The final consideration in the question of divorce and remarriage regards pastors.
A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach; Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous; 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?) Not a novice , lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.
(1 Ti 3:2-7)
If any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly. For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not selfwilled, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre; But a lover of hospitality, a lover of good men , sober, just, holy, temperate; Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers.
The operative term in the Scriptures for a bishop’s (pastor’s, overseer’s, elder’s) marital status is this – he must be the husband of one wife. What is certainly inarguable is that he cannot be polygamous. What seems to also be at least more likely than not (and seldom mentioned) is that he should be married! The question at hand is whether “husband of one wife” means “not remarried”.
Whatever one’s answer to this must be, it has to mirror their view on the possibility of a marriage being broken by something other than death. That is, if divorce and remarriage are permissible, than the remarried person remains the husband of one wife. If there is no possibility of the marriage bond being truly broken, then a remarried person is polygamous and disqualified.
Oftentimes, however, people’s views on divorce and remarriage do not extend to their view of who can and cannot be a pastor. Many believe that divorce and remarriage are permissible, yet do not believe that a pastor can be remarried. Why is this? Do we honestly believe that they must be more godly than we?
That may be a shocking statement, but what an assertion implies is that some of us are less sinners than others. The other implication would be that while my pastor has a laundry list of things he must be, I am somehow exempt from the list – that I do not have to also be the rest of it - “above reproach, not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination, not arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined”.
These pastoral qualities are qualities all Christians are to possess, and to dissociate them from us is to deceive ourselves. Thus, our interpretation of Scriptural warrant (or lack) for divorce and remarriage must mirror our interpretation of this verse.
That being said, recognizing that we are sinners does not mean we should not expect a pursuit of godliness in our pastors. This is scriptural prescription, and a man who does not meet these requirements should never be selected for the office. If a man is divorced and remarried because he committed adultery against his first wife and divorced her, the pastorate is not his call, no matter what he may think.
My position mirrors my position on divorce and remarriage, which I developed in the comments section of the last post in the series. A man who suffers divorce for his wife’s adultery, physical danger to the family (this must be a truly rare case!), or abandonment and remarries is permitted to be a pastor.
Addendum: A pastor who experiences the divorce should at least temporarily step down. The lack of order in his own house during such a period Scripturally prohibits him from serving, not to mention the massive emotional turmoil he would be in. How can a man going through a divorce counsel others on marriage? I don’t know how long such a sabbatical from ministry would last, nor am I even sure if he could return as the pastor of his church. However, the importance of a pastor’s role in the life of a church is such that a man who is under fire at home and certainly unfocused for many months and even years is not a proper vessel during that period.