More advice needed on plural marriages in Africa please

By John Bedson

A rec. bro. In Africa has asked for my advice and help dealing with plural marriage in his ecclesia. He specifically has asked for a list of ecclesias in the Developed World who would not disfellowship for a plural marriage.

This is not an easy question to answer. But I have told him that I very much doubt that the more liberal ecclesias in the West would disfellowship for a plural marriage. Obviously the extremist ecclesias would disfellowship for this.

I know that the Kenilworth UK ecclesia is liberal and I have put them in touch with this rec. bro. to give him advice.

Can you think of any other way that we can help him and his ecclesia to make an informed decision on this matter?


  1. I don't think you need to go much further than my earlier comment:
    "As for what the Bible teaches, so long as it's not contrary to the laws of the land, I don't think there is anything in the Bible that prohibits polygamy. Certainly Jesus upholds the ideal as one man, one wife, for life, but key characters like Abraham and David had multiple wives."

    Ecclesias in the western world would probably be right to condemn plural marriage in their own country because it is breaking the law. I'm not familiar with African law, but if it is permitted in a country I do not think ecclesias would have good grounds to condemn it.

    They may be able to question whether the ideal of Christ has been met, or whether brethren in positions of leadership should have multiple wives, but those are completely different questions from disfellowship.

  2. Email exchange.
    Rec Bro:
    You are welcome to visit but you must leave one wife outside the meeting room.
    African brother:
    I can`t do that, and as from next Saturday I will have three wives.
    Rec bro:
    You must leave two wives outside.
    African brother:
    Have you any idea how my life will be affected if I do this?
    Rec bro:
    Have you any idea how MY life will be affected if you come to my ecclesia.
    African Brother:
    Why not bring as many as your wives as you like to MY ecclesia.
    Rec Bro:
    Chance would be a fine thing.

  3. It's nothing wrong with a polygamy... Several in the old testaments married more than one wife. there is no where in the bible says that polygamy is not allowed. No one should stop this. It's wrong for them to stop. God approved marriage, but do not approve divorce.

  4. I don't think that the law of the land is very relevant when determining the morality of this issue, especially in countries where women's rights are widely violated. Unfortunately, societies that allow polygamy tend to treat women very badly. (If polygamy is to be endorsed, then logically so too should polyandry - a woman having multiple husbands.) In response to Anonymous on April 12: just because the Bible doesn't say that sex with children is not allowed, do we conclude that it is allowed? In some countries it's perfectly legal to marry a child, but that doesn't change the fact that it's morally reprehensible.

    1. Sex with children IS taught in the Bible. See Numbers 31: 17/18.

      “Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that hath known man by lying with him. But all the women children, that have not known a man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves."

      These virgin girl children were to be sex slaves for the Israelite warriors. That's why they had to be virgins. This was common practice in the ancient world, just as it is with Islamic Fundamentalists in our own time.

      The Bible is an abhorrent book written by humans, not by a supernatural god.

    2. I absolutely agree that the law of the land is not a very good proxy for morality. However, the reason we are looking at the law of the land here is that the Bible itself gives mixed messages about polygamy.

      Sure, you can look outside the Bible in search of true morality, but it's interesting that you need to take that step at all.

    3. But if you take child marriage as an example, would you take seriously someone who wanted to know whether such a practice was Biblically acceptable, on the basis that it is both traditionally accepted and legal in their country? Or would you refer first to your own sense of morality, which tells you it's wrong?

      What about forced marriage, or female genital mutilation (FGM), or any of the other issues that aren't specifically dealt with in the Bible? On these matters, Christadelphians like anyone else use their innate morality to assess them. Why is polygamy any different?

      In my opinion, Christadelphians already do enough harm in developing countries by discouraging people from engaging in the kind of active, useful social participation that could contribute to the progress these countries so desperately need (e.g. the democratic process). My deep concern is that, by tolerating the continuation of traditional practices that place women firmly in an inferior position (and I fear that polygamy is just such a practice), they would be doing further harm.

      As this is basically an internal Christadelphian matter and I'm no longer involved with that community, it's really none of my business. I only chipped in with my two cents' worth because to me this is a women's rights issue.

    4. Antonina,

      If, as you suggest, Christadelphians use their own "innate" sense of morality, rather than a Bible based morality, then they are false teachers, since like anybody else, they are simply following their own desire. Anecdotally, we know that Christadelphians do things that fall a long way short of what could loosely be called western morality. For SOME of them, infidelity, theft, manipulation, and greed, do not form part of that "innate" morality that you describe. What is needed to combat the ills you describe, is a developed society and legal system, not some meddlers with a perverted mixture of white western Victorian ideas mixed with and sampled from a thousands of years old book targetted at some middle eastern tribes.
      It is an internal Christadelphian matter. One with ever decreasing relevance.

    5. Joseph,

      I agree with most of your comment.

      I think we'd both agree that Christadelphians are capable of highly immoral behaviour. I'm not claiming any sort of moral high ground for them.

      When I talked about Christadelphians using their 'innate morality', I simply meant the same innate capacity for moral reasoning that all humans have. I didn't mean Christadelphians are all morally upstanding. Maybe 'innate morality' wasn't the best wording to use. Sorry, I should have been clearer.

      Note that I wasn't talking about applying this 'innate' morality INSTEAD OF 'Bible-based' morality. I was talking about applying our human sense of morality to moral issues on which the Bible provides no explicit guidance (like the examples I gave before). All Christians (have to) do this, including Christadelphians. That's not being a 'false teacher', that's just trying to plug the gaps that are there because the writers of the Bible

      a) never gave any thought to certain issues
      b) didn't foresee a whole bunch of modern ethical dilemmas (e.g. in medicine)
      c) as far as I can make out, didn't have any divine insight to guide them anyway.

      Personally I think rational thinking is a much better source of moral guidance than a collection of ancient books. Would that Christadelphians would come to the same conclusion.


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