Orville E. Swindoll (Brother of Charles “Chuck” Swindoll)
Missionary in Argentina from 1959 to 1991
In early 1967 a group of Christians from varied denominational backgrounds began meeting on Monday nights in the home of a businessman in the stately old residential area of Coughlan in the city of Buenos Aires, Argentina. Our purpose was to seek the Lord for a spiritual breakthrough in our lives and in our churches throughout the city. This weekly gathering initially involved Christians from many backgrounds, such as: Plymouth Brethren, Baptist, Mennonite, Evangelical, Union, independent holiness groups, Christian and Missionary Alliance, and an occasional Presbyterian and Methodist. Within a few months we experienced quite a turnaround and many in the group were filled with the Holy Spirit.
Then the pastors in attendance felt that we needed to start meeting once a week to try to get a handle on what the Lord was doing among us, for things were mushrooming around us. Thus we began meeting on Saturday mornings. These pastors’ meetings continued throughout the years to follow.
In the early or mid 1970’s the topic of divorce and remarriage arose. The Roman Catholic church has traditionally had a firm stand on this issue, but canon law was sometimes interpreted in devious ways to allow for separation and remarriage with canonical permission.
As for the evangelicals, the traditional firmness for years had begun to break down. As we took stock of where we were on the issue, we discovered that we were “all over the map”. We decided the time had come to do a serious study of the Bible on the issue.
Many discussions revolved around what is known as the “exception clause” (Matthew 5:32). The Greek word porneia was translated variously as infidelity, fornication, unfaithfulness or some other sexual irregularity. ‘
The basic Old Testament passage at the bottom of our dilemma was Deuteronomy 24: 1-4. Even the Jewish scholars over the centuries could not seem to reach agreement on this passage.
The discussion arises anew in Jesus’ ministry when the Pharisees press him on the subject of divorce in Matthew 19:3-12. The exception clause is brought up again.
The text of Luke 16: 18 was quite convincing to us. We concluded that the basic text is the clearest one and provides the clearest interpretation.
The most amazing thing about our research and reasoning together is that we all reached the same conclusion. Over the next several years we were asked to participate in forums on the issue of divorce and remarriage, and in seminars and workshops with pastors and church leaders. We prepared papers on the subject (all in Spanish) and one of our colleagues wrote a book, which bears the same title in Spanish as Joseph Webb’s book, Until death do us part.
We have developed a common pastoral practice in the hundreds of congregations under our collegial oversight. We insist upon the permanence of the marriage bond in God’s sight. If someone is divorced for whatever reason, we make it clear that he (or she) has two options: 1) either be reconciled to the legitimate spouse, or 2) continue as a single person, at least until the death of the spouse.
We understand that the way to move forward is to be Scripturally clear, compassionate in our counsel and ministry to those who have serious marital problems, and gracious toward those who disagree with us.
We try to remember that truth is not just something we fight for; it is the foundation of our lives and our families and it is best expressed in loving concern for those who have messed up their lives. May the Lord help us to honor him always.