Clergy: To marry an adulterous couple or not?


 “I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.”

-Matthew 19:9, NIV

 I meant that you are not to associate with anyone who claims to be a believer yet indulges in sexual sin…or is abusive, or is a drunkard, or cheats people. Don’t even eat with such people.

-I Corinthians 5:11a,c, NLT

 Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.

-Hebrews 13:4, NIV


What is a pastor to do when confronted with a situation where a known adulterer wants the pastor to marry him and the Other Woman?

These three verses–just choosing a few–ought to make that decision clear:

A true minister of Christ cannot marry a known adulterous person to his/her lover without acting contrary to God’s direction and will in the matter.

God does not bless sin. Neither ought His ministers.

The cheater and the offending other party can always go to a civil authority to get married. What a pastor taking a stance against marrying the adulterous couple is doing is denying them the appearance of God’s approval of such a union.

The denial of a church wedding is actually an act of tough love where the pastor is teaching this couple of God’s true view regarding what they are doing–i.e. continuing in such a direction is spiritually perilous (e.g. I Cor. 6:9-10). Consider it another reminder that they need to repent, not double-down on their adulterous sin.

When pastors marry adulterous couples, they are sending a false message to the church and the community. They are blessing a union God considers dishonoring to the institution of marriage (see Hebrews 13:4). Such a minister is saying by marrying the adulterous couple that God approves of something God clearly does not. God has spoken clearly on adultery, and He absolutely forbids it (see The Ten Commandments–e.g. Ex. 20:15).

Now, I understand circumstances exist that can muddy the water greatly in these matters. A pastor might not know the real history or may have been flatly lied to regarding the relationship’s origins.

Liars lie. Cheaters cheat. Deceivers deceive.

These things happen. We live in a world full of sinners–present company included. However, I think most people–God included–is merciful and gracious understanding our human limitations. Failing to uncover the truth is different than dismissing the truth and doing what God finds morally reprehensible–i.e. blessing adultery.

Like the “friend” blaming me for the marriage falling apart prior to knowledge of the cheating (and lying, of course) on the part of my spouse, I am willing to extend grace the first time. However, if that “friend” decides to double-down on their assessment assigning blame to me knowing the truth, then I cut that person free.

I want true friends. I want friends who believe and walk in the truth even if that means they have to admit being wrong. The last thing I need is a prideful person willing to exchange a hard truth for a more comfortable, to him, lie–i.e. “The Shared Responsibility Lie.”

So, if you missed it…

To marry an adulterous couple or not?

The answer is “Not. Definitely, not.”

5 thoughts on “Clergy: To marry an adulterous couple or not?”

  1. Great post!!! I was just thinking about this the other day. I wish more pastors would start doing this and I truly believe they should as I feel God would want them to stand up for what’s right

  2. I hope this is the case! My X has been parading OW around town for 6 months now and has been calling her his fiancée for the past two years (all while we were still married — divorce finalized in Jan 2016).

    They are both singing in the choir! Up front and in front of everyone. I have a good relationship with all the ministers of our church and my daughter worked there for a while after college. Before she left, she went into the Senior Minister’s office and asked him not to marry her father to OW should he come request it.

    It will be interesting to see what happens because X hired the Senior Minister and the second in command when he was president of the church Consistory.

  3. My wife’s adulterous ex, just a few month after their divorce was settled married another who was adulterous to her former spouse. The church where they were married is notoriously conservative and “pro marriage”. The couple was told to live apart for a few days and then the pastor could marry them. Problem solved.
    Where do they come up with this stuff?
    Thanks DM for standing up for the sanctity of marriage.

    1. Did the church know the full story? Or was one or both people in the couple so prominent or wealthy that the church’s rules didn’t apply to them?

  4. Most cheaters probably find a minister who doesn’t know the truth. I know of never before married people who go on a frantic quest to find a minister willing to marry them when they are living together before marriage. I would think pastors who have a problem with premarital sex would also have a problem with premarital adulterous sex.

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