After some three years of study and prayer and discussion concerning the biblical teachings about divorce and remarriage, the Council of Deacons, at their May 2 meeting, put the final touches on “A Statement on Divorce and Remarriage in the Life of Bethlehem Baptist Church” which is now the official leadership document for matters of membership and discipline when divorce and remarriage are at issue. This document will be available for you to pick up near the church office beginning Sunday, May 21.
The Deacons are eager for you to read this document. It has been crafted with great care, and the wording has been discussed at length on many sensitive aspects of the issue. The paper will, I think, prove to be a worthy education for all of us, not just those who have had to face the heartache of divorce. It will provide not merely a guideline for what is biblically permitted, but also insight into the meaning of marriage, God’s purposes for it, and how to respond when there is trouble. I hope most of you will pick up a copy and study it.
The statement is not a carbon copy of the position I have come to over the years. The statement allows for remarriage after divorce under certain circumstances where I personally would not endorse it. But I made it clear from the start of this discussion: we cannot make decisions regarding membership and church discipline solely on the basis of my convictions. There has to be a significant consensus in order to hold each other accountable in our marriage relationships. Therefore this statement represents the highest standard that we can all agree should be required of our members in fulfillment of our covenant commitments.
The reference to “covenant commitments” leads me to mention a second paper that will be available along with the "Statement on Divorce and Remarriage". It is entitled “The Meaning of Membership and Church Accountability”. This paper was written before the one on divorce and remarriage so that we could see the issue of divorce in the larger context of what it means to join a church and make covenant commitments to a body of believers.
I think this second paper is going to answer many questions people have about the concept of church membership and the meaning of the church covenant and church discipline. In fact when I read it I get more excited than ever at the great joy and privilege of belonging to a “covenant community” where each member takes seriously the commitments of covenant love implied in becoming a member. The potential of our church being a really distinct and bright “city set on a hill” in a dark world of hopelessness, is thrilling.
Please plan to read a copy of both of these papers. They were not created in haste. They represent the devotion of our Deacons who often stayed up very late carving out the delicate statements. They deserve our thanks. Their work deserves our respect. I count it one of the greatest joys of my ministry to work with them!
For the sake of strong marriages and devoted singles,