My Response to Tony Miano: “God Hates Divorce in the Church”

What do you do when you’ve made a grave mistake? You look around, and you assess the situation, you try to determine the best course of action, and then, of course, you double and triple down on your current mistake. Most people will chuckle and say, you know what, I’ve done that. We’ve all done it.

Tony Miano is currently doing that by choosing to double down on his mistake of moving to Davenport, IA, and aligning himself with Grace Fellowship Church. I have to believe that somewhere in the corner of his mind, he is contemplating whether he has made the biggest mistake of his life. However, blinded by his pride and inability to admit his mistake.

After all, how many people do you cut out of your life to deny reality? A lot, apparently. I’m talking about some of his closest friends, former elders, and countless others who have been in his life for a long time. The close to a dozen now families left GFC after his arrival that continue to testify against the issues and abuses they experienced under GFC elders’ leadership and primarily the pastor Mike Reid. I’m one of them.

I’ll make the disclaimer again it brings me no joy to write this article, but I feel compelled since Tony felt compelled to write a backhanded slap, passive-aggressive essay at those who have left and worked to expose the issues. Tony is well-known for his passive-aggressive nature and even wrote a post about those that are passive-aggressive. Tony was passive-aggressive when we left GFC. He posted this the day after we left, insinuating we had stabbed them in the back.

I think they call this projecting. Instead of defending yourself, you project what you do onto others. It’s a very creative technique utilized by those engaged in gaslighting, and generally with a narcissistic tendency. I’m not accusing Tony of being a narcissist. I like Tony, and I’ve enjoyed the time I’ve spent with him, but when I sat down with Tony for a couple of hours after we left GFC, he wanted to articulate to me that he had left churches in the wrong way, and he urged me not to go in the wrong way. He assumed I was leaving in the wrong way. First of all, he had no idea what we had been through, but that’s for another day and covered in previous articles. I recognize these “attacks” have probably felt somewhat relentless. That’s the goal. They need to shake Tony out of his slumber and alert those that know him best to ask him to wake up.

I’m writing to show that Tony, in his own words, is often his own worst enemy. In an attempt to defend himself, he condemns himself. I’m not saying Tony isn’t an intelligent man or a gifted man. He is far beyond me in many of his abilities, but like all of us, he has blind spots, and rather than admit that he continues to double down and talk down by making accusations against those of us that have seen enough not to want to take it anymore.

In Tony’s most recent article, he compares God hating divorce from Malachi 2 to improperly leaving a church. I’ve linked the article here. I’ve also copied below this article in its entirety for the eventual reality that Tony will probably take it down after this article comes out. 

I will highlight two critical errors Tony has made in this comparison. The first thing to point out is Tony has adopted, from Mike Reid, there are only (3) ways to leave a church. We have heard this before from Mike Reid on the Remnant Radio Podcast, which has disappeared. I’ve highlighted that here in my blog post. For a moment, we will consider this an accurate statement, as Tony has provided some scriptural proof texts.

If this is true, I’ve argued this before, and recently my good friend Todd Pearson pointed this out on his podcast, Tony is a hypocrite. Tony left Grace Community Church in California outside of these parameters. He may argue he had “mutual consent,” but I know for sure that is not true. His elders had deep concerns about GFC. Those concerns have come to fruition as the “ministry” has received more unwanted attention. 

Furthermore, Tony cites the 2nd London Baptist Confession of Faith, Chapter 26, paragraph 13. Although it claims the 1689 is their confession, I may briefly add that GFC only uses what they approve of from the confession. I’ve made those points before. Paragraph 13 is an essential part of Chapter 26, but it doesn’t stop there. Paragraph 15 tells us the remedy for this offense.

Paragraph 15. In cases of difficulties or differences, either in point of doctrine or administration, wherein either the churches in general are concerned, or any one church, in their peace, union, and edification; or any member or members of any church are injured, in or by any proceedings in censures not agreeable to truth and order: it is according to the mind of Christ, that many churches holding communion together, do, by their messengers, meet to consider, and give their advice in or about that matter in difference, to be reported to all the churches concerned;29 howbeit these messengers assembled, are not intrusted with any church-power properly so-called; or with any jurisdiction over the churches themselves, to exercise any censures either over any churches or persons; or to impose their determination on the churches or officers. (Acts 15:2,4,6,22,23,25) (2 Cor. 1:24; 1 John 4:1)

On at least three separate occasions, I made this offer. One of which I posted in the blog linked above. As I pointed out, the problem with this which churches would help remedy the situation. It was tried before by Sycamore Baptist Church, but they were accused of sin. The elders of GFC try and stack the deck and overwhelm anyone that would dare stand against them, but these are things Tony Miano does not know about because he hasn’t been there long enough, and he hasn’t had conversations with the other side. I would encourage him to contact the elders of Sycamore and ask about it.

How did Tony leave his former churches? In my discussion with Tony, he admitted that he had poorly left before, and because of the lessons he “learned,” I shouldn’t do the same leaving GFC. He never did mention to me that day at Starbucks how he left Grace Community Church (GCC). If it was by the standard, he claims in his article. I believe he failed. He says this:

 After a comprehensive look at the New Testament, one will not find a laundry list of reasons for leaving a local church. In fact, one would be hard-pressed to find more than three: being sent out by the church (church planting, missions, mutual agreement–including for reasons not always missional, etc), excommunication, or death.

Being Sent: Acts 9:23-25, 30; 11:19, 25; 13:2; 15:22-29; Phill 2:19, 25, 28; Titus 3:12

Excommunication: Matthew 15:18-17; Romans 16:17; 1 Corinthians 5:1-5; 2 Corinthians 2:5-11

Death: Acts 5: 1-11; 1 Corinthians 15:6, 20; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-16

If an American Evangelical Confession of Faith existed, it would likely significantly add to the biblical list of three.

I will say I agree with Tony on his point that people far too quickly depart a church. We have a complete agreement in this area, but what I’d like to ask Tony is being faithful members of a church (GFC) for nine years, being a Deacon for four years, always in good standing with the leadership, demonstrate to him that we left for the reasons he has stated? Or is it possible there was more to the story? Is it possible that the other families left had similar experiences that had caused them to say, “enough is enough?”

Does he know how I went to Mike and presented what I could best articulate at the time as the reasons for our concerns? Does Tony realize my concern was for my family’s spiritual health and well-being, and I attempted to convey the issues of legalism and authoritarianism to Mike Reid in hopes he would work to help change the course of direction? No, Tony didn’t realize nor would he hear those things, because, for him, he had found “paradise.” 

The second issue I would like to bring up is the poor exegesis involved in Tony trying to connect Malachi 2:16. I will quote the NKJV since I know that is the translation GFC utilizes.

“For the LORD God of Israel says that He hates divorce, for it covers one’s garment with violence,” Says the Lord of hosts. “Therefore take heed to your spirit, that you do not deal treacherously.” (Malachi 2:16).

One of the best pieces of advice I’ve received is for those who don’t read Greek or Hebrew to check multiple translations. The value in doing so can provide tremendous insights into the word of God. I appreciate several translations of this verse, but I’ll show the Lexham English Septuagint. The LES provides a very practical, literal translation to give a better understanding.

16 But if, while hating, you dismiss your wife,” says the Lord God of Israel, “you will conceal the wrongdoing of your thoughts,” says the Lord Almighty. “So observe yourselves, and never desert your wife.” [1]

I believe Tony should be embarrassed at attempting to make this comparison. We shouldn’t use the Scriptures to our advantage to make a point that we desperately want to make, then find a verse, twist it, bend it and distort it to make a point that scripture never intended nor never meant. While we can find verses to make an application, I’d argue you would have to struggle to apply what Tony is trying to do in this article. I’m going to try and give Tony the benefit of the doubt. He says this:

With that kind of closeness, because of the inherent sinfulness of all involved, there will be difficult times. When those difficult times come in a local assembly of believers the wrong response, just as in a biological family, is to divorce or otherwise abandon the family. God hates divorce between a husband and wife. I think He also hates divorce within the context of the local church.

What Tony may forget is that we were a part of that church for nine years, I’ve made that point before. I’ve heard Mike Reid quote Malachi 16 more times than I can count. He was firmly against divorce. I’m glad he was, but I also believe he has a severe misunderstanding of this verse, and now Tony is doing the same to this verse and not considering the context of Chapter 2, specifically. 

Before I get into the topic of divorce, we need to look at this in context. The argument in Chapter 2 is that the priests have been unfaithful to the Lord in dealing with the people.

So shall you know that I have sent this command to you, that my covenant with Levi may stand, says the Lord of hosts. My covenant with him was one of life and peace, and I gave them to him. It was a covenant of fear, and he feared me. He stood in awe of my name. True instruction was in his mouth, and no wrong was found on his lips. He walked with me in peace and uprightness, and he turned many from iniquity. For the lips of a priest should guard knowledge, and people should seek instruction from his mouth, for he is the messenger of the Lord of hosts. (Mal 2:4-7).

If we want to connect the dots between divorce and the church, here is the starting point. The priests had the job of protecting, ministering, and watching out for the children of Israel’s spiritual welfare. They are messengers of the LORD of hosts. We can draw this parallel between New Testament elders and pastors because they also are charged with protecting, ministering, and watching out for Christ’s sheep. But what if they don’t do that?

But you have turned aside from the way. You have caused many to stumble by your instruction. You have corrupted the covenant of Levi, says the Lord of hosts, and so I make you despised and abased before all the people, inasmuch as you do not keep my ways but show partiality in your instruction.” (Mal 2:8-9).

God does indeed make a comparison between the husband and wife relationship. He also compares the Priest and the children of Israel, but this does not play in Tony’s favor.

13 And this second thing you do. You cover the Lord’s altar with tears, with weeping and groaning because he no longer regards the offering or accepts it with favor from your hand. 14 But you say, “Why does he not?” Because the Lord was witness between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have been faithless, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant. 15 Did he not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union? And what was the one God seeking? Godly offspring. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and let none of you be faithless to the wife of your youth. (Mal 2:13-15).

Here is where this goes wrong. These priests were showing disdain and hatred for their wives and the people of God. Remember what the LES said?

16 But if, while hating, you dismiss your wife,” says the Lord God of Israel, “you will conceal the wrongdoing of your thoughts,” (Mal 2:16a)

The context of Malachi 2:16 is faithless ministers that hate their wives and desire to divorce them. God is giving this warning directly to them. In reality, if Tony wants to make this connection, he should acknowledge the faithless minister that is doing damage to the congregation. I believe this is the most egregious part of the misdiagnosis of the passage.

However, if we look at the actual divorce concept, is there ever any circumstance in which divorce is permissible? I think Tony should ask Mike. I know the answer to the question.

Barbara Roberts writing an academic paper on Malachi 2:16 from domestic abuse angle, asks some legitimate questions.

So if an abused woman finds herself in a situation where Malachi 2:16 is being used to deter her from divorcing her husband, she can point out that the verse does not apply to her situation and her ‘instructor’ is in error, at the least.

She goes on:

If Malachi says God hates divorce, this places Malachi in opposition to Moses, who condoned disciplinary divorce for cases of abuse or neglect (Deut 21:10-14). It also sets Malacchi against Ezra, who required divorce of foreign wives when the continuation of the Jewish nation was in jeopardy. And it begs the question: If Malachi says that God hates (all) divorce, why did Jesus not quote Malachi when the Pharisees claimed that Deuteronomy 24 approved of divorce?

Where we can connect here, using Tony’s logic, how long is it required of abused church members to sit under the authoritarian leadership of rogue pastor’s that use the word of God to club people into submission? Do we have a right to divorce them? Or should we stay and enjoy the beatings? Perhaps try explaining that to the victimized wives that continue to relive these nightmares by a “well-intended pastor.” 

Barbara Roberts is primarily dealing with how modern translations render this wrong, and she says this:

God is addressing abusive men: You men! Shallach! Let go! Release! Give up! The parallels with Exodus are obvious: You, Pharaoh, should let go of the people you are oppressing! Release your slaves. You, Mr. Abuser, should let your wife go free! Release her from your cruelty! Give up your power and control over her!

Emphasizing the importance of the instruction, God followed it with “says the Lord, the God of Israel” – a two-fold appellation for God which is used nowhere else in Malachi. Perhaps God anticipated the abusive priests and abusive husband would retort with harsh words (cf. Mal 3:13a) so he hit them between the eyeballs with his command before they had a chance to answer back.

Those who insist on construing God as the one who hates and reading shallach as infinitive construct need to ask themselves how much their translation is consistent with reality. Is it consistent with the heart and character of God? Is it consistent with dynamics of abuse where men abuse their wives?

While I have some empathy for Tony in his ignorance, he has no idea the level of hurt many, and dare I say most, have in their experience with GFC, Mike Reid, and the elders. He can’t comprehend why they wanted to get out. For one, his treatment is different. I tried to explain that to him, but he didn’t understand, and I’m sure he still doesn’t. People feel abused, and they didn’t want to take it anymore.

If Tony ever cares to be honest with himself and those that are part of the “Kangaroo Court” (quote by Tony about us “criticizing” GFC), he is free to reach out to me anytime, and I’ll gladly explain many things to him. He and Mike Reid have a standing offer to come on the Apologetics Live Podcast and explain their side of things.

Given Tony’s behavior thus far, and what I’ve seen in the past, blocking anyone that dissents, or dares question him, unfriend, avoid, don’t answer; eventually this goes away, attitude, that won’t solve the problem he finds himself. The evidence is overwhelming, but yet the love is still there, and it’s real. Nobody desires to hurt Tony or Mike Reid or GFC. I personally, and most I know, want to see repentance and reconciliation. Again, I will give Tony the benefit of the doubt that he doesn’t realize how much GFC has caused hurt and pain. The more he supports it, the worse it gets for him. I hope he will recognize that and heed this advice.

When you are in a deep hole, stop digging. 

Kevin

Here is Tony’s article titled: Something to Think About: God Hates Divorce in the Church

Divorce in the church is a serious problem, but not likely in the sense that first comes to mind. God hates divorce–in marriage and in the church.

Closer than Siblings

At the end of our Sunday evening meetings, our church family has the opportunity to corporately share their praises and thankfulness to the Lord. Last night a young couple announced their engagement. We knew it was coming soon, but that didn’t dampen our joy.

Then, like we do every Sunday night, we all enjoyed dinner and fellowship together.

Scripture tells us that the early church had “all things in common.” It was not merely a cultural distinctive or a sign of the times. The early church was a blueprint and a picture of what today’s church should look like.

The relationships inside a local assembly of believers should be as close, loving, affectionate, supportive, and strong as the healthy relationships between any loving group of biological siblings. Because of the common bond of Christ, relationships among Christians should be even stronger than relationships with unsaved, biological family members.

God Hates Divorce in the Church

With that kind of closeness, because of the inherent sinfulness of all involved, there will be difficult times. When those difficult times come in a local assembly of believers the wrong response, just as in a biological family, is to divorce or otherwise abandon the family. God hates divorce between a husband and wife. I think He also hates divorce within the context of the local church.

For too many professing Christians, the local church is something they *do*, someplace they *go*, and not who they *are.* Their commitment is only as deep as the temporal benefits they derive from *attending* the church. They will *quit* a church for reasons they would never dream of quitting their biological family.

The 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith (the confession to which my church subscribes), in Chapter 26, Paragraph 13, states the following:

“No church members, upon any offence [sic] taken by them, having performed their duty required of them towards the person they are offended at, ought to disturb any church-order, or absent themselves from the assemblies of the church, or administration of any ordinances, upon the account of such offence [sic] at any of their fellow members, but to wait upon Christ, in the further proceeding of the church” (Matthew 18:15-17; Ephesians 4:2-3).

The leading cause of divorce in and from the local church is likely “personal offense.” Someone did something or said something, or didn’t do something or say something, and a personal offense was taken. Instead of doing the sometimes heavy lifting of reconciling with those who have hurt us or with those we have hurt, some people will choose to leave the church. Considering the sinful flesh in which every presently-bound-to-earth Christian dwells, remaining offended is easier than reconciliation.

But God never promised us easy, brethren.

Reasons People Divorce Churches

After a comprehensive look at the New Testament, one will not find a laundry list of reasons for leaving a local church. In fact, one would be hard-pressed to find more than three: being sent out by the church (church planting, missions, mutual agreement–including for reasons not always missional, etc), excommunication, or death.

If an American Evangelical Confession of Faith existed, it would likely significantly add to the biblical list of three. Such a confession of faith might include the following justifiable reasons for divorcing a local assembly:

  • Style or type of music
  • Style or type of teaching
  • Length of sermons (too long or too short)
  • Dissatisfied with Children’s Ministry
  • Dissatisfied with Youth Ministry
  • Dissatisfied with Young Adult Ministry
  • The church doesn’t have Children’s, Youth, or Young Adult ministries
  • Too much emphasis on certain secondary theological issues
  • Not enough emphasis on certain secondary theological issues
  • Too many homeschoolers
  • Not enough homeschoolers
  • Too political
  • Not political enough
  • Too patriotic
  • Not patriotic enough
  • Too much personal accountability
  • Not enough personal accountability
  • Conflict with people in the church
  • Want a church closer to home
  • Not enough people who look like me
  • Not enough people who think like me
  • Not enough people who act like me
  • Too much emphasis on evangelism
  • Not enough emphasis on evangelism
  • Doesn’t have an abortuary ministry
  • Has an abortuary ministry
  • Pastors won’t support my self-anointed call to open-air preach
  • Pastors won’t let me/support me (fill in the blank)

Of course, the above is NOT an exhaustive list. Isn’t that sad?

The reasons listed above are some of the actual reasons people have given for leaving churches. Sadly, some of them have been my own.

The Church is not Built with a Revolving Door

God did not create the human family with a revolving door through which family members can simply come and go, join and quit, marry and divorce as they please. Neither did God create the Church, comprised of local assemblies, with a revolving door.

What if a visitor walks into your church building this Sunday, strides up to the pulpit, and announces he is now a member of the church? Would he be considered a member? Would he be given all of the rights and privileges of membership?

Of course not.

Yet many professing Christians, particularly in America and the wider western civilization, think they can quit a church, divorce a church family whenever they want for whatever reason they deem sufficient. Most would never assume the autonomy or authority to make themselves a member of a local assembly. But most would assert the autonomy and authority to divorce a local assembly.

I understand what I just suggested is counter-intuitive to what is acceptable and practiced in western church culture. I understand it is counter-intuitive to the American Evangelical way of thinking–a way of thinking (whether or not American Christians will admit it) that gives autonomy, independence, and even authority to the individual when it comes to leaving or divorcing a local church. While what I’ve put forward in this article might be counter-intuitive to some, it is not unbiblical.

Something to think about.

In the meantime, love your church family.


[1] Rick Brannan et al., eds., The Lexham English Septuagint (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2012), Mal 2:16.

2 thoughts on “My Response to Tony Miano: “God Hates Divorce in the Church”

  1. Great post! You know that I was excommunicated and shunned for exposing false doctrine. That is a legitimate reason to leave a church as well as spiritual abuse. When a church is teaching heresy such as Calvinism and Lordship Salvation it is time to leave the church or should I say RUN as fast as you can from that church!

    God bless! Scott Lyons

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