Can a divorced man be a deacon in the Baptist Church? Baptists are an immense Christian religious group, so there is no one definite answer to this question. The answer can vary depending on the denomination of the Baptist Church and the autonomous church itself.
Take the Southern Baptist Convention, for example. In their FAQ, they recognize how autonomous churches can have varied decisions when it comes to divorced deacons. They acknowledge how multiple views can be formed regarding the volatile subject.
As such, we’ll be looking at the four possible answers to this question you may encounter. Of course, for clarity on your specific situation, do approach your church leaders. Our discussion will give you various perspectives that can be helpful in understanding this subject, but along with this, reaching out to your church leaders can help you learn your church’s firm position on the matter.
On that note, let’s look at the first possible answer to our multi-faceted question.
No, when the basis is 1 Timothy 3:12.
The entirety of the third chapter of 1 Timothy discusses the qualifications of church officers, such as bishops and deacons. The twelfth verse of this chapter directly addresses deacons and the divorce issue, as it states (from the New King James Version):
Let deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well.
With that, according to the apostles of the early church, to enter the deacon ministry, a man must be the husband of one wife. A better translation of the Greek phrase “husband of one wife” states “one-woman man,” a faithful husband. With this as the basis, it is completely understandable why some churches see that divorce disqualifies a man from being ordained as a deacon.
There are exceptions to this verse, which we’ll discuss below. However, some churches don’t acknowledge these exceptions and use this verse as the ultimate standard for their church officers and those entering Christian ministry.
Yes, if the divorce occurred before conversion to Christ.
The first exception to the verse above for most churches is when the man’s divorce occurred before his conversion to Christ. As it is with a lot of us Christians, a person cannot be held accountable for their transgressions done out of ignorance of God’s word. Once we become converted, which is marked by baptism in the Baptist Church, we are made a new creation, as it is written in 2 Corinthians 5:17 (English Standard Version),
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
If a divorced person aspires to be a deacon and proves to live an exemplary and godly life upon conversion, then the church may decide for him to be a qualified man for the position.
Yes, if he has been faithfully married for many years to his current wife.
You’ll also find that a church ordains divorced people when the divorce occurred decades ago and the man has been faithfully married for many years to his current wife. This is a view promoted by Southern Baptist leader Joe Mckeever in his eloquent article.
It’s not unheard of for a person to have been married when they were very young and almost immediately find out that marriage at that age is not for them. They legally part ways and then years later, find the one husband or one wife they want to be with for their entire life.
Such cases, like the one above, allow for divorced men to serve as deacons in the church. Also, from this, you can see how it’s completely understandable if a church opposes ordaining men that have had multiple wives in the course of a few years, have had more than one wife at the same time, as well as those who were found with other women despite being married for years.
Yes, if the divorce falls under biblical exceptions and he remains unmarried.
This last one is a view promoted by Southern Baptist, Dr. Daniel G. Ausbun, Sr. The biblical exceptions for divorce he specifies are when: (1) the spouse commits sexual immorality (Matthew 5:32 and Matthew 19:9); and, (2) the spouse is an unbeliever and leaves the marriage (1 Corinthians 7:15).
The first exception allows for a reasonable exit on the part of the man or woman who was cheated on. For the second exception, the spouse is taught to let their unbelieving husband or wife leave and to not spend their energies pursuing them.
Dr. Ausbun further explains that to remain single or unmarried is important for divorced men serving as deacons since remarriage to a divorced person is considered, according to Jesus, “adultery” (Luke 16:18), as well as “detestable to the Lord” (Deuteronomy 24:4). The only exception to remarriage is when the spouse has passed away, as this releases you from your marriage vows (Romans 7:2-3 and 1 Corinthians 7:39).
When one of those biblical exceptions is met, a church can begin ordaining a divorced person as a deacon, combined with the requirement of remaining unmarried (unless the spouse has passed away).
The Special Concern With Divorce And Remarriage
When considering a person for the deacon ministry, there are other things that can place a greater weight on the decision of church leaders apart from divorce and remarriage. Certainly, though, there is a special concern over these not just for those desiring to be deacons but all of the Lord’s faithful people.
As to why though, the three items below can throw some light on this special concern.
The Sanctity Of Marriage
When a man and a woman are married, they become one flesh (Genesis 2:24). This union is to be held in honor among all, as we can read from Hebrews 13:4 (English Standard Version),
Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.
As such, Baptists and most Christians, for that matter, regard divorce and remarriage as a cause for concern, especially among those ordained as officers in the congregation, like deacons.
The Destructive Nature Of Divorce
With how common divorce has become in current society, it can be easy to dismiss it. However, few people will deny that divorce has a destructive nature. A broken marriage will have a hurtful impact on the spouse and their children.
A Difficult To Undo Act
Even if the divorce and remarriage happened in the distant past, it is not an act that can be undone. Unlike other misdeeds that a simple sentence like “I’m sorry” can fix, a broken marriage can result in displaced people, starving children, and scarred souls.
Before we form our own conclusion regarding divorced deacons in our church, may the things we discussed above help in understanding this matter. There are exceptions to the general rule of “a husband of one wife” or a “one-woman man,” so let’s not be quick to judge.
Remember, we have no right to dig up a person’s ancient history. So, if you do feel uncomfortable having a divorced deacon even after reading this post, raise your concern with either a pastor or congregation leader first. Certainly, they can guide you through this volatile subject.
While you’re here, do have a look at our previous post.