Ethics: Pastor Called to Church is on Third Marriage

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What would you do Wednesday!

There are differing views within Christianity on marriage, divorce, and re-marriage. Some are black and white on these issues while others take into account when the people involved became Christians. And there are those who question whether divorce and/or re-marriage is ever permissible for pastors.

That said, I thought this would be an interesting topic for today’s scenario.

The situation takes place in a Baptist church which uses a pastoral search committee. The committee has agreed upon a candidate who has accepted the nomination.

The next step is for the congregation to vote to invite the man to preach in view of being called as the new pastor. (Also known as preaching in view of a call.) The church votes in the affirmative. The man is set to preach in two weeks.

A week has passed and since this man will most likely be your new pastor, you go to his current church website to listen to some of his sermons. The first one you choose to listen to was from three months ago. At the beginning of his sermon he happens to mention that he just celebrated his fifth wedding anniversary.

Fifth? Pausing – you think through what you know about this man – he is 50 years old, has two grown kids, and graduated seminary 25 years ago. Knowing that this man will preach in view of a call in seven days, you call one of the pastoral search committee members concerned about potential divorce and re-marriage.

The committee member gets back with you the next day explaining that the potential new pastor is actually on his third marriage. Some how the three marriages flew under the radar. They never came up.

Since time is short with only six days before he preaches in view of a call and the committee was unable to immediately get details about the marriages, the pastoral candidate will preach Sunday.

What would you do?

  • Nothing, just let it go and trust all will be well.
  • Try to meet with all the pastoral committee members for counsel.
  • Approach the man Sunday morning encouraging him to speak to the issue from the pulpit.
  • Stand-up at just the right time in the sermon and reveal his secrets to everyone.
  • Or….
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The above article was posted on May 22, 2013 by Mark Lamprecht.
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{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Rhology May 22, 2013 at 12:35 pm

Try to meet with all the pastoral committee members for counsel. 
And also recommend that we look for someone else. That is pretty problematic for a pastor.

2 LarryFarlow May 22, 2013 at 12:48 pm

There’s a lot here. If he didn’t reveal this to the search committee, that in itself is a problem. If, on the off chance, he’s twice a widower, it may not be a problem but if he’s been twice divorced, especially if either of them took place while he was a believer, it would have to be a very special circumstance for him to be acceptable as a pastor candidate in my opinion. Apart from some very good explanation, he’d be off the list in my opinion. I’d have to go to the search committee and share my concerns and get their input.

3 Bennett Willis May 22, 2013 at 1:17 pm

The fact that the candidate did not mention this to the committee is a serious issue.  The candidate knew that this would be a problem for any church and it should have been cleared (with explanation) during the first discussion.  There are reasons for marriages ending and they may not have had anything to do with the candidate but failing to bring up the topic is a serious issue.

4 Chris Roberts May 22, 2013 at 1:24 pm

At a minimum, postpone his preaching in view of a call. He does not need to be presented until the committee knows more. It would be surprising for a committee to fail to ask a potential pastor about his marriage, but they need to quickly correct the mistake. If he is twice a widower, that’s one thing. Twice divorced, however, is quite another. Postpone his preaching, schedule more time to talk.

5 Cody May 22, 2013 at 3:39 pm

Stand-up at just the right time in the sermon and reveal his secrets to everyone, obviously. Standard.

6 David May 22, 2013 at 4:21 pm

I would take it case-by-case and church-by-church.  
Questions I’d consider:
Case-by-case:
1) Why has he been married more than once?
2) If he has been divorced, what were the circumstances?  Was he a believer yet?  Were his past wives unfaithful, were they unbelievers that deserted him, or was it his fault?
Since 1 Timothy 3 says “one-woman man” in the Greek (disclaimer: I don’t know Greek), I would offer this: The verb tense on “one-woman man” is “must be”, not “must have always been”.  For example, if someone is a serial flirt now, they are not a one-woman man now and therefore disqualified.  If they were that way in the past, but are married to one woman and faithful now, I would say they are qualified.  The qualifications that are put side-by-side with “one-woman man” are all “must be” qualifications.  The Apostle Paul was definitely not “above reproach”, “merciful”, or “not violent, but gentle” when he was persecuting Christians!
Still, I think church-by-church questions should also be considered:
1) Do the church’s bylaws permit him to be a candidate?  How does the church go about amending its bylaws, and would the leadership be in favor?
2) Are the church members, by and large, capable of looking at his past properly?  Or will making him the pastor distract the church from its mission or cause a split?
I’m on a search committee at my (Baptist) church.  We went through something very similar earlier this year where a candidate who looked like a great fit had to be removed from the running because our bylaws wouldn’t permit a divorced man to serve as pastor – even though the divorce had happened decades ago and wasn’t his fault.  Mark, I double checked my email to make sure I hadn’t emailed you about this! 🙂

7 Mark Lamprecht May 22, 2013 at 10:11 pm

@David You did not email me about this as far as I know. lol Interesting that someone made it into consideration before finding out he was divorced. I guess it just depends on where you all were in the process. Thanks for your insights.

8 Mark Lamprecht May 22, 2013 at 10:11 pm

@Cody 🙂

9 Mark Lamprecht May 22, 2013 at 10:13 pm

@Rhology @Chris Roberts Bennett Willis LarryFarlow Thanks for your insights. The situation may be a bit sticky but certainly not unresolvable.

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