of relationship did he have with these children that have essentially left the faith? If they are daughters, did he do everything in his power to guide the young woman to a proper husband? These are questions that need to be asked when dealing with these cases!

I’m sure there are those that are truly going to despise me for writing this post. But someone has to say this. In all my years as a Christian, I have only heard from a small minority of pastors on this subject. I’m willing to discuss this, but if anyone flies off the handle about this post, I will simply mark it down as persecution. I’ve seen too many men, that have not lead their families well, destroy churches and make a mockery of Christ. I am in hopes that one day this will come to a slowdown.