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Celibacy and Singles
This document reflects commonly held beliefs based on scripture which have been endorsed by the church's Commission on Doctrinal Purity and the Executive Presbytery.
Does the Assemblies of God recommend remaining single and celibate? How should the church respond to singles?
Although some religious traditions have seen greater virtue in the single life than in married life, the common feeling in the Assemblies of God is that marriage and the rearing of children are God's normal design for propagating the human race and transmitting spiritual and moral values from one generation to the next. Some would fault the church, however, for elevating marriage and family to the neglect of the special needs and challenges of singles.
Today within our society singles exist for one of two reasons -- by choice, or by circumstance. In either case the Bibles mandate is clear for all unmarried individuals: they are to remain sexually pure (1 Corinthians 6:18-20).
The church must come to realize those who choose to live as singles are not "wrong" or "strange" in doing so. In fact there are many valid reasons for remaining single: the lack of a qualified, compatible mate; an unwillingness to make necessary marital commitments; physical problems; and having Gods special calling of singleness on ones life. The apostle Paul discussed this last reason in his first letter to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 7:1-9). Paul viewed singleness as a high calling that freed him from obligations he would otherwise realize through marriage and parenting. Himself a celibate (one who abstains from sexual intercourse and marriage), Paul saw singleness as a gift given by God to select people. As a single he would have more time to devote to ministry. But Paul also realized many Christians were not so called and suggested they pursue marriage, remain pure and not bring reproach on the gospel. Paul's personal gift of singleness has led some churches to require celibacy of its clergy, but nowhere in Scripture is such a standard required. Singleness is a special gift of the Spirit to various individuals in the entire Body of Christ, not just to leaders.
Many are not single by choice but rather through circumstance. This group includes: the never married, the divorced, and those who are alone because of spousal death (widows and widowers).
Although usually unintentional, many in the church have not recognized the emotional and spiritual needs of singles. Nor have they realized the great ministry potential of singles. This occurs for various reasons. Probably the most common reason is the predominance of married couples within the church who unwittingly overlook singles and their needs. For example: social events are planned with the assumption that men and women will come in pairs, either as married or dating couples. The single who needs and desires fellowship is often overlooked. In such cases the single feels left out and stays away from an occasion which should be edifying and supportive.
Some churches have responded effectively to the isolation and needs of singles by providing quality singles ministries that offer support and group fellowship. While such ministries are often effective in ministering to this vital segment of the church, they have also proven counter productive in certain local settings. For example, singles groups tend to focus primarily on one of four areasnever married youth, never married older adults, divorced mates, or widowed adultsusually at the exclusion of the other three. Add to each group the presence of small children, teenagers, or adult children and the mix becomes even more complex. It is further complicated by age and gender differences. This brings to question whether or not singles should be seperated from the main body of believers. Many singles would say such separation only increases their isolation. What many singles want is acceptance and fellowship as adult equals in the body of Christ.
Married persons often fail to realize that singles want to form friendships with married couples. Although married couples have common concerns that draw them together (i.e.: cementing marital relationships and rearing children in two-parent homes), they need to include singles, mutually sharing and receiving the love of Christ as appropriate to the age level and gender status.
Singles should be encouraged and helped to use their singleness for God. As Paul suggested, ministry can be more focused and intense when family obligations are not present. Singles who make this commitment and devote themselves to ministry should be respected by others in the church for their commitment to Christ. Though there may be situations in which a married couple can be more effective and less vulnerable to temptations, the church has the responsibility of providing singles the opportunity to bless, edify, and minister to others.
One category of Christians should never depreciate the gifting and role of other Christians. The rich should never depreciate the poor. The educated should never despise the uneducated. The less educated should never ignore those who have learned through diligent study. Just as singles should not depreciate those who are married, so the married should not ignore the singles. We are one in the Body of Christ (Galatians 3:26-28). We should be one in the bonds of love.
The above statement is based upon our common understanding of scriptural teaching.
All Scripture quotations are from the New International Version (NIV) unless otherwise specified.