on being a minister’s husband in a certain denomination

I have been pondering the issue of women in church leadership a lot for the last few weeks.

If you don’t know me you might be thinking ‘OK, that’s a pretty weird thing to be thinking about’ :but it’s not for me. Because unusually  I’ve found myself attending a church where the minister is a woman.

And even more unusually I happen to be married to her.

I’m not talking about her though (well I am I suppose….but not really). I’m talking about things from my perspective.

In a way my perspective is even less common than that of female minister in PCI, it’s that of a husband of PCI minister. I’m a freak!

This pondering started when I unknowingly switched on coverage from the General Assembly at the start of the month. Bad decision!
I was at home by myself as ___ was up at the Assembly for the week. 2 trains journeys up, a long way to go. There was a round of applause at a certain point of debate that seemed to coincide with a male minister saying that he didn’t think biblically that women should be ordained. (People have told me that the applause might have been for other stuff but the way I perceived it was that the applause for ‘no women’ was much louder that for a few speakers before hand who were thinking about how more women could be encouraged to become ministers.)

I heard that some people had been heckling when a women minister was speaking.
I’ve heard some people worrying that someday they might want to take a vote on the issue. (I’m not sure if that’s people worrying over nothing but even so, why would they be worried enough to think that?)

So when I hear the principle of the denominational training college on national radio a few days later saying that ideally he would probably prefer to not be training women for the task of leading a church I’m not really sure how to react as a Christian and as a husband of women minister. Because somehow with the mystery of marriage there is a ‘two-become-one’ sort of thing going on. Or at least that’s what I think is going on. I’m not really sure sometimes. I’ve no blueprint for this stuff!

My more balanced friends emphasis the need to allow people their conscience,
to show grace,
to treat it as a secondary issue and not get hung up over it,
to not question if that is the ideal position for someone in charge of running the training college to hold.

It feels like they want to put the ball in my court to deal with my issues, my anger or lack of grace, almost as it’s my fault that this is becoming an issue, that I don’t really understand the good news by getting annoyed or that I shouldn’t be moaning about it all the time. According to some my soul is even at risk for getting so worked up over a secondary issue .

I know we’re to forgive people and treat them with grace and love. We’re brothers and sisters in the Lord. But at what point do you go ‘Hold on, I don’t think you’re treating other people fairly… ‘ And how loudly do you shout about it?

When I listened to the radio interview I could hear nervousness in the voice and appreciate the bravery and honesty. I also deeply value my freedom and conscience so agree we shouldn’t be forcing people to go against their conscience.

But as a husband who upped sticks and moved from a place he enjoyed so that his wife could train for ministry in a place he mightn’t have chosen for himself it’s hard not to question if it’s an ideal position for someone who is principle to hold. Perhaps I’ve an insight into how much of cold house it might have been for a women minister in PCI and would question if it’s going to make other gifted women feel like they would be treated fairly in the college or would encourage them to want to study there?

If we were living in Dublin now and thinking about moving to Belfast so that ____ could train for 4 or 5 years and heard that interview I’d still appreciate the honesty, recognise the need for people to have their conscience but my primary thought would be:-

‘The principle of the college has just told us that he personally doesn’t agree with what we thought God was calling __ to do. It’s hard enough moving from a community that values us to new place without being unsure if people actually want you there. I’m not sure we belong in this denomination, it feels like they’re saying you’re sloppy seconds’

That’s what I’d think anyway.

In part I’m annoyed because I nearly see it as a gospel issue, not some secondary issue.

Because although it doesn’t have anything to do with whether you’re saved or not surely it might have something to do with whether other people are saved or not?

It might discourage a gifted women enough to stop her thinking she could use her gifts to reach people for Jesus . If you’re a Christian and you’re hindering or discouraging people from using their God given gifts for the sake of some ‘secondary issue’ maybe it’s becoming more than a secondary issue? You don’t have to be out with placards, you can be friendly and polite but still be saying.that ‘I don’t want to encourage this person to be a church leader as much as I could as I think it’s unbiblical and a gospel issue’.

If you want to reach Ireland with the good news of Jesus you need men and women using their gifts. And sometimes I wonder if PCI is happy to become a place that says ‘We don’t really want women using their gifts in this particular church leading way’. Which annoys me because people are putting good news road blocks in the way.

Especially maybe the people who are telling me this is a secondary issue. If you really think it’s a secondary issue why not do more to encourage women who might be gifted but not feel encouraged?  


3 thoughts on “on being a minister’s husband in a certain denomination”

  1. Here in the states, I’ve seen how the question on women in leadership has torn entire denominations asunder. I was a Southern Baptist – in these churches women can rank only as highly as a pastor’s wife, and no further. “You see,” the pastor once explained; “God just doesn’t give women the gift of leadership, that’s why they don’t have the role of being a leader or a teacher or the head of the household. God designed men and women differently, with separate but equal spheres of responsibility and influence. A husband is to be the spiritual head of the household who teaches his wife and children everything there is to know. He holds down the job and provides for his family’s well-being and security. A wife is to joyfully submit to the authority of her husband as she raises and nurtures their children (She gets bonus points for having many children and being a stay-at-home and home-school mom, so that her kids aren’t under the evil influence of public education.) She is also to obey the authorities over her, the pastor, the deacons, and the elders (all of them men, of course, God doesn’t permit women to speak in churches, or lead, or have authority over men.)” This is what every little girl has been taught since she was old enough to understand God’s word for the past three decades; they sometimes refer to themselves as “help-meets” to their husbands (a reference to Eve’s design parameter.) The problem is that for those who dance to the beat of a different drum, they’re essentially being unbiblical (which almost as bad as being heretical) and they often find themselves with little to no support. The irony being that once, in the 1960s, a SBC church ordained a woman to be a pastor. That’s the whole long and short of it right there. I wonder if Ireland is in for the same confrontation – if the denomination will be torn asunder on the question and a legion of churches will break away so that they can have it their way (whichever way they choose.) I’m not sure what helpful advice I could give you – this anti-women-in-leadership sentiment is very powerful and very difficult to defeat because they believe they are speaking the very Word and Will of God; just as much as the pro-women-in-leadership side does.

    1. thanks so much for leaving the comment Jamie. I actually never thought that this issue would be something that would tear our church apart as the places we’ve been in have been nothing but encouraging.
      We’re also in a place that is far away (in Irish terms) from the centre of the church. But I’ve heard different people bring it up stuff like ‘votes’. I also think that there is a quite a lot of people who have been influenced by pastors who are on The Gospel Coalition (or similiar organisations) and they’re men who’ve managed to stick the issue in their statement of faith. So it’s a judgement on me (because they believe that there are certain roles men should be doing and ‘allowing’ your wife to be a minister is going against the Word of God).
      It’s also a judgement on my church family, almost like they’re saying we’re a church that obviously doesn’t take the Bible seriously.

      1. They fail to honor individuals, they would rather treat people like they’re all the same and say that they all have to live the same way. The Gospel Coalition, the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, Acts 29, 9 Marks and other complementarian organizations feel that if a man “lowers himself” or “goes beneath himself” to do “women’s work” then he betrays who God designed him to be as a man. It’s almost as if they believe that men and women are two completely different types of beings in God’s creation. The sad thing is, I believe Jesus was trying to tell everyone to be humble – and part of that is knowing when to give up privilege or power. That’s something complementarian groups just don’t get because their foundation is not on the love of Christ, but on the authority of men. I’d take it as a high compliment that they look down on you, it must mean you’re doing something right.

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