When Charles Stanley Got a Divorce

A Southern Baptist icon horrified his religion

Jonathan Poletti
I blog God.


On August 13, 1995, an emergency meeting was called at First Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia, to deal with a crisis situation. The pastor’s wife wanted a divorce.

This was no ordinary pastor. Charles Stanley was a Southern Baptist superstar, and seen as nearly a divine being. But the rules were the rules. They saw divorce as banned by God.

The meeting would determine, the announcement said, if he “should resign unconditionally or be removed…because he is biblically unqualified.”

It was a crisis for the religion too.

Stanley was the face of Southern Baptist theology, known worldwide for his books and T.V. show, In Touch With Dr. Charles Stanley. He was a spiritual guide to millions. His media company brought in some $35 million a year.

But divorce was banned, and a pastor’s divorce was doubly banned. For Southern Baptists, that’s how the Bible was read. A pastor had to “manage his own family well” (cf. 1 Tim 3.4). Stanley, apparently, had not.

He acknowledged it all, saying from the pulpit: “If my wife divorces me, I would…