Sunday, July 8, 2007

Bethlehem Baptist and divorce

In 1989, Bethleham baptist church was divided regarding the proper policy for divorce and remarriage. The outlined a policy A Statement on Divorce and Remarriage in the Life of Bethlehem Baptist Church. What is terrific about this policy is their handling of

f we are to be a Biblical church—a church with mutual accountability and proper discipline—the question that must be faced is, what convictions concerning divorce and remarriage can we agree as a church to make the foundation of our accountability and discipline?

When the Church Covenant binds every member to be "faithful in our engagements" and to "sustain (the church's) worship, ordinances and discipline," what will we understand as faithfulness in the engagement of marriage vows?

Church discipline cannot be based on the convictions of a pastor or of a small group of leaders. The Bible says that a matter of discipline is to be taken "to the church" (Matthew 18:17). This means that under the Lord the church is the final court of appeal in all church discipline. This is only possible if the leadership and the church are largely in agreement on the matter at hand.

No one in leadership can be asked to act against his conscience (Romans 14). Therefore each pastor will teach and counsel and perform marriages according to his personal conviction within the parameters of this statement. But when it comes to church membership and church discipline we must find a level of expectation for marital relations that we can agree no member of Bethlehem may violate while remaining a member in good standing.

In other words what we need is a statement of the kind of divorce and remarriage which the church, as a concerned and responsible body, will regard as clearly outside the Biblical limits of what is acceptable.

What you see here is a clear statement. For an act to carry a penalty a vast majority of the church must agree it is sinful. The church itself (the session, the membership) need to enforce discipline so they must agree with the status. The pastors of Bethlehem Baptist deserve credit for having handled this the right way.

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