Deacon Getting a Divorce

Discussion in 'Pastoral Ministries' started by GBC Pastor, Nov 11, 2010.

  1. GBC Pastor

    GBC Pastor
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    The title really says it all. I have a deacon in my church who is going through a divorce. His wife left him, and he has just recently been served papers for divorce. I have a few people within my congregation who have questioned whether he can remain as a deacon once he is divorced. I have made a decision as to how I will handle the situation after much prayer. However, I wanted to see how other pastors might handle this matter. I won't reveal my decision until later in the thread so as not to influence what other people might say.
     
  2. Steven2006

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    I am not a pastor, but if I was that deacon I would step down as not to risk being the cause of disharmony in the congregation, and to not place the pastor in the situation where he had to choose a side.
     
  3. annsni

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    Well, I'm not a pastor but I can tell you how this would be handled from knowing one of our pastors well. ;)

    The deacon would be counseled to step down for this season of unrest in his life and concentrate on dealing with this. He would also receive counseling in general to help him get through this whole thing. If it was a biblical divorce, and the deacon deals with his own sin in the relationship (divorce doesn't happen in a bubble in the vast majority of cases), in time he can serve as a deacon again.
     
  4. Jim1999

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    In general, I would fully agree with what has already been said. He should step down for a season and seek pastoral counselling.

    I would like to know why marriage counselling was not sought after beforehand, but that is modernity, I fear. Surely something was evident in their lives before the split. Was the congregation too large for the pastor to be aware of the situation, especially with a deacon? I don't know that answer.

    Cheers,

    Jim
     
  5. rbell

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    Maybe right now the bigger issue could be this man having time to heal up from such a difficult situation

    It sounds to me as though there may be a biblical justification for the divorce....But regarless of one's opinoin, right now, this man needs to heal up; right now, his "tank" may need "refilling" before he tries to serve other folks.
     
  6. Tom Bryant

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    Everyone has given you great advice. Love in him and make sure others do also. I know this will sound judgemental but he has been serving as a deacon while the marriage has been breaking down, so he needs time to heal up emotionally and spiritually.
     
  7. jaigner

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    Allow him to have time to heal. Make sure to love and support him. Pastoral counseling is good, but professional relationship counseling should also be strongly suggested, since there could be many issues going on that a professional counselor would be able to discern (depression, grief, anger).

    Since the wife left him, there may not be much he can do, and after taking time to heal and move on with his life, he should be able to return if mutually desired.

    Additionally, sometimes there is spousal abuse (physical, psychological, spiritual) that does not always clearly manifest itself in a noticeable, outward way. Be careful you don't have a closet abuser in a leadership position.
     
  8. John Toppass

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    I agree with most that has been said, and pray that this deacon can return to service.

    I am searching throughout the scripture, could someone direct me to the "biblical divorce" section? I can only find that a husband should not divorce his wife.
     
  9. SaggyWoman

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    Step down and heal for a while. Later re-evaluate and go from there.
     
  10. abcgrad94

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    I agree with the others, but I'd make sure the man knows you care more about his healing than about quickly removing him ASAP due to "qualifications."
     
  11. tinytim

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    My exact advice as well...
     
  12. TomVols

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    In one sense, we don't know a lot here. Why did the marriage break apart? Were problems there? Was this an "out of the blue" divorce where the partner was unexpectant (Yes, it does happen....only in hindsight can markers on the path be seen). We also don't know how your church utlizes deacons. Are they in all practicality, elders, like most Baptist churches? Are they leaders of servant ministries? Are they strictly almoners? In one sense, this matters little, but in another sense it does matter.

    It is most wise to have him step aside from his service position so that he can seek healing. He must be ministered to. His grief and possible resultant reactions in the mourning process need the family-ship of God. Good Pastoral counseling is indispensable. Reconciliation is still a possibility. Once that ship sails, then deal with the matters that are there.

    One person said he could be an abuser. Maybe. Or he could have been abused. Female abuse of male spouses is a real problem that is not being given the attention it should be.

    It is unBiblical to forbide him from future service given what you have shared, prima facie. But his wounds are real and he needs to heal, and that is best facilitated through the church's allowing him to step aside for a time and be given room to heal. It is important that the church know why this is happening. Too many times a church will remove a person so they can be ministered to, and they assume the person is guilty of something grave, or that the person is being permanently removed. The church doesn't need all the gory details, but it needs to know enough so that it knows enough. Don't let the people fill in their own blanks.

    If he or she is deserving of church discipline, this is necessary too. No one has mentioned that - again, given our limited info - if someone has deserted her spouse, and has done so out of wickedness, she must be given an opportunity for repentance. If she is unwilling, well, that says a lot, and the church must respond as part of the restorative correction of the body's discipline.
     
  13. North Carolina Tentmaker

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    I agree with the comments already given, the best situation would be for him to voluntarily step down. If you don’t want to remove him from the deacon board you could simply make in an “inactive” deacon while he goes through this.

    But, what if he won’t step down voluntarily? Going back to GBC’s original comments it sounds like he has some church members who want him removed from the deacon board and barred from future service. That decision is not, or should not, be up to the pastor.

    GBC, what is your church’s position on divorced deacons? Some Baptist churches allow them, most don’t. Some sit in the middle and allow them under special conditions or if the deacon is not remarried. Other churches don’t allow single men to serve as deacons as the deacon’s wife or deaconess has her own responsibilities. This should be a church position and already be settled. All you should have to do, GBC, is follow the church position. If the church has not detailed this in a written document on church government then you have a problem. This would be a very bad time to force a vote on this issue within the church because now you have a specific deacon involved. Instead of a vote on their position on the qualifications of a deacon it would become a vote of confidence on this particular deacon.

    The easiest solution would be if the individual in question would resign for at least a while. His ability for future service can then be determined later.
     
  14. rbell

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    IMO, there's a difference between asking someone to step down in a church discipline sense...and going to someone as a concerned church family and asking them to step away for a while and heal. (nothing wrong with either...done properly)

    I think the key is, making sure those involved, and this deacon, understand that it is the second scenario that has moved your church to action.
     
  15. annsni

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    Exactly. I would really hope someone who is mature enough to be a deacon would be mature enough to understand the larger picture and would himself step down from leadership for this season of his life.
     
  16. sag38

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    Why does it seem that churches sometimes are so good at shooting folks while they are already down for the count?
     
  17. abcgrad94

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    My thoughts, too. That's why I think great care should be taken to let the deacon know the church cares more about his healing than about his "qualifications" for the office.
     
  18. GBC Pastor

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    OK. The time passed seems sufficient. First, let me say that I think there is real wisdom in the posts I have read here. And to be honest I am a bit surprised that no one jumped straight to a "he's disqualified from service as a deacon forevermore" opinion.

    NC Tentmaker: you made a good observation about whether there was something in the churches governing documents that address this. Sadly, they do not. I have only been here a little over a year and addressing the church By-laws has been down the list of my initial priorities here.

    TomVols: this was not an out of the blue divorce...they had been having problems for sometime although nothing that had become public knowledge...at least it was not public knowledge to me...lol

    I do have a group of people within the church that feel his pending divorce disqualifies him from future service as a deacon. This I believe is an issue that will be brought to the forefront by this group at some point in time.

    Where I also have a problem is that the deacon himself does not wish to step down as deacon for the simple (albeit prideful) reason that he feels doing so would be a validation of this small groups opinion.

    I agree with the majority here that stepping away for a time would be of great benefit to him in order to heal and seek direction from God. I also see no issue with him serving as a deacon at some point in the future. I could make a long list of how he has served the church, but I will simply say he is an excellent servant of the church.

    So this is where we are right now. I am cautious about doing anything to hastily at this point because all of this is fairly new, and at this point they are not officially divorced. Also I want to make sure he does not feel abandoned by the church and that we are an aid not a hinderance to his own personal healing. Sorry this is so long, but thank you all for your input. I value it more than you know.
     
  19. exscentric

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    May have missed it, but I think the first step would be to find out if the deacon was part/the cause of the divorce. May assist in knowing where to start.
     
  20. GBC Pastor

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    I think that both parties almost always have a "part" in a divorce. Except perhaps for cases of adultery which is not the case here.
     

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