In the interest of full disclosure, because it is important to some, I am compelled to acknowledge that I have been divorced in the past (more than 20 years ago). I have never been deceptive or secretive about it (It’s here on my website for the whole world to see. I’ve included it in my newsletters). It really should be immaterial since I’m not asking to be a bishop or deacon in anybody’s church. My marriage to Christie since 2006 has been strong, wonderful, and fruitful.
People often treat divorce like a contagious disease and act as if a divorced person is recommending it to others. Don’t worry, it is not contagious. I certainly don’t recommend divorce and I can guarantee I hate it more than you do. I have to live with the repercussions of it every single day.
People can have all kinds of sin in their past, drunkenness, drugs, fornication, etc. and be forgiven and restored, but divorce is often treated as an unpardonable sin, even to the one who was a victim of divorce.
I am befuddled by pastors who are drawn to me because I am a literal creationist, an independent Baptist, a King James Bible believer, who stands for conservative music and dress standards, and defends every word of the KJB as absolutely true – then they will reject me because of the divorce and instead get some speaker from one of the creation groups (ICR, AIG, etc.) who is not a Baptist (perhaps a 7th Day Adventist, a Lutheran, or, if they are lucky, a Community Church guy) who has more liberal standards, and isn’t a KJB believer (very few are). The priorities there seem way out-of-whack to me.
1 Tim 3:1-4 This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work. A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach; Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous; One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity;
Nobody else has to bear their dirty laundry or life’s worst tragedies up-front based on 1 Tim 3 due to misbehaving children, having ever been drunk, inhospitable, covetous, or impatient – although all those things are clearly stated in the passage, but divorce isn’t (unless you assume and force it in, IOW “beg the question”).
The passage is in the present tense, “a bishop must BE … the husband of one wife”. It does not say “a bishop must always have been the husband of one wife”. Otherwise, to be consistent, you’d have to disqualify anyone who have ever been “impatient”, “inhospitable”, “covetous”, or has had disobedient children, even once.
The Old Testament (Deut 24) says a divorced spouse is a “former” spouse and the New Testament (1 Cor 7) says one who departs is “unmarried“. Thus, biblically, I am the “husband of one wife“. Moreover, 1 Tim 3 is qualifications for a bishop or deacon, and I’m not looking to be either one of them, particularly in somebody else’s church. If this issue matters that significantly to a pastor, it should be incumbent on him as a shepherd to do the vetting and ask about it, not incumbent upon me to proclaim it from the housetops. I’ve found that when I do, it makes the pastor suspicious, no matter what his views on the issue.
I believe the key to the passage is the word “blameless“, and the logical accountability is to one’s local church. Everyone is guilty of violating something in that list and can be considered disqualified from the ministry, but it is up to their local church if they are to be blamed, or if they are blameless. Children (or spouses) can make poor decisions of their own will and volition that are not the fault of their parents (or spouse).
Feel free to call Pastor Randy King or Pastor Jason Brenenstuhl (920-235-5400) for their take on my situation. You can also contact Pastor Robert Hatch of Bible Baptist Church in Winneconne, WI. (920-582-7100)
Here is my divorce “testimony”:
I married Debi Bean, the pastor’s daughter (at Metropolitan Baptist in Detroit) in 1985. We divorced in 1995. I didn’t seek or desire a divorce. I fought against it probably beyond what I should have. We had some good times and some struggles. The main problems were that Debi suffered from depression (manic-depressive, years before she met me) and suffered through several miscarriages. The final straw was when she finally had to have a hysterectomy (and suffered her final miscarriage a few days before the operation). We have probably eight children in heaven (two of the miscarriages were likely twins).
Her obsession with wanting a child led her to run off with a guy who already had a child she was enamored with. She knew if she waited she would have second thoughts, so she divorced me and married him ASAP in Michigan to burn her bridges before she could be convinced to return – it was actually against Wisconsin law to remarry as fast as she did.
As the years have gone by (20+ at this posting), a lot of water has gone under the bridge, Debi got right with God, got her depression under much better control (it took 30+ years), and is now serving the Lord faithfully down in Alabama. In fact, Christie and I stayed with her, Sam (her husband), and Annie (adopted daughter) and ministered in her church on our way down to Florida this past February.
Not many preachers can use their ex-wife as a reference, but Debi would vouch for my character and my ministry. They have sent offerings on more than one occasion. If anyone is interested, I can put you in contact with her.