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Renowned evangelical Wayne Grudem changes stance on divorce in abuse cases

The co-founder of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood has previously only supported divorce on the grounds of either infidelity or abandonment by an unbeliever.

Speaking to Christianity Today, Grudem said he was prompted to re-examine scripture after learning of real-life experiences of abuse within marriage.

"My wife Margaret and I became aware of some heartbreaking examples of such things as severe sexual humiliation and degradation that had continued for decades, and another case of physical battering that had gone on for decades".

He added: "In all these situations the abused spouse had kept silent, believing that a Christian's duty was to preserve the marriage unless there was adultery or desertion, which had not happened."

These revelations lead Grudem to research whether the bible warranted those trapped in abusive marriages to separate from their partner.

In a talk entitled: "Grounds for Divorce: Why I Now Believe There Are More than Two", Grudem shared his new perspective to a gathering of scholars at the Evangelical Theological Society last week.

The theologian now believes abuse can give grounds for divorce, on the premise that the decision is made with prayer and pastoral oversight.

His fresh reasoning lies in the interpretation of 1 Corinthians 7:15, which says "But if the unbelieving partner separates, let it be so. In such cases, the brother or sister is not enslaved. God has called you to peace" - a verse that Grudem, together with many other complementarians, have previously related only to divorce in the case of desertion.

Grudem says he now believes "such cases" can be understood more broadly to include a range of cases that lead to the destruction of a marriage, including abuse.

The Systematic Theology author insists that restoration should remain the first point of call when considering divorce but a church leader may consider divorce appropriate if, following counselling and discipline, the abuse continues.

According to findings from LifeWay Reseach, 55 per cent of evangelical pastors believe divorce may be the best option in cases of domestic violence, while only 4 percent say a couple should never divorce, even when violence is present.

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