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What Does the Bible Say About..Divorced Pastors?

Can someone be a pastor if they have been divorced?


If you are using the word “pastor” in its modern use, as a preacher, then the Bible is silent on the matter. If you are using the word in the biblical sense, about an elder in the church, there is some debate about the answer to your question.

Among the qualities or qualifications of an elder is this statement. “A bishop must be blameless, the husband of one wife.” (1 Timothy 3:2) The question, then, is whether a man who has divorced and married someone else is the husband of one wife. Some people take the strictest view, that an elder cannot have been married twice, even if the first wife died. Others take the loosest view, that an elder can have married any number of times as long as he was freed from the previous marriage by death or proper divorce.

I think Paul was most clearly saying that any man could not be an elder who had, prior to becoming a Christian, married two or more women at the same time. I think that other scriptures shed some light on the question. “The woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband. So then, if while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if her husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man.” (Romans 7:2-4) If death frees a person from their marriage, when they marry another they are still married only to one person. The same would apply in the case of a divorce. However, for the good of a congregation it might be best not to choose a man as an elder who has been divorced if there is any question about whether the divorce is “proper” or “scriptural.” Because the passage in 1 Timothy 3 is vague, it would be up to the congregation to decide whether their best interests are served by a man if they, or others, have doubts about whether he is married to one or more than one person.

If a man is divorced and has not married another person, then he would not be eligible to be an elder because he is not married. Either that, or, in some people’s view, he would be eligible because he may still be considered as married to the first wife if the divorce was not what they would call “scriptural.”

Sorry about the vague answer, but the question doesn’t give a lot of detail and the qualifications of an elder are also vague on this matter. I think each congregation must decide, when there is not absolutely clear answer.