Ethics: Divorcing Pastor Preaches on Marriage

What would you do Wednesday!

It is Sunday morning and you have just found your spot in a pew. You have brought two friends with you – a couple – who is struggling with their marriage. This morning’s message is supposed to be on marriage.

You thought your friends would benefit by hearing a sermon on marriage – they agreed as they work through their marital issues.

The worship service progresses. It is now time for the sermon. The pastor stands behind the pulpit and makes an announcement before he begins the sermon.

As has been announced over the last several weeks, today’s message is on marriage. But before I start, I want to admit something to you. Some of you may have noticed that my wife is not with me this morning. No, she’s not sick or anything. In fact, we are in the process of going through a divorce. I just thought I should tell you before I started my sermon.

What would you do?

  • Do things as usual – listen to the sermon, etc.
  • Listen to the sermon, but address the pastor afterward.
  • Get up and walk out.
  • Stand up and shout down the pastor calling for repentance.
  • Or….

Here I blog…


p.s. The above is based on a true story.

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tagged as , in Christianity,Church Issues,Culture,ethics,faith

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

1 rhology October 30, 2013 at 12:27 pm

He should not be preaching. He should be desperately working to save his marriage. I’d get up and walk out, then beg him later that day or Monday to step down.

2 sshaver October 30, 2013 at 2:25 pm

Perhaps quickest and most effective way to deal with such a scenario might be for someone on the front pew to stand up and politely say:
“Preacher, don’t think you ought to be addressing that particular subject this morning”.

3 NickHorton2 October 30, 2013 at 9:09 pm

I think I’d listen to the sermon and then talk to him afterward. It’d be presumptuous of me to shout him down without knowing the specifics of anything. Is his divorce on biblical grounds? Perhaps he’ll address it in the sermon. Has she abandoned him? Is he in error? Did he sin? I don’t know enough to do anything but listen at this point.

4 MarieP October 30, 2013 at 10:16 pm

I think I’d start crying right there and not be able to listen to the sermon but pray the whole time begging God to intervene.

5 MarieP October 30, 2013 at 10:36 pm

If it were my own church, I don’t think the pastor would be allowed to preach his sermon.   I know that there are Biblical grounds for divorce, but that does not appear to be the case here because, if it were, he would not have been so secretive.  Perhaps the most troubling thing is the casual attitude he displays when he makes an announcement such as that before he is about to open God’s holy Word.  He knows that his congregation is not going to be able to concentrate- in fact, how does he expect they will hear when his behavior is grieving the very Spirit of God that is needed to fill Him and his hearers?  Please tell me that isn’t based on a true story…

6 John Fariss October 31, 2013 at 11:06 am

Boy, some of you folks are quick to judge.  I agree, it is probable not the best sermon topic to follow such an announcement, and I don’t think I could preach that under the circumstances–at least such of the circumstances as have been outlined.  But for all you know, he may be going to give the details in his message of what went wrong in his marriage, and why he and his wife are at that point.  That sort of thing could be very effective for people whose marriages are shaky, as almost all marriages are at one point or another.  It might become, “Here’s what (I) (we) (she) did wrong, and here is how you can avoid the mistakes (I) (we) made.”  Without such a personal touch, many sermons lack a basis in reality.
I generally agree that transparency is the best policy for pastors, one which I have practiced throughout my ministry.  But even there, there are limits.  Some matters should remain private within families, when they are strictly personal and private issues not touching the public arena.  For instance, my salary is a matter of public record, but I don’t publish my income tax returns to the church.  For years, my family lived in “the fishbowl” of a parsonage, but our conversations, much less arguments, were no more posted on line than were the conversations and arguments of our deacons or other members.  Also, speaking as a pastor who has served dysfunctional churches, there are some congregations who expect the pastor and his family to not only be “above reproach,” but to some standard of virtually sinless perfection.  Such a church makes it somewhere between uncomfortable and impossible for the pastor to admit some human failing, even if it falls far short of a moral lapse.
WWJD?  Hear the man out.

John Fariss

7 John Fariss October 31, 2013 at 11:19 am

And by the way: when a pastor and his family are in some sort of relational trouble, there is a very good likelihood that the congregation played a part in it, either actively or passively.  Pastors and their families are put under great stress by the nature of the calling.  That stress can be alleviated by recognizing that the pastor and his family are human and by being friends–not just “friendly” but by being friends with them, so that they receive support from the church family.  Or it can be compounded by unrealistic expectations.


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