By Hoyt H. Houchen
Question: Can a man serve as an elder after his wife passes away?
Reply: By fulfilling the qualifications of an elder as prescribed by the Holy Spirit in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:7-9, a man has thus proved himself to oversee the local church. There is no reason that he must cease serving as an elder because he suffers the loss of his wife. He has already proven his ability to rule his family. Should any of the members of his family pass away, a man does not for that reason, become disqualified.
Not only do the Scriptures teach that for a man to qualify to serve as an elder he must be “the husband of one wife,” but they also teach that he must have children. If after he has been appointed and serves as an elder, suppose his children should be killed. This would not disqualify him to continue to serve as an elder. He has already proven himself to be qualified by the fact that he has had “children in subjection.”
His being married (the husband of one wife) and having children in subjection are qualifications which he has met to become an elder. After proving his ability to be a God-approved elder in the local flock, there is no reason that he ceases to be qualified because of family loss whether it be his wife or children, or both. Should it be argued that a man who is an elder loses his wife by death does not then have a wife, therefore would be disqualified, let us remember that there is a vast difference in having had a wife and never being married. The reason for a man having a family in order to be an elder is to prove his ability to rule his family and thus be able to “take care of the house of God.” A man could not be considered to become an elder who has no family because there would be no way to prove his ability to rule. It is a different matter with the man who is an elder and has proven this ability.
This is my conviction about the matter. In the event, however, that an elder’s wife dies and there are objections to his continuing to serve, rather than to have trouble over it, it would be best for him to cease serving. But it should be for this reason, not because his wife or some other member of his family passes away. He has the same character and the same ability that he did before he lost his wife. I see no reason, therefore, for a church to be deprived of a godly elder’s services simply because he suffers the loss of his wife or children.
Guardian of Truth XXIX: 20, p. 613
October 17, 1985