Volumes have been written on this issue. Churches have split over it and some wonderful Christians have chosen make this their life-fight. This is not a theological treatise but simply our position. Some agree and some do not, but taking a position is better than not. The following is an overview of how we interpret Paul’s Elder requirement that a man be "the husband of one wife".   

If two believers are married, whether they were married before salvation or not, they are locked into a covenant marriage. They are considered, in God’s eyes, to be of “one flesh” (Mark 10:7-8). Now say the believing wife commits adultery. Technically the husband is released from the marriage and the covenant is broken (Matt 19:9). He has the right to give her a certificate of divorce and dissolve the marriage. Although divorce is permitted in this instance hopefully it can be avoided. Nevertheless, the husband would be innocent of wrongdoing if he should decide to divorce her. If he is innocent in the sight of God (per Jesus’ words) for the divorce, why should he be treated as if he had sinned and denied a position as a leader in the church? 

What does Paul mean when he says, “An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife…” (1Timothy 3:2a)?

Unfortunately, many take this to mean that a man cannot be a church Elder if he has been divorced.  But the text doesn’t mention anything about divorce at all. It only says he cannot be the husband of more than one wife. Then does he mean polygamy? There is no indication that the Corinthian church had a problem with plural marriages. Additionally, the Roman Empire outlawed the practice so it is unlikely that Paul was referring to plural marriages in this text. At first glance that looks like divorce would fit the text, except that Jesus said it is lawful for a man to divorce an adulterous woman. It would seem then that there’s an inconsistency. Jesus said the man did not sin, yet he was later restricted by Paul from serving as an Elder despite his innocence. I would argue that Paul didn’t mean divorce at all. Instead he meant that a man could be in a marriage covenant with two women at the same time and yet only be legally married to one. 

This duality is possible if a man divorces his wife for any reason other than adultery or abandonment. He has not officially terminated the covenant agreement and is therefore still bound by it in the eyes of the church. If the man, assuming he was free to remarry due to his “legal” divorce, takes another wife, he would be (as far as the church is concerned) bound in two marriage covenants at the same time. The first covenant was never properly annulled and therefore is still in place yet a second marriage covenant has also been executed. That is the reason why our Lord says, “And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.” (Matt 19:9). Jesus called the remarriage after improper divorce “adultery” because the original marriage covenant was still in effect. Therefore, a man can in fact be bound by two marriage covenants at one time in the eyes of God. By Jesus stating that a man who “…marries another woman commits adultery”, He is in fact stating that the original marriage covenant is still in effect. 

We believe it is this situation that would disqualify a man for service in the church. A valid divorce should not preclude an innocent man from serving as an Elder of the church.