Saturday, August 19, 2006

By your fruit you will be known

I read a wonderful article on recently and was so pleased to see them tackle the important issue of divorce specifically within the community of Christian leaders. It is forever interesting to me that as a community that has remarries divorced people, minimizes divorce, has leaders that are divorced and so forth that we feel that we can offer the world any credible commentary on same sex marriages. This, of course, is a minority view with Orthodox Christians who believe that same sex marriage represents something far worse than co-habitation before marriage or divorce.

Updated January 1, 2001 (first published October 15, 2000) (David W. Cloud, Fundamental Baptist Information Service, P.O. Box 610368, Port Huron, MI 48061-0368, - Divorce and remarriage is rampant in Western society at large, and this is reflected in many Christian denominations.
Before I proceed with the facts about the divorce problem, I want to say a word about the recent Barna Research study that claims Christians are even more likely to go through divorce than non-Christians, with Baptists having a higher divorce rate than other denominations. While the Barna study might be an accurate reflection of divorce in Christianity at large, I do not believe it accurately reflects the situation in the conservative, fundamentalist churches. The survey was based on replies from fewer than 4,000 people. I realize that is a large "sampling" for a modern scientific survey, and it might be workable for many questions that can be asked, such as those involving certain political issues. I do not believe it can work for researching Christianity, though, for many reasons. For one thing, the survey is not designed to distinguish carefully between types of Christians. It is not enough to ask if a person is a Baptist or a Presbyterian. What kind of Baptist? What kind of Presbyterian? What kind of "Bible church"? The Barna survey, for example, fails to make a distinction between types of Baptists. There is a great difference between the doctrinal and moral condition of various Baptist groups, and I know for a fact that the divorce rate is not very high among conservative, fundamentalist Baptists. And that is certainly true for those who are faithful church members. I have been preaching in fundamental Baptist churches for 27 years, and it is still a rare thing to hear of a divorce among faithful church members in these churches as a whole. While there are many cases of people having been divorced BEFORE they were saved and joined a fundamental Baptist church, the divorce problem among practicing fundamental Baptists is not anything like the problem it is in society at large and in some other groups of Christians. (At the same time, there are some segments of the fundamental Baptist movement that have a higher divorce rate than others, and I will say a little more about this later.) Second, the Barna survey depends upon the replies of the people being questioned and does not necessarily reflect reality. It cannot ascertain if the people being questioned are truly born again, exactly what type of church they attend, how faithful they are in attendance, whether the divorce occurred before or after their conversion, and certain other matters that are fundamental to the question at hand.
Thus the Barna survey is almost useless in some ways and I am highly suspect of its conclusions.
LIBERAL DENOMINATIONSHaving said that, it is sadly true that divorce is indeed high in many Christian circles. It goes almost without saying that divorce is rampant in liberal denominations. In the Anglican Church, for example, divorce is so common that earlier this year a Church of England working group proposed that the denomination drop its ban on the remarriage of divorcees whose former spouses are still living. Bishop Michael Scott-Joynt of Winchester, who chaired the group, said the report addressed the "reality" that marriages break down. In fact, the change in church law would merely reflect current practice within the Anglican Church. Like other liberal denominations, what the Anglican Church says in writing has little to do with what it does in practice. England is the divorce capital of Europe. Roughly 7,000 Church of England marriages each year, 10% of the total, involve divorcees with living ex-spouses. And large numbers of other members of the Church of England, like Prince Charles, simply live in adulterous relationships without even the semblance of marriage vows.
According to a comprehensive survey conducted by the United Methodist Church in 1986, divorce among the "clergy" is more than three times higher than among the non-ordained church members. In the mid-1980s, all three of the new Methodist bishops for the western part of the United States were divorced. The first female Methodist who was ordained a bishop, Leotine Kelly, is a divorced woman, as are most liberal female church leaders. United Methodist professor and minister Robert Elliott developed a divorce service for couples seeking a blessing on their breakup. Joseph Quillian, dean of the school where Elliott teaches, called the divorce service a sound concept.
Much the same miserable situation exists in other liberal denominations. Divorce and immorality are rampant in these denominations because they have rejected the Bible and there is no clear separation from the world. A report entitled “Sexuality, Spirituality and Social Justice” was distributed throughout the Presbyterian Church-USA in 1990-91. It said “the moral for Christians ought not be marriage, but rather justice-love. ... Where there is justice-love, sexual expression has ethical integrity. That moral principle applies to single, as well as to married, persons, to gay, lesbian and bisexual persons, as well as to heterosexual persons.” The report indicated that a person can have sexual relations outside of marriage and still be right with God. Is it any wonder that the divorce rate among such "Christians" is high?
EVANGELICALSSadly, divorce is becoming almost as common among Christian leaders who claim to be evangelical Bible believers. This is another reflection of the apostasy of modern Evangelicalism. Charles Stanley, well-known Southern Baptist pastor and former president of the SBC, recently went through a divorce. When the news was announced to the First Baptist Church of Atlanta in May, the newly divorced pastor received a standing ovation from the congregation. The wife of Ned Graham, son of Billy Graham, divorced him on the basis of “infidelity, domestic violence, and drug and alcohol abuse.” Ned is head of East Gate Ministries, which distributes Bibles in China, and he continues to be supported in that capacity by his famous father. Well-known Christian author Hal Lindsey has been divorced multiple times. Bob Larson is divorced. Many others could be mentioned.
CONTEMPORARY CHRISTIAN MUSICIANSDivorce among Contemporary Christian “artists” is rampant. Just a few of the divorced or separated CCM musicians are Sandi Patty, Deniece Williams, Sheila Walsh, John Talbot, Randy Stonehill, Larry Norman, Tom Howard, Ralph Carmichael, Steve Archer, Amy Grant and Gary Chapman (both Amy and Gary have gotten remarried since their 1997 divorce), Stacy Jones of the rap group Grits, and all of the members of the now disbanded Barnabas. Melody Green, widowed wife of Keith Green (who was killed in a plane crash in 1982), recently divorced her second husband, Andrew Sievright.
CHARISMATICSDivorce is also rampant among Pentecostal-Charismatic leaders. Aimee Semple McPherson, founder of the Four Square Pentecostal Churches, was a divorced adulteress, as was famous Pentecostal evangelist Kathryn Kuhlmann. Richard Roberts, who is in the process of taking over the ministry of his father, Oral, divorced his first wife and married a Oral Roberts University student. Jim and Tammy Bakker divorced and are both remarried. In July of this year, two well-known Charismatic pastors got divorces (Ray McCauley of Johannesburg, South Africa, and Clarence McClendon of Los Angeles). John Jacobs, founder of the Power Team, was divorced from his wife of 16 years this summer. Hundreds of other Charismatics could be mentioned.
FUNDAMENTAL BAPTISTSSadly, some elements of the fundamental Baptist movement are also guilty in this matter. Pastor Peter Ruckman of Pensacola, Florida, is twice divorced and thrice married yet remains in the pastorate and mocks anyone who believes he is disqualified. He has written a booklet to justify his position. I have heard personally from many divorced fundamental Baptist pastors who use Ruckman as their model and who get very angry when someone says they are not qualified. Pastor Jack Hyles has counseled divorced men to go into the pastorate and has encouraged others to stay in the pastorate after their divorces. Hyles calls adultery a “mistake”; and in his sermon “The Good Man Versus the Spiritual Man” (Dec. 20, 1987) Hyles said that the only difference between those who commit adultery and those who do not is that in the latter the sin of adultery is “in remission.” It is perhaps no wonder, then, that adulterous pastors are rampant within the circle of churches that supports Jack Hyles.
We do not believe a divorced man is qualified to be a pastor. Our article
“The Divorced Pastor” can be found at the Way of Life web site as well as in the Fundamental Baptist CD-ROM Library.
We also do not believe that pastors who commit adultery should be reinstated to the pastorate. Yes, they can be forgiven and can serve the Lord in some capacity if they repent of their great evil, but they have permanently disqualified themselves from the pastorate. To return an adulterer to the pastorate is like returning the fox to the hen house. When a man has exhibited such a massive lack of moral character as to so viciously sin against his wife, his church, his children, and his God, he has no business remaining in the holy office of the pastorate. The office of a bishop is only for men who are blameless in their family lives, because he must be an example to the church and he represents the church to the community. If the office of the bishop is degraded, the churches are degraded. One of the greatest problems of our day is the lowering of pastoral standards and convictions. The pastorates are too often filled with unqualified, cowardly, people-pleasing men.
“A bishop then must be BLAMELESS, THE HUSBAND OF ONE WIFE, vigilant, sober, OF GOOD BEHAVIOUR · One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; (FOR IF A MAN KNOW NOT HOW TO RULE HIS OWN HOUSE, HOW SHALL HE TAKE CARE OF THE CHURCH OF GOD?)” (1 Timothy 3:2-5).
I believe in God’s grace and mercy in Jesus Christ. I also believe a man can disqualify himself from certain types of ministry by his sin, and this should be a great motivation for preachers to flee fornication.

Amy Grant was an icon in the Christian music industry and she is still highly recognized. Her relationship with Vince Gill when they were both married represented the reason why Vince's wife left him. Although there are different reports between the individuals involved as to when the relationship was consummated a romance began when they were both married. I remember in the last year reading something that Gary Chapman, her husband and father of her children, had said in an interview after the divorce. He spoke of getting down on his hands and knees before his wife and begging her not to leave him for Vince. He talked to her about God's will not being divorced and how all things could be reconciled through faith. Amy and their children and she subsequently married Vince Gill who had also left his wife. All of their beautiful little children had to adjust to new homes, new fathers, new mothers, and grow up in that dynamic. Gary Chapman said it best when he talked about being served divorce papers that said they had "irreconcilable differences", he said "all things can be reconciled with God"

The Christian community would do well to ensure that their own marriages are rich and vibrant, that their own relationships follow biblical guidelines before and after marriage, and that their churches nurture those people who attend to live according to those guidelines. They really have very hard questions to ask themselves about whether to remarry people, the rate of divorce within the community, and the rate of premarital sex and co-habitation. If the church body cannot reflect the image of covenant marriage as God intended to it what can they possibly say of worth to gay and lesbian people who want civil marriages?


Blogger victor said...

If the person is married to someone who committed adultery against them, then the divorce is justified but I don't know about the individual cases of the people you refer to. The one who was cheated on is not usually at fault. If it happened to me, I would divorce. Matthew 5:32

1:44 AM  
Blogger ksb3 said...

Gary Chapman was heavily
into drugs...cocaine. Amy
had given him an ultimatum several time according to Charisma magazine back
in those days.
The author of this aritcle
should not judge these people. Only God knows their
reasons and their hearts. Judge not.. lest ye be judged.

11:39 AM  
Blogger Donovan said...

The reason why divorce is so high in the Christian world is because the FACTS speak for themselves. CHRISTIANS have no more or less of God-Jesus in them that does the heathen on the street.


4:49 PM  
Blogger Donovan said...

PS, James Dobson's own son divorced his wife. Now talk about the pot calling the kettle black.

Mr. family values Dobson, can't even run his own house. What a joke.

4:51 PM  

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