Wednesday, June 3, 2015

A Case For Annulment...or Not?

The recent story of The Village Church’s perceived lack of compassion for Karen Root, and the perceived lack of discipline against Jordan Root has received more than its fair share of publicity. There are plenty of posts and articles defending Karen because they believe that The Village Church lacked compassion for putting her under church discipline, especially after she dropped her membership. If you read Karen’s side of the story, you will find that she believes that she was treated poorly, and that TVC has no right to put her under church discipline for seeking to annul a marriage from a deceitful pedophile.
In my latest post, I attempted to make the point that all parties involved need to be under subjection to the Lord in all situations. If TVC was seeking to reconcile the marriage of Jordan and Karen, they may have gone about it the wrong way. If we read Karen’s account and then see the apology by TVC, it would appear that Karen is no longer a member of TVC, and TVC will restructure the way they handle accountability for members. It also appears that Jordan Root will receive spiritual care for his sin. 

But what of the outcome? If Karen Root annulled her marriage, is there any reason to believe that we should believe that annulment ends a marriage, any more than a divorce ends a marriage? If you noticed, I do not, and will not give Karen Root the benefit of the doubt that she can now call herself by her former name of Hinkley. The question some may have is why? What is an annulment? 

In its basic definition, an annulment is a tradition of men (Declaration of Nullity) which believes that a sacrament (in this case, the sacrament of Matrimony) was never valid from the start. The recipient of an annulment is believed to have never received the sacrament based on false pretenses.  In the case of Karen Root, an annulment in her case would relive her of the marriage of Jordan Root based on his deceitfulness of his sin prior to her wedding vow. Karen believes that since Jordan was a pedophile prior to their marriage, the annulment treats it as if the marriage never happened. 

This is a problem.

There is nothing in scripture about annulments, and that is because there is nothing on scripture about marriage being a “sacrament”. The seven sacraments (which includes Matrimony) is another tradition of the Roman Catholic Church. Thus, Karen would have us believe that since Jordan was a deceitful, vile, perpetrator of children, an annulment frees her from the vow she made to Jordan. This is a problem.

If we want to know when a marriage becomes a marriage, we need to look no further than what the Lord Jesus Christ says about marriage. There are two places in the Gospels where the Lord talks specifically about marriage, and he points to the beginning. (Genesis 2:24)
In both passages of Matthew’s account, and Mark’s account, the Lord is addressing the Pharisees beyond the Jordan River. 

Matthew 19:4-6 And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.

Mark 10:6-9 But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife; And they twain shall be one flesh: so then they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.

Both scriptures point to marriage as from the beginning. The Lord is pointing to Genesis.

Genesis 2:24 Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.

What we have to consider is who has the final say when a marriage is a marriage. Is it the Catholic Church? A representative of the RCC will say yes, based on their belief that the RCC is the true representation of the body of Christ. Thus, the sacrament of marriage is theirs to define. They will make the claim that the Holy Spirit guided them to order the sacraments, and since Matrimony is one of the sacraments, this gives them the power to approve(holy matrimony) and disapprove (annulments) marriages. 

The same can be said of the Protestant reformers. Most reformed churches rely on the Westminster Confession (another tradition of men) as the by-laws for marriage definition. The Westminster Confession would allow for “divorce” in the broad case of “sexual immorality”. This would fit Karen’s marriage, as the broad term of the exception clause would include an “unrepentant pedophile”. (Karen believes that Jordan is unrepentant) However, to TVC’s benefit, the elders attempted to salvage the marriage, unfortunately they went about it the wrong way. Like the RCC, the problem with TVC is deeper than it appears.

It appears that both the RCC and the reformers have both missed the mark on the definition of marriage. It is scripture (that both “denominations” believe is from men powered by the Holy Spirit) that exposes their false definitions of marriage. A marriage becomes a marriage when the Lord says a marriage becomes a marriage. In this case, as in ALL cases of one man and one woman, Jordan Root and Karen Root are one-flesh until death. An annulment, nor a divorce can EVER end what God hath joined together. The only time I would question the validity of a marriage is if one or both spouses were forced to marry. Even then, it is what comes out of the mouth that comes from the heart. (Matthew 15:18) 

Scripture proves that God recognizes all first covenant marriages of one man and one woman. He not only approves them, He becomes a part of the covenant, first so because he made both the man and the woman in His image, secondly, the marriage is a true representation of Christ’s love for His church. (Eph 5:32) What God hath made as one, became two, and then becomes one again in marriage. This is the meaning of “cleave.” (Gen 2:24)

The questions that arise go something like this:

Does God recognize a marriage of an unbelieving spouse and a believing spouse if Paul says we should not yoke ourselves with unbelievers? (2 Cor 6:14)

Scripture answers this in both the cases where a believer marries an unbeliever, or when a married unbeliever becomes a believer when the other spouse does not. ( 1 Cor 7:12-14) It is important to understand that the church should NEVER marry a believer to an unbeliever, but in the case of Jordan and Karen, one could argue that Jordan was not a believer as evidence of his deceitfulness.
If that is the case, if Jordan is willing to remain married (even if he remains an unbeliever), then Karen must follow Paul’s example and remain in the marriage. (1 Cor 7:13) Yes, I understand the severity of Jordan’s sin, and there needs to be space here because he has openly (though Karen is suspect of Jordan’s repentance) admitted his pornography addiction, but as stated in the previous post, this takes all the power of Christ to make this happen. It appears Karen wants nothing of reconciliation at this time. This says a lot of Karen’s spiritual condition.  

Another angle is that since Jordan was an unbeliever, and both the church that officiated the wedding, and Karen unknowingly performed vows, and vowed into marriage respectively, presumably God would agree that the marriage was not a marriage based on the belief that Jordan was an unbeliever.

This would be false thinking, because what do we say of the marriages where a man or woman was deceitful by pretending to be an unbeliever, and the believing spouse remained in the marriage despite the unbeliever’s deceitfulness? Do we say the marriage is invalid? What do we say when the unbeliever in this case, repents and becomes a believer? Do we still say that the marriage was invalid, and so were the vows?  

Another question that arises is that since Jordan was false, would not God allow Karen to divorce from Jordan based on the book of Ezra where the people of Israel divorced from their pagan wives?
 Unfortunately, God had warned the people of Israel never to marry pagan wives in the first place, thus the people of Israel repented of this by divorcing from these invalid marriages. 

I would question the believer that if God does not want you to be yoked to a deceitful person, would He warn you of this deception prior to making a vow of marriage? Was there an instance, or instances where God did in fact warn Karen that Jordan had a very serious sin problem? What of the church that married them? Was there a pre-marriage class? Were both Jordan and Karen “ready” for marriage? Since God knows all things, I think there is a lot of questions left unanswered that we may never get from any side of the story.

I personally have a lot of questions before I would jump to the conclusion to say that Karen, or anyone else has a very good reason to believe her marriage was invalid from the start. I will confess that I had clear warnings, and they were scriptural warnings, that I was not to date a married woman, much less marry her after she divorced her husband. I would even make the claim that I wasn’t saved at the time. Yet, God in His mercy was there warning me that there will be consequences for ignoring His word. Was this Karen’s case? Was she warned?

I want to make it perfectly clear that I do have compassion for the severity of this very difficult situation as it pertains to Karen. I have also made it clear that only the peace and love of Christ will get her through this difficult time. I just hope that she is surrounded by the same compassionate people who not only love her enough to comfort her and protect her, I hope that they would also be loving enough to share the truth about the covenant of marriage. 

There is a lot of advice, comments, and remarks on this delicate and difficult issue, but if any of these is without the truth of God‘s word, then they are nothing more than worldly advice that neither helps those involved, nor will this false advice give glory to God. We have to believe that somehow, some way, God knew about this marriage, approved of this marriage, and expects to get glory from the covenant spouses of this marriage. 

If we say that Jordan and Karen’s marriage was false, what do we say of God? Are all marriages false based on the fact that none of us are completed works of Christ? Or is it God’s fault for not warning the church and Karen that Jordan was a deceitful, horrible monster? 

Just maybe God does have a plan in this and it is a lesson to all of us. Jordan was deceitful, but Jordan was also made in the image of God. Marriage is not the problem here, Jordan’s sin is, and that sin DID find him out. If Jordan is repentant, could it be that this is the ultimate test of faith for all of us who are watching from the sidelines?  What would you do about Jordan Root?  Would you be the first to hang him for his awful, horrible sin, or do you believe that only God has vengeance over sin?  What do you do with Jordan Root if he says that he is sorry and seeks, and shows fruits of repentance? Forgive him, or not? What would the LORD Jesus Christ do? What does mercy look like if not from regenerated believers who received the same mercy from the Almighty LORD?

I have no doubt that many will learn from this. The Village Church was exposed to something they could not, and did not handle very well. I believe that they were right in seeking reconciliation of the marriage if it was not for their lack of understanding that a marriage can only end in death. Once they consider that marriage is a life time covenant that no man may put asunder, perhaps they will reconsider how they teach couples, prepare couples, and perform weddings in the future. 

The Karen Root sympathizers have the most to consider. What lesson is there to learn of having someone deceitfully sin against us? How do we react to this? What is our reaction if we are in Christ, and our spouse is not? Where is mercy in this, and who needs it the most? What is the love of Christ in this situation?

Karen needs mercy for the awful, humiliating, and shameful trial she has experienced. She needs time to heal, and we need to be compassionate for her side of the story. But never should that compassion exceed the grace and truth of Christ. In the eyes of the Lord, she is in covenant with Jordan Root, and if Jordan should come to full repentance, and she does not extend mercy, as Christ extended mercy to her, she will have to answer. The same goes for all of us. The kindness of God leads to repentance, and only those who are in Christ will understand the grace and mercy of the Lord enough to be kind to others.

Jordan needs mercy if he is truly repentant. What he did was as heinous as any sin, but what he did can be covered by the blood of Christ. The same mercy that saved us all is the same mercy we need to extend to a repentant perpetrator of children. If Jordan Root cannot be saved from the chains of sin, guilt, and shame of his sin, neither can you or I. May God have mercy on us all, and may we all have the peace and love of Christ to extend mercy to all who desperately need it. 

In Christ’s love,


Carol Vaclavicek said...

I have a number of problems with the acts of the characters in this sad story, but I also have a problem with making any presumptions about who and who is not regenerated and sealed with the Holy Spirit, hence whether the marriage was between a believer and an unbeliever, which, as you point out is moot, regardless. Believers do fall into serious sin and they fall into addictions (which is to an enormous extent a function of the altered brain chemistry that results) - otherwise, Paul would have had no reason to keep repeating "do not be deceived". If anything is remotely relevant in speculating who is or isn't the believer, we could certainly start with the willingness to take responsibility, accept discipline and submit to one's chosen spiritual leadership. Did Jordan do that, or did Karen?

On the other hand, one who is so unmerciful that they publicly lash out as Karen Root did (reminding me very much of the wicked servant described in Matt. 18), shows a total oblivion to the extent to which they've been forgiven. That seems to show a lack of regeneration. He / she who has been forgiven much, loves much. He / she who loves much, obeys much.

Neil Novotnak said...

Thank you for the comment, Carol. What has bothered me the moment I read this article was not exclusive to the actions and responses of each side of the story (TVC vs. Karen Root), as it had to do with the other comments from Christian bloggers and writers. There is this shadow of acceptance that Karen has a “right” to end this marriage based on the actions of her spouse. The only side that was seeking reconciliation of the marriage (TVC) was the side most people blasted for lacking compassion.

I know too that I have received a few comments for my perceived lack of compassion by believing that reconciliation is the only option, but the bottom line is that truth must come before emotions and feelings. If mercy is a key component of compassion, Karen has demonstrated very little mercy, as did most commentators. This side would have us believe that Jordan will never change, and the very least, Karen is free to believe an annulment ended her marriage.

I was also very skeptical to solely believe Karen’s story, not only for the reason you stated, but also for the fact that no one has heard Jordan’s side of the story. Most commentators were quick to bash TVC, because in their minds, they believed TVC was harboring a convicted unrepentant felon. The last thing on the minds of most comments was Karen showing mercy for Jordan, and that remaining in marriage was even remotely considered. Again, truth be told, the actions of either spouse, (Jordan’s sin, or Karen’s seeking annulment and believing this annulment released her of her vows), do not end the covenant marriage.

The truth is that TVC, Karen Root, and most commentators believe that marriage is not a covenant because they already believe there are existing loopholes (The exception clause) before one even vows into marriage. TVC believed that reconciliation was the best option in this case, but their position of marriage does offer grounds for divorce if reconciliation is not possible. In this case, the reconciliation was not possible because Karen had already made up her mind to annul the marriage. I will argue that if options of loopholes were not an option (Obedience to the Lord Jesus Christ’s command to the married-1 Cor 7:10,11) , this story would never have taken place.Again, thank you for your comment and I thank the Lord for your compassion for His covenant of marriage.

In Christ’s love,

Jennifer Leela said...

Hello, I was wondering if I might be able to ask a personal question on this topic (divorce) if that is possible?

Neil Novotnak said...

Yes you may, Jennifer.