When the offices of the church are spoken of, there is hardly more debate surrounding their discussion than there is about the phrase of the apostle Paul in 1Timothy, namely, “He must be the husband of one wife” (cf. 1Tim. 3:2, 12). Many have interpreted the apostle’s meaning to be that an elder or deacon must be married in order to serve the church in those offices hence fulfilling their interpretation of the “husband of one wife” requirement.” Others yet have taken the phrase to mean that an elder or deacon cannot have been divorced and remarried, for that person would in some way be the husband of two wives (though he be technically married to one). Others have combined the two to disallow divorced men from serving as an elder or deacon altogether, for they say that a man must be married (hence fulfilling the first interpretation) and since a divorced single man is not married, he cannot fulfill that requirement, and, furthermore, a divorced remarried man cannot fulfill that requirement, because he is the husband of multiple wives (from the second interpretation).
These interpretations, coupled with a fundamentalist conception that divorce is at all times unacceptable irrespective of circumstance, have essentially disqualified all divorced men from having leadership and service roles in the church, even those whose divorces took place before they believed in Christ. And though divorce should certainly be taken into consideration when reviewing the qualifications of leader or servant of the church (as should a plethora of other factors), I think that a different interpretation in light of the apostle’s context will show that the apostle did not have the subject of divorce in mind when he penned his letter two millennia ago.