ARTICLE I: DIVORCE AND REMARRIAGE
Section A: Commitment to Marriage
- God intends marriage to be a lifetime commitment (Matthew 19:3–8; Romans 7:2–3) and divorce is an abomination to our Lord and Creator (Malachi 2:16). Therefore, marriage should be entered into and ever held as a lifetime commitment.
- In view of God’s original purpose of marriage (Matthew 19:3–8; cf. Romans 7:2–3), the healing power of our Savior’s death (1 Peter 2:24), His victorious resurrection (2 Corinthians 5:14–15), and His power which enables us to do all things (Philippians 4:13); this church body commits itself to do everything possible—both individually and collectively—to restore those who are seeking or contemplating a divorce or an unscriptural marriage.
Section B: Divorce and Remarriage
Scripture recognized two instances which permit but do not require divorce and remarriage.
- Sexual infidelity after marriage (Matthew 5:32; 19:9). Remarriage by one partner to a third partner constitutes sexual infidelity (Mark 10:11–12).
- Desertion by an unbelieving spouse (1 Corinthians 7:15, 27–28, 39). Desertion by a believing partner who is subsequently disciplined by the church leaves the remaining partner free to divorce and remarry since the church discipline process treats the one disciplined as an unbeliever (Matthew 18:17).
Section C: Reconciliation
- If the unfaithful or deserting partner repents and asks forgiveness, the remaining partner is bound by God’s word to extend this forgiveness and restore the marriage (Luke 17:3–4; Ephesians 4:32; Colossians 3:12–13).
- In no case is an existing marriage to be dissolved to restore a former marriage (1 Corinthians 7:20, 24).
- In situations where reconciliation is scripturally impossible by the one who deserted or was unfaithful, this one may remarry if he repents of his past sin. Reconciliation is scripturally impossible only if the wronged spouse has died or has remarried. If the wronged spouse has not died or remarried, the one who deserted or was unfaithful must remain single or be reconciled to the wronged spouse (1 Corinthians 7:11).
Section D: Limits of the Policy
Godly and earnest believers may disagree concerning the question of divorce and remarriage. Some believe there are no scriptural grounds for divorce and remarriage. Still others believe that sexual infidelity is the only ground. As long as this policy is respected, those who hold these views may teach, serve and hold positions of responsibility in this church. Any teaching or practice that goes beyond the limits set forth will be considered heretical.
ARTICLE II: CHURCH DISCIPLINE
Section A: Purpose
- The purpose of church discipline is to cause a fellow believer to repent of sin and be restored to full fellowship with Christ. Discipline is a vital part of the corrective ministry of the body of Christ.
- Since God alone can change a person, abundant time must be given to allow for repentance to take place. Every effort will be made to exhort and encourage the sinning fellow believer to repent before taking the final steps of discipline.
Section B: Reasons for Church Discipline
1. The primary reasons for church discipline are persistence in sinning and resistance to repentance. Some Biblical examples are:
- Immorality (1 Corinthians 5:1–13)
- Doctrinal Heresy (Romans 16:17–18; 1 Timothy 6:3–5)
- Divisiveness (Titus 3:10–11; 2 Corinthians 12:20)
- Refusal to be reconciled to another believer (Matthew 5:23–24; 18:15; 1 Corinthians 6:1–8)
2. Discipline does not focus on faults and defects of others nor is it to be applied to matters where Scripture allows freedom (Matthew 7:1–5; Romans 14; Galatians 5:13–15).
Section C: Goals of Church Discipline
- To repent and to restore fellowship with God (Galatians 6:1)
- To demonstrate the church body’s love and concern for the sinning fellow believer (Galatians 6:1– 2; 2 John 1:5–6).
- To restore fellowship between believers (Matthew 18:15; 1 Corinthians 6:1–8).
- To preserve sound doctrine and godly behavior among believers (Galatians 5:9; Romans 16:17– 18; Titus 3:10–11; 1 Corinthians 5:6–8).
Section D: Steps in Church Discipline and Restoration
The first step occurs when a fellow believer sins. The one who notes it should talk to him alone. (Matthew 18:15) If the sinning fellow believer listens and agrees to confess the sin to God in an attitude of repentance (Luke. 17:3–4), then the matter is to be dropped.
The second step is taken only when the fellow believer refuses to heed the first step. The believer who first confronted him should take one or two others as witnesses and repeat the process (Matthew 18:16). Those who are spiritual and aware of their own capacity to be similarly tempted should be the ones taken (Galatians 5:22–23; 6:1). If the one who has sinned responds in repentance, the matter is to be dropped (Luke. 17:3–4).
The third step is taken when there is refusal to repent by reporting the matter to the church as represented by the elder board (Matthew 18:17). The elder board will review the issue. If lack of repentance is involved, the elder board will prayerfully exhort the offender to repent. This exhortation should be personally delivered where possible (to the offender). If personal contact is not permitted by the offender, a letter may be used.
If repentance occurs, the matter is to be terminated (Luke. 17:3–4).
If repentance is refused, the fourth step is for the elder board to inform the congregation that the offender is to be treated as an unbeliever (Matthew 18:17). Treating him as an unbeliever would not mean ceasing to speak to him. The congregation should continue to exhort him to repentance (2 Thessalonians 3:14–15). However, he would not be treated as a part of the church body (1 Corinthians 5:12–13). This would include not having meetings or meals for the purpose of fellowship with him (1 Corinthians 5:9–11).
The fifth step is to restore the sinning fellow believer to the full fellowship of the church when he repents and affirms this fact to the elder board (2 Corinthians 2:6–11). This affirmation will be announced by the elders to the congregation at a duly called meeting. The church should then affirm their love and forgiveness for the sinning fellow believer and receive him back into full fellowship.
Section E: Church Discipline Against an Elder (1 Timothy 5:19–20)
Discipline of an elder will follow the steps outlined above. In addition he is to be publicly rebuked in the presence of the congregation.
Section F: Incomplete Disciplinary Actions
1. If during the church discipline process the sinning believer leaves the church, the elder board will call a special congregational meeting to explain:
- That restoration efforts were attempted. The person will be named and the sin(s) will be named. (1 Timothy 1:18–20).
- That the person left the church. Just as a person who is disciplined by a local church (to the extent of being treated as an unbeliever) is delivered over to Satan (1 Corinthians 5:4–5), so when a person voluntarily leaves without repenting he delivers himself over to Satan.
2. No action beyond this will be taken by the elder board or the congregation in relation to incomplete discipline since the person has already removed himself. The church will be encouraged to continually urge him to repent as the opportunity arises (2 Thessalonians 3:14–15).
Section G: Meetings for Disciplinary and Restoration Purposes
When a meeting is needed for church discipline or restoration, it will be called as a special business meeting as outlined in Article VI, Section B of the Constitution, subheading 2. Special Business Meetings, page 15.