Domestic Violence Debate
ORLANDO, Florida — The Assemblies of God has added a fourth stipulation under which someone will be allowed to serve as a credentialed minister, elder, or deacon following a divorce and remarriage.
Until now, the General Council has permitted someone who is married but has a former living spouse to obtain ministerial credentials under limited circumstances. Those conditions have been restricted to when the divorce occurred before conversion; for adultery; and due to abandonment by a non-Christian spouse.
During business debate in Orlando, delegates voted to include a fourth exemption: when divorce results from domestic violence perpetuated on either the spouse or a child.
The resolution, sponsored by the General Presbytery and Executive Presbytery, stated that “a pattern of domestic violence undermines the scriptural expectations of sacrificial love.” A multitude of New Testament commands “provide an implicit foundation for marriage and reveal an antithesis to domestic violence and abuse,” the proposal stated.
While acknowledging that God hates divorce (Malachi 2:16), the resolution noted that the Lord also abhors humans perpetuating violence on other people (Psalm 11:5, Proverbs 6: 16-17). Citing Psalm 146:5-9 and Isaiah 1:16-17, the resolution said “God’s heart is toward those who are oppressed and against the oppressor,” and qualified those running for their lives from a violent spouse as being oppressed.
Someone who has divorced after such abuse by a spouse isn’t necessarily disqualified from ministry, the resolution stated: “The use of the ecclesiastical annulment has not lessened the need for the applicant to have a divine call, solid integrity, sound doctrine, and fullness of the Spirit.”
The proposal sparked considerable debate.
Opponents all said they don’t advocate a victim of domestic violence staying in the home. They cited 1 Corinthians 7:15 as justification for fleeing an abusive situation.
Some faulted the resolution for not providing a scriptural basis for remarrying, saying Jesus didn’t teach that divorce is allowed except for adultery.
Executive Presbyter Terry L. Yancey, who is Kansas District superintendent, said when those with a ministry calling on their lives are rejected because of divorce, “it feels like a fresh victimization.” Robert W. Fiscus of Garland, Texas, also spoke in favor of the plan, likening physical violence in a marriage to committing adultery as well as abandonment.
The resolution passed with a majority vote.