By Charley Alexander, James Moore and J.D. Harris
We are sharing the following information for the sole purpose of urging brethren everywhere to be as careful and cautious as possible in supporting gospel preachers from the church treasury. The information we are sharing makes us painfully aware of how important it is to know what is being taught with the Lord’s money.
On July 19, 1985 we answered Don Givens’ plea for support by sending him a letter with $1,000 to help him move to Hawaii to labor in the gospel of Christ with the Leeward church. Before agreeing to help Don, we wrote him two letters asking him about his stand on divorce and remarriage. His return letters gave scriptural answers to our questions. He answered with openness and courage that he was willing for anyone to know his stand at any time. He declared, “This is where I stand, and this is what I preach – and I am not ashamed to let anybody know” (Don’s May 13, 1985 letter to West Columbia in answering our questions).
We continued to follow his work with great interest. During 1991 we were disturbed to learn from one of his taped sermons in Hawaii that he was not preaching what he told us he would be preaching on divorce and remarriage. After assuring us of his stand in 1985 and receiving our support on that basis, he asked for additional help in November of 1987. Within a few days of that request, he preached at Leeward directly opposite to what he assured us he was preaching. When we later learned about this, we wrote Don a letter dated June 26, 1991, asking for clarification.
We said in part,
Don, we read every report you sent with great care, followed your work with sincere interest, and fervently prayed for you and the church there. In addition to regular reports, at times you sent us more detailed information and requests because you recognized our love and concern. As you put it in your letter of November 5, 1987, you felt we had a special interest “since you helped me move to Hawaii to preach.”
To remind Don of our earlier questions and his answers, we sent him a photocopy of the following section of his letter to us dated May 13, 1985:
You asked: (1) Do you believe and teach that if a man divorces his wife without the cause of fornication, and while she lives he marries another, he and the new mate are living in adultery? My answer: Absolutely yes. It is an adulterous union. He had no right to marry her, if fornication was not present. Only “for fornication” would give the innocent party the right to re-marry.
(2) Also, would the nature of repentance require that he end the second marriage, or would the nature of forgiveness permit him to continue in the second marriage? My answer: It is adultery. To be genuinely repented of, he must cease his adultery. He has no right to her, in this case. I would tell him the same thing John the Baptizer told Herod: “You have no right to her.”
We also sent him a photocopy of the following section of his letter to us dated June 13, 1985:
As to your question: quote, “If the put -away- fornicator remarries, are he and the new mate living in adultery? Would the nature of repentance require that this marriage be ended?” My answer: Absolutely yes, it is adultery. And yes, repentance requires that one cease the sin engaged in. The apostle Paul tells us that if we separate, we are to (1) remain unmarried, or (2) be reconciled. These are the only two options that I know the N.T. gives, and I believe that the innocent could put away the guilty, and have the right to remarry; but the guilty would be left with only the first option (remain unmarried) because he/she has already destroyed the possibility of the second option (“be reconciled”).
Don did not consider these views secret, private, or confidential, but stressed that this is what he publicly preached. “This is where I stand, and this is what I preach – and I am not ashamed to let anybody know.”
The clarity and strength of Don’s stand is underscored by his response to an inquiry as to whether he had any direct knowledge about where Sam Dawson and Lowell Williams stand. Don said he talked “firsthand” with Sam Dawson “and his point is that when a marriage is broken by fornication, etc., that there is no longer any bond – so both are free to remarry.” Don said he had “argued and disagreed” with Sam. “As to brother Lowell Williams’ position – he has been misrepresented extensively. Basically, his positions are the same as mine.” These statements by Don were dated June 13, 1985.
As we told Don, we are now aware that Lowell preached a sermon which was tape recorded on April 28, 1985, affirming that the guilty party has a scriptural right to remarry. How can Don and Lowell teach the same thing when Don’s letter clearly says that if the put-away- fornicator remarries, he and the new mate are living in adultery? “Absolutely yes, it is adultery, ” Don says. Lowell says he used to preach the same thing twenty years ago, but now says we have no right to call such a marriage adultery. We asked in our letter, “Don, how can these two opposite positions be basically the same?”
Our letter to Don dated June 26, 1991 pointed out that his sermon as preached and taped at the Leeward church on December 12, 1987 teaches directly opposite point by pot . nt to what he told us he was preaching in 1985. His November 1987 letter gave us every assurance he was still preaching what we helped him “move to Hawaii to preach.” His letter of August 30, 1988 gave us further reassurance that he was upholding in Hawaii the same gospel which we are upholding in West Columbia, Texas, as he sought additional financial help. Yet, he says on the tape of his December 1987 sermon that second marriages made after unscriptural divorces are not adulterous, and adds, “I don’t know why I couldn’t have seen it the first twenty years of my preaching. ” As the tape continues, he identifies the truth he had heard and preached “all of my life” as “error,” “false doctrine,” “human traditions,” and “doctrines of demons”!
We asked in our letter of June 26, 1991,
Don, have you changed your preaching on divorce and remarriage? If so, when and why? As we understand from brethren who recently visited Hawaii, you have also stated that you have not changed your basic position on divorce and remarriage for the past 27 years and that your position is the one taught by Jerry Bassett in his book Rethinking Marriage, Divorce and Remarriage (1991). Jerry’s book does not affirm what you affirmed in answer to our questions in 1985. So, again, we ask, have you changed your position or not? If so, when and why?
When others have asked about Don’s position on the issues covered in our 1985 questions, Don has said he is “glad” to report that his views are “basically the same as brother Homer Hailey.” Hailey’s error would not match Don’s answers to our questions. Don also endorses the “articles” of “Ed Harrell” in Christianity Magazine as permitting “fellowship” with brethren who teach and practice things contrary to what Jesus taught on divorce and remarriage.
Near the end of our letter of June 26, 1991 we made the following request for clarification:
Don, surely you can see that your position needs to be clarified. How can you answer our questions so clearly and scripturally, adding, “I am not ashamed to let anybody know it,” but then tell other brethren that you are “glad” to tell anyone that you hold the opposite answers to the same basic questions? If you misled us, surely you would feel an ethical responsibility to return the money we sent. If you have totally reversed your position, what passages dictated your present views? We need to learn the truth if we do not know it. We respectfully request that you answer the same three questions you covered in 1985, using Scripture and explanations as you did before.
When brethren are asked to send and support a preacher somewhere, there should be no hesitation on the church’s part in asking or on the preacher’s part in declaring what will be taught. We still do not know what happened to Don Givens because he never answered our letter. We can only hope he will repent of the error he is teaching and stand for “all the counsel of God” on divorce and remarriage (Acts 20:27).
In the meantime, we continue to hear of churches involved in supporting Don which are not aware of his error. Don applied his error to an actual case of unscriptural remarriage in the church at Leeward, which divided that church. In the aftermath of this problem, as the Leeward church was considering terminating his work with them, he resigned the work in July of 1991. Some churches have continued sending Don financial support because they have not been aware of his error or of the &vision and resignation resulting from this error. None of this information was provided in the reports which Don continued to send out (and perhaps is still sending out?) to those churches. None of this information was included in Don’s reports dated August 1991, September-October 1991, and November-December 1991.
Since each church is autonomous, we can only plead with brethren to inquire and investigate when you invest the Lord’s money in supporting preachers.
Guardian of Truth XXXVI: 9, pp. 272-273
May 7, 1992