Protestants: what are your feelings on divorced/remarried clergy?


Hi everyone,

I’m asking this question because of a conversation that happened today. We were discussing marriage and what changes have happened in the Anglican church over a short time and what proportion of marriages break down etc etc etc…

then someone said: How can we promote marriage for life when so many clergy divorce and/or remarry?

The talk was centred around a bishop who is divorced and recently remarried a divorced lady… this question is not a thread (hopefully) about the rights and wrongs of these actions, just simply:

How can divorced/ remarried clergy promote marriage for life to those they marry? Is this an issue?

What are your feelings on this?



I don’t fit the profile for answering this question.

Something struck me as funny. Your asking this about a denomination founded on/by a divorce?


We are all humans. Hopefully in the houses of faith, the ideal is promoted, even though the messengers do not live the ideal themselves. They teach what is right, what is best, and strive for such in their lives…and sometimes fail, as do we all.

I don’t think this necessarily makes them hypocrites either, unless they are saying “do as I do”. Instead, they are teaching…“do as God commands”…

It would be nice if we all had a spotless example of perfection in the flesh to inspire us, but sadly, we don’t. However, He promised to return…so…keep looking up.



A timely question, given that the Anglican Church of Canada no longer examines, as it once did, requests for remarriage by divorced persons. Now, it simply leaves the matter, as with any other marriage, up to the solemnizer. This follows pronouncements by a Canadian Anglican Archbishop stating that the nature and character of marriage is not a matter for the church but for the state.




Do I believe that divorce is sanctioned by God? No. God ordained that marriage should last for as long as both parties live.

Do I believe that divorce is, under certain carefully and scripturally defined circumstances, permitted by God? Yes. The primary instance of this is adultery. The other is a case where a believing spouse is deserted by an unbelieving spouse. That having been said, I believe that the wronged spouse has every responsibility before God and the church to seek to repair the rift and to honestly examine their own heart and actions to see what they may have done to contribute to the failure of the marriage.

Do I believe that remarriage is permitted in cases where a divorce was scriptural? I do. The entire purpose of divorce is to allow remarriage and if God didn’t want to allow the one, then I believe He wouldn’t have allowed the other.

What about clergy? I believe that clergy are bound by the same rules as everybody else but that they should be expected to live to a higher standard. My belief and my denominations practice is that any divorce is an automatic disqualification for ministry, but an exemption may be granted in cases where the District Executive (kind of like a Bishop) has examined the candidate for ordination and has found that the divorce was on scriptural grounds. In all cases a, divorced or not, a candidate’s family life will be thoroughly examined to make sure that he manages his own household well.

I think you’ll find that most Evangelical Protestant denominations have a similar view.


If my pastor was divorced (with or without a remarriage) and it wasn’t because his wife ran out on him, I’d switch to a different church.

Period. End of story.
Jesus was very clear on the subject of marriage.


This whole subject never ceases to amaze me.

~20 years ago my wife of 14 years decided she was gay. She eventually divorced me and moved in with her girlfriend. Frankly, she has been a mess ever sense, but that’s not relevant here.

For two years I worked to get her “through” this episode. I patiently prayed and stuck with her until she left. No sex. No intimacy. I put up with circumstances that I suspect most men wouldn’t have. When the divorce was final, I was given custody of our three year old daughter and tried to put my life back together.

Two years after that I met a wonderful women (at church) whose husband had left her after he had an affair while she was pregnant with their youngest who was one year old when we met.

So…we’ve now been happily married for 15 years, that 3 year old girl is grown and gone, the one year old is now a senior in high school…and God blessed us with a child of our own who is now 11.

But…our church would not allow me to serve on the board since I was divorced. !!! How is it that a convicted murderer (saved & redeemed, of course) was eligible to serve, but not me?

There must be some allowance of grace for the victim in a divorce. My observation within the church community is that most divorces are a result of one party falling into sin or deceit and walking away from their vows. Was certainly the case with myself and my second wife.

Why should we be punished or denied opportunities when the divorce was no fault of ours? And yes, this question is equally valid with regard to clergy.


I don’t understand what your question is… am i just not reading it right? if I typod and implied that any denomination is founded on divorce then I missed that one.



yeah I can understand that one… the thing is that people who are christians know that this is true… but those people who’s only contact with the church may be a wedding or a baptism or a funeral… they only see God’s message lived out through our actions… in that sense I include all christians in this

I think that even though it seems only a small thing, and nothing I would judge an individual on…as a collective it kinda dillutes the message to non christians when the ideals aren’t lived up to by so many. It would be different if it were just a few.

but I agree with what you say.



really I didn;t know that… It must be the same in england now from what you describe and I’ve seen.

I would answer that the state is responsible for legalities and civil marriages… but the church is responsible for religious marriages and promises it allows to be made before God in church… I’d make that distinction.



hi parker,

this isn’t really about personal circumstances as I’m sure your experiences would change me as well…

the problem is when you’re trying to preach through how you live, and with rising divorce rates etc… to have so many vicars who are remarried sends out the message to the people they marry:

marriage isn’t permanent…these lifelong vows we’re saying before God don’t really mean til death do us part… we can always divorce and remarry - look even the vicar’s done it!

my problem is not with divorce but the issues come when there is remarriage…how can someone make lifelong vows twice?

I’m glad you have found happiness again, but the situation isn’t really ideal for priests who I think are called to live by a higher example for everyone.


The Anglican Church came into existence when King Henry VIII wanted a divorce and annulment, and the Catholic Church would not permit it.

He then left the Catholic Church and founded the Anglican Church, with himself as its first leader, in order to grant himself a divorce.

The previous poster just thought it was funny that you would ask whether Anglicans should think there is anything wrong with divorced/remarried leaders, since their very first leader brought them into existence for that very reason - to grant himself permission to divorce and remarry,which of course he did.


aahhhh ok, I thought he was asking a question…sorry that slipped my mind being hundreds of years before my time and all lol… actually the church of england has only recently resolved the issue over whether to allow divorced people to remarry in their churches…and i also remember there being a massive deal made at one point over prince charles marrying another divorced person…so this issue over reactions to it tc etc is quite a recent adjustment that people have had to make.

thanks for explaining hius comment… I’d read it like tweve times looking for the question in there lol.



I understand a “higher example” (though the Priesthood of Believers may negate that) but my point remains…

What is a Priest/Pastor/Elder to do when his spouse deserts her vows and abandons what God has joined together? I don’t believe it is right or reasonable to lump all divorces together. There really are victims out there who are divorced through no fault of their own…so how does a “higher example” factor in?

Some people (and their theology) seem to think that we are all in control of our lives. Just isn’t true. The rain falls on the just and the unjust alike. Some things are beyond our control.

But…the Grace of God is always able to rebuild, heal and restore, if we submit to His Lordship.


I certainly agree about the church’s responsibility for “religious” marriages, but as a Catholic, I deny the dichotomy. Marriage, being a Sacrament, is something given to mankind, not one of his inventions. Even when the marriage is not a Christian one, it is the partaking in something given, not something invented. Now of course, there’s a place for the civil society to constuct customs and laws pertinent to the nurture and protection of that given thing, but it is incredible vanity for states to act as if marriage exists because they enacted laws saying it does.

I wonder though: With the denial of Matrimony being a Sacrament, it seems to me that is germinal to the approach that those outside the Catholic Church, and her sister Churches, take to the question of marriage.




I would say that it is not divorce that is the issue but remarriage…in the sense that those vows cannot be said twice over… as you can’t promise yourself to two people…

as easy as it is for me just to yell out: stay single! (and I apologise because I’m talking in an abstract way whereas I know for you this decision was a reality in your life)

If they remained single it wouldn’t be an issue for anyone I’ve heard discuss this… it’s the fact that remarriage makes the vows void of the meaning in their words.

what would you think of that suggestion in reality? and as an ideal?



Thank you for a wonderful post. Reminds me of something my parish priest said in a sermon many years ago. He said, “Never judge someone who has been through a divorce. You have no idea what they have been through.” Later, when my own sister went through a divorce, those words really proved to be true.

Life happens…even to clergy. Some things are definitely beyond our control, and we cannot anticipate how events will unfold. Thankfully, we have a heavenly Father who we can turn to during these times. While people on earth may fail us during the tough times, God never fails to heal us and sustain us…if only we will turn to him. God knows our hearts and our intentions as no one else can.


the interlinked nature of anglicanism and the state (it being the official state religion of england) may be responsible for some blurring of civil and religious meaning within both organisations.

I would say that I liked your post but feel that in todays society it is necessary to make a distinction between religious and civil marriages for those people who are not religious, choose not to marry ina church and refuse any form of religious input into their views on marriage… so even though the fine distinctions you make are valid… in reality, if people make distinctions between religious promises and secular ones… then these distinctions become a reality in themselves.



When discussing remarriage of any christian, two things need to be considered.

  1. the reason for the divorce
  2. when did the marriage and or divorce occur.

First remarriage after divorce is permitted if the reason for the divorce was sexual immorality see the following

Mat 5:31 It was said also, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement:
Mat 5:32 but I say unto you, that every one that putteth away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, maketh her an adulteress: and whosoever shall marry her when she is put away committeth adultery.

Mar 10:2 And there came unto him Pharisees, and asked him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife? trying him.
Mar 10:3 And he answered and said unto them, What did Moses command you?
Mar 10:4 And they said, Moses suffered to write a bill of divorcement, and to put her away.
Mar 10:5 But Jesus said unto them, For your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment.
Mar 10:6 But from the beginning of the creation, Male and female made he them.
Mar 10:7 For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife;
Mar 10:8 and the two shall become one flesh: so that they are no more two, but one flesh.
Mar 10:9 What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.
Mar 10:10 And in the house the disciples asked him again of this matter.
Mar 10:11 And he saith unto them, Whosoever shall put away his wife, and marry another, committeth adultery against her:
Mar 10:12 and if she herself shall put away her husband, and marry another, she committeth adultery.

Mat 19:3 And there came unto him Pharisees, trying him, and saying, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause?
Mat 19:4 And he answered and said, Have ye not read, that he who made them from the beginning made them male and female,
Mat 19:5 and said, For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and the two shall become one flesh?
Mat 19:6 So that they are no more two, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.
Mat 19:7 They say unto him, Why then did Moses command to give a bill of divorcement, and to put her away?
Mat 19:8 He saith unto them, Moses for your hardness of heart suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it hath not been so.
Mat 19:9 And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and he that marrieth her when she is put away committeth adultery.
Mat 19:10 The disciples say unto him, If the case of the man is so with his wife, it is not expedient to marry.
Mat 19:11 But he said unto them, Not all men can receive this saying, but they to whom it is given.

Also if a person was divorced before being born again that divorce in essence would not count because when a christian is born again former things pass away see

2Co 5:17 Wherefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature: the old things are passed away; behold, they are become new.


It’s up to the Marriage Tribunal to make these decisions; it’s not up to us. Otherwise, it would be chaos, since some people might think that a former marriage was validly contracted, while others might think it wasn’t, and there would be no way for the community to know whether the new marriage was lawful, or not.

So, if one must divorce, it is essential to go to the Marriage Tribunal before one attempts to remarry, so that all of these questions are settled authoritively, and, if the Tribunal gives permission to remarry, no one in the community can dispute that the second marriage is, indeed, lawful in the eyes of God.

The Scripture passages that you cite are often misunderstood, since Jesus was not referring to sexual immorality during the marriage, but to sexual immorality that occurred before the marriage took place. Once a valid marriage takes place, there is nothing here on earth or in Heaven that can possibly ever dissolve it, but if it was not a valid marriage due to sexual immorality prior to the marriage, then there was never a marriage to begin with, and the persons are free to divorce and remarry.

But again, it’s up to the Marriage Tribunal to figure out whether that actually happened, or not - it’s not up to us. A person could not decide on his own that his wife was not really his wife, and therefore, he can just go ahead and marry a new wife, since, obviously, he is going to decide in his own favour, even if his previous wife was as pure as the driven snow and never sinned in her whole life.

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