the big one – married to the minister no.4

…except it’s not my last post as I nearly forgot the most obvious difficulty about being married to woman who is a pastor namely that many good Christians think that only a man should be leading a church and teaching men. Some people very obviously believe it is a sin while with others you aren’t sure what they are really thinking but suspect they think the same but won’t say.

I’ve thought about this many times but maybe not as many times as a man in my position might have been expected to.
The main reason is something of what I’d mentioned in the first post.

The traditional role of a minister has been built up and inflated out of proportion to what it actually is and should be in my opinion. It is seen as the key position, the most important position in any church as if that church should call a duffer then things start to go wrong.

It would be silly of me to say that they’re is not some truth in that as if you’ve a minister teaching things that just aren’t true (like Roman Catholics can’t be saved for example or that you shouldn’t enjoy an alcoholic beverage or two) then things will go wrong.

But at the same time there is too much emphasis and prestige placed around the minister/pastor/vicar as the leader of a church. Their position matters too much.

Because it is seen as the key position the debate about whether women should be in the position of church leadership takes a more prominent position than maybe it should and is blown out of proportion.  Some people seem to think that if we don’t get this right they’re won’t be a revival and we’re off to hell in a hand basket.

Again I’m not saying it isn’t important to think about these issues but perhaps there are more burning, pressing issues out there to be getting our knickers in a twist about? What about injustice or encouraging people in their work and dealing people who have no hope?

Which is why I’ve not thought about it that much. At the end of the day we don’t have to answer to anyone but God. And I live with the evidence and the evidence is everything you could possibly want in a pastor and more.

Besides often the debate isn’t really about the question of women in ministry but how Christian’s should interpret or read the Bible. The debates and fights for truth over issues like this aren’t about whether ____ would be suitable as a minister but over the authority of the Bible and how we should interact with it. The issue over homosexuality as well is maybe more about how people read and treat the Bible than issues of sexuality. For some Christians I know it is very important that life is black and white, right or wrong with no room for shades of grey and things that don’t really matter that much. They like to major on the minor’s as my friend Trevor used to say.

Many Presbyterians I know and have known will insist that the Bible is literally true and that if you don’t submit to it’s authority, even the difficult bits you are sinning.

S0 when Paul writes in a personal letter to one man that he’s doesn’t permit women to teach in church it seems fairly obvious to them that applies to all women from then until now. But does it?

They’ll talk about Greek words and context and arguments from Genesis and this and that while forgetting that the ordinary man on the street just doesn’t care.

They just want to know that if they’re mother is terminally ill someone from the church will come and visit and pray with them. They want to know that someone cares for them when they’re struggling with life. They want to know that someone is praying for them or that if they loose their job it will be OK.

Again I’m not saying that it isn’t important or a vital position but it doesn’t seem to have sunk in that all people occupy an important and vital position in the scheme of things.  The teachers, bin men, farmers, Tesco workers all have a ministry and matter as much as the minister.
Put simply there is too much emphasis on the role of the pastor and what he/she does or doesn’t do.
There is too much expectation and pressure with the position and by default with the family of a minister to be something more than an ordinary pilgrim struggling with things as much as the next person.

What would happen if a minister got up on Sunday morning and said how they really had been that week?
How they are struggling with addiction, or clinically depressed, or had been having huge fights with their spouse?
How they didn’t trust God as they are sick of having no money to go on a simple holiday or to buy a new car?
How they struggled with family members or struggled with pornography or said the church should be  welcoming but didn’t really like anyone?
How they had lied that week or were greedy, how they had thrown the sermon together at the last minute and didn’t really believe the words they where saying?

The list goes on and on yet it seems to be a matter for most if not all ministers to suck it up every week and be expected to churn out an inspirational sermon whether they feel like it or not, even whether they truly believe it or not.
It is their job and much like you would get the sack if you didn’t turn up for work on Monday morning and do your job so the church minister is obliged to do a sermon whether they feel like it or not.

The disconnect is hard though isn’t it?
If all the stuff someone like myself has been taught in church over the years is true then this Jesus stuff should be life changing and we should be whole people.
If we’re fundamentally doubting inside but saying things on the outside that sound good and correct surely that doesn’t mean we’re whole people at all.
Isn’t that why Jesus hammers the Pharisees in Matthew 23?

It’s hypocritical.

As a spouse how can someone help their husband/wife to be a whole, healthy person if  their job and the expectations of the job put them on some type of treadmill that doesn’t allow them to be a whole, healthy person?


‘buy one, get one free’ – being married to the minister No.1

Without getting into too much detail something today made me think about the role of the minister/pastor/vicar’s wife,
or in this case minister/pastor/vicar’s husband for that is what I am.

For years it has been part and parcel of things that when a married minister is called to a new church, the church doesn’t just gain a new minister, they gain a new, active and willing member of the church in the person they are married to as well. The church doesn’t so much call a minister, it calls a family unit.
Yet you will rarely hear that ‘The S____’s have been called to 1st Ballymuck’ just that ‘Jimmy S____ has been called to 1st Ballymuck and we welcome his wife Jane as well’

It’s just one of those things apparently,a sort of ‘Buy One, Get One Free’ deal where the wife or other one is there in a supporting role, like Robin to Batman or Kevin Bond to Harry Redknapp.

But there are problems, especially if you set on the journey and find that the scenery changes dramatically along route.
It is not as simple as someone training for a certain job while the other half leads their life.
For Christians the church and what goes on there is the most important thing about life on this earth.
So what to do if your marriage, faith, struggles,job, vocation, community, life all somehow become tangled up in what your wife does for a living, if your minister is your wife and your wife your minister?
Who is that person giving the sermon on a Sunday morning?
Your wife or your minister?
How do you respond to the sermon?
As a someone struggling with their faith and taking issue with something your wife might have said or as a husband eager and wanting to encourage someone you love?

The problems though hard to define are there so I’m going to blog a bit about this the next while.
This is mainly for myself I suppose and incase others out there ponder such things.
Personally I’ve felt a bit isolated as someone who is struggling with faith and religion, who is maybe also a bit artistic and married to someone heading down a certain path being marked on their abilities AND (this is the whole point of this post I guess) has got lumbered with a very non-traditional other half.

Does that make sense? Probably not, especially if you have nothing to do with Christianity. But it’s not all doodles and making up new names for star constellations.

1 Minister Ego
The first thing that I want to highlight is the position of authority that a minister still occupies in Presbyterian church life.
Say what you will about everybody having a role to play and the priesthood of all believers,
when push comes to shove the minister is the don and quarterback, the one calling the shots,
the person that is leading and directing the church.

I’m not saying that all are like that, or that they even want it but it seems to be the way of things from what I’ve observed over the years.

As George Orwell writes in Animal Farm
All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others’

I’m not saying that ministers are power hungry pigs,
but the traditional role of a minister and all the baggage that comes with it does give them a certain power over the rest of the church.

They are seen as the ones who are closest to God as they are paid to spend time reading the Bible or praying, have studied theology and are naturally gifted that way.

It can work itself out in many different ways and have consequences right from the start of things.

One way is the process of seeing if someone is called to ‘the ministry’.
It is a long, drawn out process that tests and retests and checks and counter checks and trains in a certain way and finally says ‘You are now OK to be a minister’

The length and pondering makes it seem that you have embarked on the most serious Christian ministry of all time and that there is no going back for you or your family.
Once you’re on the treadmill there will be no turning back,
this is serious and if you fail in this mission you’ve back slidden or something or something worse.

Of course there should be training and we should be careful who we choose BUT does it have to feel so serious,
like you are entering into a sovereign bargain with God,
even more sacred than marriage and that you’re a terrible Christian if you don’t stick the course?

Even the terminology of ‘the ministry’ is deeply ingrained and unhelpful.
I’ve been asked at times ‘Have you been called to the ministry?’ as if there is only a special class of person who is holy enough to enter the Navy SEALS or SAS of ministry and become a Presbyterian minister. We look up to these people and expect them to be better than us then get all pissy when they let us down.

The problem is when it comes to other members of  the congregation and their ministries,if  what they do  in their daily life are even called or recognised as being ministries.
Because what the minister/or pastor is seen as ‘the ministry‘ all other ministries aren’t seen as important or even recognised as ministry. Teaching kids in school? Emptying bins? Being a housekeeper?

It’s the old line of ‘full time Christian ministry’ as well.
If a minister decides that it would be good for the church for you to become a Sunday School teacher or play guitar in the praise group he/she can use the seriousness of the ministry to over rule you and say in a sort of abusive way that you’re letting the side down if you don’t join the praise group.
Inside you might be saying

‘Well I don’t really have time for that, I work 6 days a week in my job and I want to sleep in on Sunday morning. If I join the praise group I will have to practice and there will be no more sleep ins. But Rev _____ thinks it is important and he is holy and knows the things of God so I should just suck it up and get up on a Sunday morning’

Again it reminds me of the way the pigs in Animal Farm manipulate the other animals into doing things their way. Am I being harsh? Perhaps so.

The question is why does the minister fail to see that that person has been in ministry all week in his work place, and he has been in ministry with his family when he wasn’t at work etc and that they’re not necessarily being lazy and uncommitted just because they don’t want to join the praise group or teach Sunday school?

I guess that another way of saying it is that some minister’s think that the congregation are a bunch of lazy lukewarm Christians who could do with getting more involved with the church when the reality is that the congregation are too involved with the church or the pastor’s vision of the church.