My Experiences With Dating And Remarriage In The UPC

By Mary


Dating

Some who visit this site may not be familiar with Pentecostal dating, which is very different than what most people have experienced “in the world,” or in non Pentecostal settings. The case of Driver v. Fogarty is better understood once Pentecostal subculture is studied. What I write below may or may not reflect the teachings of Pastor Mark Fogarty, but they do represent the broad spectrum of teachings and the wide variety of beliefs I've heard regarding dating within the United Pentecostal Church (UPC) for a number of years.

Most UPC churches don't allow their young people to date "outside the church" or "in the world." Young people are generally warned never to date someone of a different denomination, or even someone in a UPC with different dress codes or "holiness standards." It can be extremely difficult to meet and marry someone within the UPC, yet there is a tremendous pressure for young people to marry within a short time of their high school graduations. As much as they are warned not to become 'unequally yoked with unbelievers,' too often they actually become 'unequally yoked' in Pentecostal churches with someone they have very little in common with, other than going to the same church or a church with a pastor who holds similar beliefs to their pastor‘s.

Dating rules differ vastly from Pentecostal church to church, even in the same general vicinity. In my first church dating rules were fairly lax. We were not to be alone in a house belonging to someone of the opposite sex- whether they were home or not. A single person was not to babysit a single man's child in his home, nor was she to be seen at his house unless there were someone else present, too. A man was to get permission from the pastor before "going steady," but one-time dates were acceptable without permission.

When any single Pentecostal in any church I've been familiar with becomes interested in someone, they are expected to go to their pastor for permission to date or talk. In some churches their interest may be simply stated to the pastor. In others, the pastor grants specific permission and gives approval or blessing for a young man to date- or even to talk to- a young woman. This somewhat follows the old tradition of the young man asking a young woman's father's permission to court her. The pastor is often very involved in both introducing the couple to one another or prompting one or the other parties' interest. This involvement often also continues into the dating relationship. Depending on the pastor, he may counsel them, may tease them, or may even publicly announce them as a couple either by teasing or alluding to their interest.

In the church I left, a young man and woman were told not even to call each other until they had obtained the pastor's permission to talk. They had to receive further permission to date and to get engaged, in order to remain in good standing. A dating woman was never to call her boyfriend unless he asked her to call him at a given time. Otherwise she was seen as forward. A dating couple was never to hold hands or kiss, even after they became engaged. To do so bordered on fornication, because it was a form of sexual contact. The first time a couple was to hold hands was when the preacher said, "You may now join hands," and their first kiss was when he said, "You may now kiss the bride." A truly 'godly' couple wouldn't even shake hands or have even the tiniest physical contact before their wedding day. A dating couple was never to be alone together until they were married. If they went on a date, a chaperone should always be present. Preferably a married couple would chaperone. One dating couple never chaperoned another, and all chaperones had to be adults in good church standing with the church.

There was tremendous pressure on singles and dating couples to marry. I've heard sixteen year olds complain that they were old maids because they hadn't dated anyone or didn't have a boyfriend. Young men and women who didn't date would be looked at suspiciously and asked, "What's wrong with you?" If a single wasn't seriously dating someone, it was often rumored that they were either "playing the field", "carnal" or "homosexual." If a young person answered the inevitable questions by saying that they hadn't met the right person, or they were waiting on God, they were told to "hurry up," to commit to God more, or told they needed to be less picky... even if there were no other men in their churches.


Divorce

Divorce is strongly frowned on in the UPC. In most Pentecostal churches I'm familiar with, when a person divorces, they are at minimum given a period of six months to a year when they are not allowed to date. In some churches, a divorced person may not be allowed to date anyone again until their ex either is reconciled to them or dies. Even in churches that are more accepting of divorce, it can be difficult to remarry due to an extremely strong emphasis on sexual purity and virginity.

It would appear by what I know of Pentecostal subculture, and by the facts as presented by the media and in court documents, that the announcement made on July 25, 2006 demonstrates that Pastor Mark Fogarty had some concern for the reaction of the members of his church to the announcement of his daughter's relationship with a divorcee. In order to make the divorce Biblically valid in the eyes of many Apostolic Pentecostals, he would have needed to prove that fornication had occurred (Mt 19:9), and that Mr. Driver was the "innocent party"- that his wife had fornicated, even though he was a good husband and Christian man, leaving him no choice but divorce due to her immorality. Since according to his church website, Pastor Fogarty had pastored that church since approximately 1998, it is quite possible that he had also preached and counseled against divorce and remarriage in the past. This probability (though only a hypothesis) would definitely have increased his concerns, as it was his daughter's relations with a divorcee that prompted the announcement.

At any rate, generally if there has been fornication or adultery in a Pentecostal church, it would have been either well known or well guessed, talked about in private, or publicly condemned. For that reason, the fact that her alleged 'sin' was not announced until between three or four months after Mr. Drivers' divorce was finalized, it points to Pastor Fogarty‘s probable concern for his daughter‘s pending romantic interest, not his Biblical interpretation of any passage. Also, the act of 'sin' was not announced specifically, but rather alluded to as having been one of nine acts of sexual immorality. This not only kept Pastor Fogarty from needing to explain what he considered wrong if an act was socially acceptable (yet not considered morally pure or holy in his church), but also planted seeds of gossip in the minds of members and rooted the slander more deeply. Not many people in a Pentecostal setting would hear an announcement like Pastor Fogarty’s on July 25, 2006, without later discussing amongst themselves what Ms. Driver's actual deeds may have been, or things they also suspected her of.

So what was the alleged act that Pastor Fogarty condemned that night? According to media sources and court documents, Ms. Driver had been seen in a bathing suit, at a pool, with a man other than her husband. Pastor Fogarty defined this clothing choice as a form of exhibitionism, and further defined exhibitionism as a sexually immoral act worthy of the term "fornication." Granted, according to the UPC Manual, Pentecostals are to dress modestly and are not to engage in mixed public bathing. Most Pentecostal ladies are expected to wear skirts that covers their knees and blouses that aren’t revealing in public. But according to some media sources, Ms. Driver had not been a member at Pastor Fogarty’s church for several months. Above that, no matter her clothing choices or such attire’s acceptance amongst Pentecostals, she was quite well within the guidelines of what is socially acceptable in America today. Her ex, on the other hand, might come under suspicion in many minds "in the world" because he became publicly "romantically involved" and remarried so soon after his divorce... regardless of the reasons for the divorce.

What I've written is based on my own experiences in almost 20 years in Oneness Pentecostalism and UPC. These perspectives and experiences may or may not reflect the positions held by any individual pastor or church, including Mark Fogarty's.


Posted July 11, 2010



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