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Hilltown family, I want to give you an update on one theological matter our elders have been considering over the past year: the interpretation of the biblical qualification of an elder or deacon as a “husband of one wife” (1 Timothy 3:2, 12; Titus 1:6).
The Unwritten Rule
Hilltown has never had a written position on the matter. It is addressed neither in the church’s Constitution nor in the Statement of Faith. The authors of our Constitution wisely cite Paul’s words directly, but do not interpret them (Article 7, Section 2.A.). However, there is an assumption at Hilltown that men seeking to serve as an elder or deacon cannot have been previously divorced, regardless of the circumstances.
It is helpful to understand that this is not a Constitutional matter nor a congregational decision, but something that the elders have to responsibly consider. However, we want to be sensitive and recognize that this is something weighty and prevalent enough to clearly communicate to the entire congregation. It also seems to be on the hearts and minds of quite a few in our church family who have been respectfully inquiring of our leaders, so we have felt this is an appropriate season to pray and consider the matter carefully.
Our Process Thus Far
Twice now, our sermon series in Matthew has led us through passages in which Jesus teaches about divorce and times when remarriage is permissible before the Lord (5:31–32; 19:1-12). Several of our Sunday School classes also happened to address Paul’s teaching in 1 Corinthians 7 this year, where he writes of another instance in which remarriage after divorce is permitted by the Lord. As one practical application of these passages, we stated last September the need for our elders to further discuss the church’s yet-unwritten position, particularly pertaining to leaders.
Our elders began this discussion last fall. On Sunday, October 29th, our current elders continued the dialogue by sitting down with all of the men who had served as elders in the past ten years. While it is a decision that rests on the shoulders of the current elders only, we value their wisdom and wanted to invite their perspective. We had no intention of taking a vote that evening. We simply wanted to host a healthy, robust discussion, and that we did. What a blessing to be led by men who are humbly submissive to God’s word and deeply desire for our ministry to be shaped by it!
We neither wanted to make a rush decision nor make a decision with a certain upcoming leader election in mind, and due to the fact that other pressing issues required more immediate attention, we have continued the process but have not yet made a final decision.
The Core Issues
If I could boil hours of conversation down to a single paragraph, what we have come down to is this: The crux is whether the qualifications listed in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 encompass all past personal history of the potential leader or are referring to the current spiritual condition of the potential leader. There are many nuances and implications to this that we have been joyfully sorting through.
What You Can Expect
On June 1st, we will have a few new men joining the elder board. We intend to address this matter over the summer and would ask that you continue to pray for wisdom as we do. We earnestly desire to be faithful to the Lord and His expectation of us.
Please pray for your leaders. Pray that the Lord would be honored both in the journey and the outcome. Pray also for unity, especially because of the sensitive nature of the subject.
Grace and Peace,