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The Divorced-Deacon Dilemma

DEACON divorce

A safe course here would be to spend all our energies pursuing the multi-faceted question “Can a divorced person be a deacon?” and at the end, choose the safest and most reasonable exit without coming down on a firm position. But where’s the fun in that?

“Let deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well.” (1 Timothy 3:11)

There it is. One simple sentence that has divided and perplexed and frustrated the Lord’s faithful people for eons.

Let’s state our position up front so there can be no doubt. As a general rule, divorce disqualifies a man from service as either a pastor or deacon. However, there are exceptions.

And by “exceptions,” I most definitely do not mean we must convene an investigating committee to search out the reasons for the man’s divorce and establish a) that he was sinned against or b) that he was unsaved at the time and has since come to the Lord. This kind of scrutiny over a person’s ancient history is outside the capability of any preacher on the planet. All we have to do is look at the Roman Catholic Church’s annulment processes to see a) how complex this can get and b) how hypocritical it all appears to the outside world. We will grant that their intent is good, but the product is a disaster.

The exception—that is, the divorced men who can be considered as deacons—applies when the divorce occurred decades ago and the man has lived an exemplary and godly life since.

That’s where I am at the moment. Good people will agree and disagree, and I’m fine by that. We each have to come to our own conclusion as to the Lord’s will.

This is an emotional, volatile subject.

Yesterday, I posted this question on Facebook: “Can a divorced person be a deacon?” An hour later, we had over 40 responses. This morning, the number is approaching 150. And as one might expect, the answers were all over the map.

Few people are without an opinion on this subject.

Anyone who wishes to see just how explosive a subject this is should stand in a church business conference and make a motion that the church change its stance on divorce.

Either way, it doesn’t matter. If your church ordains divorced people, move that it reconsider. If your church opposes ordaining the divorced, move that it consider changing and begin ordaining them. Then, stand back and watch the fur fly.

One has to wonder why people feel more passionate about this subject than issues of greater weight such as abortion or integrity or morality or world missions or the displaced people of Sudan or the starving children of Central Africa.

For our purposes here, suffice it to say, “They do.” (Pastors, be forewarned!)