Many Christians have a sin or an issue which they have a particular affinity against or former involvement with. Children of alcoholics tend to have an interest in the Christian discussion of teetotaling. People who had been deceived by charismatic doctrine tend to be focused on deception/purity in the church. And so on.
Mine is divorce.
Growing up in the sexual revolution 1960s and swinging 70s, monogamous marriage as an ordination from God suffered terribly as new sexual mores came into the American culture. No-fault divorce came about and as a result throughout the 1970s divorce rapidly began losing its stigma. Divorce as a “completely off the table” concept to “divorce is everywhere” fact occurred at a bewildering rate to my young eyes.
I’m not exaggerating about the rapid rate divorce took over. In this article by Meghan Kruger from the Roger Williams Law Review,
Between 1970 and 1985, the United States experienced an overhaul in divorce legislation. During that time, nearly every state either replaced or supplemented its fault-based system with some form of no-fault divorce
Divorce laws that had been instituted in the US for hundreds of years were were overhauled from coast to coast within just 15. That’s whiplash speed.
My parents divorced when I was 14. My father moved in with his much younger girlfriend and my mother continued seeing her older married gentlemen friend. Long lasting marriages were something that seemed to belong in a museum. I was very interested in what made a marriage work and hungry for its stability. I had no understanding of God’s view of marriage, because I was not saved until I was 43, but I knew it was very important.
Unfortunately I married early and unwisely. He fell in love with someone else and left, despite my interest in staying together. The second time I married, I was the one who chose divorce, for abandonment reasons. Both times I married and divorced the reasons were biblically allowable but it was moot, because I was unsaved. Divorce is very hurtful whether you’re saved or unsaved.
Novelist Pat Conroy said of his own marriage break-up, “Each divorce is the death of a small civilization.”
God hates divorce. (Malachi 2:16). As a saved person, I know that now. He hates it for all the reasons. He only sanctions divorce in two circumstances, if absolutely necessary: adultery and abandonment. (Matthew 19:7-9, 1 Corinthians 7:15-17). Even then, He discourages it.
Just as much as we love to see good marriages, we are heartened when people divorce well (when necessary and are biblically allowed). More on that below.
An overseer must manage his own household well and keep his children under control, with complete dignity. 5For if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how can he care for the church of God? (1 Timothy 3:4-5).
For example, John Piper had an issue with his young adult son Abraham being a prodigal for a while. Piper has spoken of it publicly in interviews and has written about it publicly. In this Christianity Today article the statement was made, “There’s nothing we fallible parents can do to ensure our kids will keep the faith.” The church did the right thing and excommunicated Abraham. Eventually Abraham came back to the fold. However, the article goes on to note,
there has been some controversy about whether or not he [Pastor John Piper] should’ve stepped down from the pastoral role according to the scriptural guidelines set forth in 1 Timothy 3:4-5 and Titus 1:6,
If the adult children or the wife of a leader sins, does that mean the leader falls below biblical standard for acceptable leadership? When the children are minors and living under the leader’s roof, certainly there is no doubt since the scripture is clear. But what if the child is 22 years old? 32 years old? 42 years old? Certainly if the sinning adult child is involved in the parent’s ministry then that adult child should be asked to step away. When it was revealed that RC Sproul Jr. had been involved in the Ashley Madison adultery site, he was temporarily suspended from the ministry that was founded and is led by his father, RC Sproul Sr.
The actions (sins) of the adult child do impact the ministry of the elder, especially if the younger is involved in the ministry. I’ve come across two situations where adult children of a leading Bible teacher have divorced: James R. White’s daughter Summer and Beth Moore’s daughter Melissa. Remember, divorce is a sin. It bears mentioning because Christians often focus on other ‘big sins’ to the exclusion of divorce.
Both Summer and Melissa are involved in ministries. Here are two case studies of divorces of well-known leaders’ children, and how each of their divorces were handled. I don’t point to these specifics in order to hurt the people involved. As I said, I know how much divorce hurts. However, it is an ordinance established by God, there are biblical rules regarding marriage, and as leaders who desire to teach the scriptures, the way they handle or view divorce in their own family speaks volumes as to whether said leader retains any credibility according to the above mentioned scriptures, never mind if the adult divorced child is also in ministry. The same would be true.
The information about these divorces is publicly available. White issued the information herself. Her church did also, in order to specifically answer the questions raised by her name change. It isn’t secret nor it is private. Moore’s information is also publicly available online.
Summer Pinch White is the adult daughter of well-known and respected apologist James R. White. White’s radio program The Dividing Line and his ministry Alpha & Omega is a Reformed-oriented apologetic ministry that’s as solid as it is interesting. White’s daughter Summer recently underwent a name change and many people were curious about that. Left, White’s public Facebook profile pic
On Summer’s Facebook page, she addressed the issue by posting a statement from her church elders at Apologia church. Sadly, her husband had used drugs for many years, and successive rehab stints had failed to turn him from the addiction. He had also engaged in serial adultery. The couple had undergone counseling, and had submitted to church leadership throughout. The two divorced. The leaders of Summer’s church issued the following statement:
After almost 1-year of counseling (individual and as a couple) and after consideration of consistent patterns of egregious sin (over the course of several years) and repeated instances of marital infidelity, we, the elders of Apologia Church with delegated authority under the Lord Jesus Christ, have officially issued our unanimous and unqualified recommendation of divorce upon biblical grounds,” Durbin and discipleship pastor Luke Pierson wrote. … The two stated that they believe God hates divorce, and that they counsel that even in instances of adultery healing should be sought in a marriage, but advised that they “are also under the conviction that a pattern of consistent and unrepentant adultery provides Biblical grounds for a righteous divorce.” (source)
This is important because Ms White co-hosts a podcast which centers on theology. Wondering about the circumstances of her divorce is not a moot or tangential question. It’s directly relevant on her ministry and indirectly relevant on her father’s. If one does not submit to the scriptures, then does one have the credibility to teach the scriptures? No. However in this case, from the public statement, it would seem that the entire issue was handled biblically. The participant was submissive to husband and leadership, the divorce was biblically allowable according to church leaders, and the issue was put before the public for transparency’s sake. This is the way to handle it.
Actually I found the treatment of her sensitive issue edifying. The process worked. It’s encouraging. We celebrate when there is a successful marriage, and though we are loath to use the word celebrate in conjunction with divorce, (because divorce is a tragedy) when it’s biblical and handled well, we celebrate that the scriptures once again provide us with comfort, boundaries, and well-being in His word and in His processes. I have no credibility issues any more with Ms White nor with James R. White. This is because I’ve been given pertinent biblical information from those involved in order to formulate my own decisions and testings against scripture. I will listen to Ms White’s theology program with confidence due to knowing the facts and that those facts align with the Bible.
Beth Moore’s daughter Melissa Fitzpatrick Moore is another story. Beth Moore is a well-known Bible teacher and speaker and preacher. She founded and is President of her own multi-million dollar ministry corporation Living Proof Ministries, which also employs her husband, both daughters, and son-in-law. Beth has preached at the Sunday pulpits of Louie Giglio, Joel Osteen, and Hillsong churches, which is rebellious against scripture. (1 Timothy 2:12). Beth’s daughter Melissa is not only an employee at Living Proof Ministry, she is contributor to several of the Bible studies Beth has written. (e.g. Entrusted, James: Mercy Triumphs). Melissa also writes on theological topics at Beth’s Living Proof blog. Therefore, Melissa is involved with the scriptures as a teacher of God’s word along with her mother. Left, Melissa Moore’s public Twitter profile pic.
Below, Beth Moore describes her own marriage environment in which Melissa had grown up.
Keith and I came as close to divorcing as you can and not divorce. We married when I was only 21, and I discovered I was pregnant with Amanda only eight weeks after our wedding. We each entered marriage carrying a deluxe, five-piece set of emotional baggage. We used to fight like cats and dogs! We’re an odd mix, but we’ve always been very attracted to each other. We’ve laughed repeatedly over how we saved the courts and us so much money, because we would have kept remarrying! source
To begin with, it shows a massive misunderstanding of God’s ordination for couples in marriage. By the way, though sexual attraction might enhance a marriage, it is not the glue that should hold the marriage together. God’s command is.
I was surprised when surfing the web one day, I saw one offhand comment regarding “Melissa’s divorce”. Both Beth and Melissa are Christian leaders teaching the word of God. Divorce is an immense sin. It is something God has flatly states He hates. Would not a Christian leader want to be transparent about this issue since it impacts not only their ministry but their perceived relationship with God? Piper did. White did. Sproul did. Did Moore? No. There is no explanation, no discussion, no smoothing the concerns of followers as to the biblical stance regarding this divorce and credibility on their ministry. I have searched and found nothing. If there is an explanation out there which I missed, I apologize.
I know court records are public so I found the public divorce documents. The reason for Melissa Moore’s 2013 divorce was… “Personality Conflict”. Melissa initiated it.
Personality conflict is NOT one of the allowable exclusions for escaping the marital covenant. Unless further revelations are shared in good faith transparency, one must sorrowfully conclude that Melissa Moore is sinfully divorced and falls below any standard of being able to teach scripture. Her mother’s continued support of her daughter and her continued partnership with Melissa in spiritual endeavors also casts Beth in a negative light.
Readers who follow Bible teachers must assess their biblical credibility. We have the scriptures to follow foremost, and then we have their lifestyle. We look at what they say, and what they do. Unbiblical divorce speaks volumes as to whether the leader is qualified or not for service in teaching and leading. If the leader teaching the scriptures is actively rebelling against them, how much can a follower hope to learn from that leader? Not much. (Luke 6:40).
In 2 Timothy 2:15 we read
Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.
Neither Beth Moore or Melissa Moore handle truth rightly in many other, well-documented cases, and now we add one more instance in which they do not rightly divide scripture according to truth. John Piper and the White family did, for which I am extremely encouraged and grateful. When God’s plan is followed, even in the sad cases of divorce in the case of White, or sin & restoration, as in the case of Piper and Sproul, it is a joy to the brethren and a glory unto God.
A note: Though Summer White had posted the statement regarding her divorce on her public Facebook page, which I read in its entirety, it has since been taken down. I cannot find it on Apologia Church’s page now either. If they are still there and I overlooked them, I apologize. The quotes in my article were taken from the Christian News Network article reporting on the White’s divorce, and their quotes and excerpts are accurate according to what I had initially read on Summer’s FB page.