Remarriage is a common occurrence in today's society, and most religious denominations have a central governing office with policies in place regarding their position on marriage, divorce and remarriage. Southern Baptist churches, however, are autonomous in this regard. Each church operates according to bylaws and its own rules of organization. Remarriage might be addressed in the bylaws of some churches, while others will consider individual situations rather than applying a general policy.
A study by U.S. Congregations -- a religious research group -- showed that over 20 percent of Southern Baptists have been divorced or separated, and that 70 percent of those have remarried. These numbers have forced individual churches to clarify how they will address the status of these members. Because there are no hard and fast rules regarding remarriage, leaders in each church decide if they will establish an official policy or deal with situations concerning remarried church members as they occur.
Southern Baptist churches base their doctrinal positions on the beliefs established by the Southern Baptist Convention. This is a support organization, not an authoritative office, for Southern Baptist churches. Their belief statement regards marriage as a lifetime covenant and advocates remarriage within scriptural guidelines. The Southern Baptist Convention passed a resolution in 2010 which stated that churches should offer marriage counseling for the purpose of reconciliation, but requested that churches extend grace and minister to divorced members.
Southern Baptist churches generally rely on Scripture to determine their position on marital issues. Remarriage after a spouse has died is specifically addressed in Romans 7:2. The Apostle Paul wrote, "For example, by law a married woman is bound to her husband as long as he is alive, but if her husband dies, she is released from the law that binds her to him." Also, remarriage after divorce is acceptable when one spouse has been unfaithful. Southern Baptists cite Matthew 19:9, when Jesus said, "I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.” Southern Baptist churches consider the infidelity of a husband or wife an exception to the lifetime commitment of marriage and give the betrayed spouse permission to remarry.
Remarriage in situations other than death or infidelity of a spouse is the point where interpretation determines a Southern Baptist church's position. Many churches adopt a conservative policy of allowing remarried congregants as members, but limiting their service to non-leadership positions. In such a church, remarried men, even if ordained, are not selected as pastors or deacons. Other churches are more liberal and allow remarried men to serve as teachers and hold other authoritative positions. Some churches decide on a person's eligibility for a position based on the circumstances of his remarriage. For example, if a man was divorced years prior to his conversion and has since led a Christian life, some churches consider it acceptable for him to hold an ordained position.
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