The United Methodist Church: Divorce and Remarriage


The United Methodist Church:

Divorce and Remarriage

Part 16



The United Methodist Church: Divorce and Remarriage

  1. The United Methodist Church has opened the door to divorce, remarriage, and adultery.

Another concern we would have pertains to divorce and remarriage.  In the past in America, the only grounds for divorce was the sexual unfaithfulness of the spouse or perhaps desertion. Then, in the twentieth century, “no fault divorce” entered society with disastrous effects. It was assumed that if two people were divorced by the state, then it was permissible that they remarry someone else, with God’s blessing.

In contrast, the Word of God is clear that divorce is the separation of two people whom God has “joined” in marriage (Matthew 19:6-8). The Lord Jesus declares, “I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery” (v. 9). When the divorcer puts away his faithful companion and remarries, he commits adultery. If a person is divorced by his or her companion for any reason, remarriage results in adultery. Furthermore, when a single person marries a formerly married person such as this, he also commits adultery. Unfaithfulness in marriage and the instigation of illegitimate divorce results in adultery. (See particularly Matthew 5:31-32; 19:3-12; Mark 10:2-12; Luke 16:18; Romans 7:2-3; 1 Corinthians 7:10-16.)

We should also keep in mind that this adultery will keep one from inheriting the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6:9-10) and will bring God’s righteous judgment (Hebrews 13:4). “Fornication” or “sexual immorality” are from the Greek porneia, meaning any sexual sin. All of the places where fornication or sexual immorality are mentioned also show that adultery will bring God’s wrath, judgment, and punishment (Ephesians 5:5-7; Colossians 3:5-7; 1 Thessalonians 4:3-7; 1 Corinthians 5:9-13; Revelation 21:8).

The United Methodist Church doesn’t acknowledge this disastrous effect of divorce and remarriage, with consequent adultery and God’s judgment.  We read this official statement:

Where marriage partners, even after thoughtful consideration and counsel, are estranged beyond reconciliation, we recognize divorce as regrettable but recognize the right of divorced persons to remarry.[i]

They have easily wiped away the clear prohibition of the inspired Word. Sadly, though the Methodist hierarchy might accept remarriage after a wrongful divorce, Scripture continues to read the way it always has: remarriage results in adultery, and adultery brings judgment and the wrath of God.

Along with other mainline denominations (and even Evangelical churches!), the United Methodist Church has a “soft” stance in regard to divorce, remarriage, and adultery. One writer puts it this way:

Though the UMC is officially opposed to immorality, in practice there is rampant moral sin. This denomination has fallen light years away from the holiness position of its forefathers. We have seen the UMC position on homosexuality and abortion. Divorce is rampant in the UMC. A comprehensive survey conducted by the denomination in 1986 revealed that divorce among the clergy is more than three times higher than among the non-ordained members.

As of 1984, all three of the new Methodist bishops for the western part of the U.S. were divorced. United Methodist professor and minister Robert Elliott has developed a divorce service for couples seeking a blessing on their breakup. Joseph Quillian, dean of the school where Elliott teaches, called the divorce service a sound concept. The dean said, “There’s no reason something shouldn’t be done ceremonially for committed Christians who divorce.”

Writing in the Christian Century magazine for Oct. 31, 1984, Methodist minister David Jaeger claimed that a pastor who has had sexual relationships with other women besides his wife may still be considered faithful to his wife, and claimed that adultery should not disqualify a man from the ministry. The UMC meeting held to celebrate Methodism’s 200th anniversary featured country-western entertainer Willie Nelson, who glorifies adultery and drunkenness in his music. Nelson said, “I think all music is religious. We’re all given our talents by some supreme being–God, Buddah, whatever. They categorize it and call it country, gospel, rock and roll, but it all comes from the same place.”

The UMC Board of Discipleship, prior to 1980, owned many explicit sex films which it used in conjunction with its “human sexuality forums.” The movies depicted all sorts of moral reprobation, including male and female homosexuality.[ii]

Thankfully, not all Methodist Churches would agree with these violations of Biblical teaching and norms, but there are such examples. The bottom line is that there must be tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of Methodist couples sitting in the pews who have entered and remain in adulterous marriages and relationships.[iii]

You may also want to check further into the United Methodist Church:

[i] The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church, 1988, p. 94.


[iii] See our Serious Questions about Divorce, Remarriage, and Adultery (True Discipleship, PO Box 330031, Fort Worth, TX 76163-0031).


  1. Oh, by the way, we update our Book of Discipline every four years. Not sure when your article was written, but the BOD you reference is out of date by 7 quadrenium. If you want to advise people on what we believe it may be helpful to at least use current resources.

    • Yes, Susan, it may be good to invest in a later edition of your work. Just because the United Methodist Church was wrong in the past does not mean that it is wrong today–unless they are clinging to the same unscriptural practices.

      Thank you, Susan. I assume that the latest edition would be available online so I would not need to purchase this edition.

  2. Richard,
    We read the same Scriptures – we don’t see them the same.

    Interesting how in your view men make the interpretations and in so doing silence any alternate interpretations women may have as disobedience to God… makes me wonder how much that is God or male bias.

    God has clearly called me and many women in other denominations to full ordination. So maybe the real issue is not with us but with why God would do that.

    Guess I’m glad God has called me to pastor in a denomination where it’s okay to sit at a table with people who are divorced, who values all people as created equal, who believes every person sitting in the pew on Sunday morning is equally in need of God’s transforming grace, who wants their doors to be open to everyone, and celebrates an Open Table for communion. Guess God knew exactly what He was doing when He called me to ordination in the UMC and for that I am infinitely grateful.

    Again, I’d highly recommend the book I mentioned… if girls are allowed to recommend books to men.

    • Hello again Susan….

      I hope that you will come to see that my response has anything to do with the worth of any individual. God loves us all and all may find forgiveness from Him in Christ.

      The point is that God has spoken and if we respect Him and His Word, we must be willing to comply with it. If we don’t, we make ourselves a Judge over God–the very one who will be our Judge!

      If God has revealed that remarriage and adultery is against His will and constitutes adultery, and that all unrepentant adulterers will not inherit the Kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6:9-10; cf. Galatians 5:19-21), then we must accept it whether we like it or not. God has spoken and this is sufficient for the one wo reveres God’s authority over us.

      As to women’s role in the body of Christ in a public capacity, it is not you nor is it me who has the right to object to this. God is the only one who can tell us what His mind is–and He has done this very thing. When God limits a woman’s participation, we must know that God knows more than we do. Regardless of what a human denomination (such as the United Methodist Church)may allow or promote, still we are subject to God.

      If we are humble, God’s will is what we want. In your case, God can forgive your public rejection of His authority and your willingness to refuse to be subject to His will. Women’s insubordination or insubjection is not the “unforgivable sin”–providing you are willing to repent and renounce your choise. Yes, it may be hard, but remember that God will be on your side if you choose to follow Him regardless of what a rebellious denomination may say.

  3. In answer to the question posed by Adrian Suarwz, the answer is yes.

    After reading your article, I would highly recommend Divorce and Remarriage in the Church by David Instone-Brewer. Excellent book. (by a Baptist pastor, not a UMC)

    And as a UMC clergy, I am glad my denomination welcomes everyone just as they are … just as you have strong theological positions for what you believe – we have them for the way we believe. I cherish Scripture in every way. I just happen to see a lot more verses on Jesus saying “come to me all who are heavy laden” than verses that deal with divorce. I see Jesus inviting Mathew to be a disciple, going to a tax collector’s home, touching the lepers, teaching women, welcoming children.. and saying “come as you are” … not be shamed and come to me when you finally are perfect.

    • Hello Susan…. Thank you so much for writing and sharing your thoughts.

      Susan, I am glad that you want to read the Bible and encourage others to do so also. However, it is very important that we not only read and encourage others to do so, but it is very, very important that we believe and obey the Scriptures–God’s Word.

      Jesus said, “Heavena nd earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away” (Matthew 24:35). He also declared, “He who rejects Me and does not receive My wayings, has one who judged him; the word I spoke is what will judge him at the last day” (John 12:48). It is important that we actually obey what Jesus said–whether it is about divorce or any other subject.

      The same is true about the remainder of the New Testament. When the apostles and other writers wrote their letters, they meant for their writings to be read and received. Read 1 Thessalonians 2:13 and 1 Corinthians 14:37.

      As for the subject of divorce and remarriage, I am not really sure which original writing on the website you are referring to.I realize that this is a difficult issue for there are many who are in unwanted marriages and want to escape the oppression. But Jesus surely meant what He said when He speaks on this topic (see Matthew 19:2-12 and Marki 10:11-12).

      Other subjects are just as important and unambiguous. For instands, the apostles said that a woman was to keep silent in the assembly of Christians and she was not to teach or exercise authority over the man/male (1 Timothy 2:11-12 and 1 Corinthians 14:33-37). Thus, when Paul says that the men are to pray in public (1 Timothy 2:8) and only men are to be overseers in an assembly (1 timothy 2:11-12 and 1 Corinthians 14:33-35; Titus 1:5-9; 1 Timothy 3:1-8). This is God’s will and we must accept it.

      Let us seek God’s will and believe and obey it just as God revealed this in His Word.

      Thank you again for writing and may God bless you as you continue to seek for His will in all you do.

  4. Now get this . . . my fiance and I were recently thrown out of church because 1) we believe that we were only eligible to get married because neither of us had had a partner before (and we had both waited for the right one for over 40 years); 2) we planned to get married for life; and 3) we believe that “divorce and remarriage” is inexcusable in God’s sight. During marriage counseling, the pastor we had asked to marry us decided that we were legalists because we believed these things. He changed his mind, said he wouldn’t marry us after he had already told us he would, and said that if we refused to eat with other church members who were admittedly in second marriages with previous spouses still living (I Cor. 5:9-13), we were no longer welcome. So we left.

    Great marriage counseling! Absolutely great! Leave that loophole open. And churches often wonder why there are few solid families in their churches. Maybe because they get rid of them?

    • Hello Jane… Thank you so much for sharing these painful experiences with us and informing us of the terrible response by this unscriptural and humanistic pastor.

      Surely this is merely the “tip of the iceberg” in regard to this pastor and the United Methodist Church. From reading God’s Word, I would assume that Paul the apostle himself would not be welcome there.

      Jane, it is important that you not only see the faulty reasoning and unbiblical counsel that you have received, but that you look beyond marriage and divorce to many other subjects. The series in our website on the United Methodist Church will provide many different aspects of Methodism that must be rejected.

      I commend you, Jane, for waiting for marriage and keeping yourself pure before this very, very serious step. I too waited for a very long time before God brought a dear woman into my life. It was a joy to be able to have a marriage/wedding that was God-centered and holy. We have no regrets at all. Actually, as you know, this is the way it is to be done.

      Thus, I recommend that you read the whole article on United Methodism and you will discover that divorce and remarriage is not the only point worth considering. Further, please read other article on the website–for there are now about 2,000 of them. (See

      May God bless you abundantly as you seek God’s will and determine to walk in it (see 1 John 2:17).

  5. Adrian Suarwz says:

    To whom it may concern, can a person pastor under the Methodist Church? After divorce and re-married?,

    • Hello Adrian. Thank you so much for writing and asking this important question. I must admit that I don’t know the answer to this. From the research that I’ve done (as reflected on the series on the United Methodist Church, found on the website that you have seen), it is sufficient to know that there are massive negatives in the United Methodist Church. This would include divorce and remarriage. There must be thousands of members who are presently living in adultery, as defined by our Lord Jesus (see Matthew 5:31-32; 19:3-12; Mark 10:11-12; Luke 16:18; Romans 7:2-3). This should repel us from this denomination, regardless of whether a Methodist pastor has remarried or not.

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