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?  


Lady Thatcher and Paul

So former PM Margaret Thatcher has passed away, an event which I don’t have much of an opinion on truth be told.
I was too young to really care about who the PM was or about politics at the time.
She seems to be a little like Marmite, you either loved her or hate her but I don’t remember much about her except for a funny style in clothing which some people thought classy.
And she called murderous General Pinochet of Chile a friend, and said that any man who was still on the bus after the age of 26 yrs of age was a loser. So discard all I’ve just said, I firmly in the ‘not a fan’ section.

My thoughts are also on how we had a woman leading the country (two if we count The Queen) and having  a certain authority over men and women all over the country from every stage of their lives and yet there are still lots of churches in the country that can’t imagine having a woman leading in church as an elder or as the pastor. Or not that they can’t imagine it, but rather it’s not allowed in the Bible.

This doesn’t really much sense to me.
In 1 Timothy 2 you have Paul telling people in the church are told to pray for all those in authority, the Margaret Thatcher’s and Queen Elizabeth II’s of this world.

Further down you have Paul saying that he doesn’t allow women to assume authority over men.

I’ve heard different people say that Paul is not arguing from a specific time and place but is actually using an argument from the beginning of creation, an argument for the way humans are fundamentally designed and made to be and relate to each other in a perfect world. So even though culture says women can do lots of things these days God’s eternal, never changing Word says that women can’t be in positions of leadership in the church.

So if that is the way things are supposed to be in a world that God perfectly designed with women never assuming authority oven men then how can some churches be  happy with a female Queen or a female PM having authority over men?
It doesn’t make much sense to me.
Can a Christian who firmly believes  the Bible teaches that women shouldn’t assume authority over men (because that is the way God fundamentally created things to be) ever sing the British National anthem with a line such as ‘Send her victorious, long to reign over us?’ Because I’ve known lots of people like that in my time.

Or how can they pray for a woman in a position of authority over them such a Margaret Thatcher? Are they saying that ideally only a man should be reigning over us?

a little whine for my stomachs sake

‘Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach’s sake and thine often infirmities.’ 

 It has struck me how often we have disobeyed the clear teaching of God’s Word by avoiding wine and drinking the water Paul tells Timothy to avoid.
There is nowhere that says that this command is just for a certain time and place  so we should stop drinking water and get  the Shiraz in  instead.
If all Scripture is God breathed and useful  we wouldn’t want to be thinking that certain verses somehow don’t apply  to us today. And if Paul tells Timothy that he doesn’t allow women to have authority over men and this hasn’t changed why should should we deny this command to stop drinking water and drink a little wine in the same letter?

Now, where’s my corkscrew?

the 15th of January

So in a sense we made it, we got to a milestone in that from today , the 15th of January H__ could have her own church, a church in which she is the minister and I am officially the ministers wife.
This could happen soon or it could be in another year, it may not happen at all but it theoretically could happen, she is someone ready to be called. What does that mean? What lies ahead?
I don’t think it’s been an understatement to say that I’ve been completely dislocated by this whole experience of moving to somewhere that was in some sense chosen by people I don’t know, it was something that I was prepared to do but I never really settled and if truth be told I liked living in Dublin. Belfast has been a struggle,perhaps I resented different things too much.

I never really liked Belfast even when I was a student in Queens, I know lots of people love it but we just haven’t gelled at all. And I’ve been a nightmare to live with, I’ve withdrawn from people and being unemployed (or strictly speaking self employed) means that I’ve been hermit like.

So part of me wonders what the next move will be like? What will happen now that we’ve more of a say in our options? Yet also we’ve also less options because there are some churches that disagree with women ministers and won’t be interested. The major fear is that our next move will be as hard as this move was. That freaks me out. I’d like home of sorts, not just a house. So 15th January, you’ve been marked, a little stone alter of blog words has been left. Exile was tough, I want a home.


seal team 66

Seal team sixty six
(for John Piper and Mark Driscoll)

Seal Team Sixty Six
The Bob’s and John’s and Mark’s and Rick’s
The Al’s and Brad’s and Kyle’s and Nick’s
The Paul’s and Ken’s and Tom’s and Mick’s

Seal Team Sixty Six
Where not deceived by Satan’s tricks
They’re more like God than all the chicks
He’s got some things, He needs them fixed

Seal Team Sixty Six
Discipline you with some sticks!
Stone the weak man with their bricks!
Give you Gospel with some kicks!

Seal Team Sixty Six
An alpha male toxic mix
With all the pain  that this inflicts
Is this the God Christ depicts?

What about the women Jesus picks?

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?

‘I’m a Paul-ian?’ – married to the minister no.3

That last post might have sounded overly bitter and negative about my circumstances,
as if the Stasi or CIA where outside our house monitoring our every move, which they obviously aren’t.
For example I’m sure that unmarked white van outside the house with the man in a white collar is just fixing the telephone  next door and that camera I found in a rock today was just a child’s toy….
Anyway in true ex youth worker style here is a video clip that I will use to lead into our main discussion even though it hasn’t really anything to do with the discussion

Anyway enough of Rev. Pondering these things has made me realise that the main thought and worry behind these thoughts is what does it mean to be free when you are heavily involved with a church? Can you ever be free?
Is it possible to be yourself or will it always involve wearing a mask and keeping your guard up?

I once did ponder if I should become a Rev myself and went along to a meeting where a bunch of us had assembled to hear the Head of Students of a theological college talk about what it would involve. It was simple process of tests and weekends away, years here, years there, study, study, placements and then eventually a blue shirt and collar. I could see the clones walking out of the building in a robotic ministerial fashion towards the general assembly. Afterwards I went up to him and said

‘I sometimes think that I would like to be a minister but I’m worried that I couldn’t be myself…’

He just dismissed this question as if it was something to be brushed aside and not that relevent. Because of his reaction to this question I decided there and then that I never wanted to become a minister. And that was that until I fell in love and got married and 10 years later wake up on a Sunday and find my wife might be wearing a blue shirt and collar (on special Sundays) or trudging away to youth group or happy that the sermon went well.

This is probably the last thought I have been having about this all (at the moment at least) and it goes way back to as far as I can remember in the Presbyterian church.
Our church often seems to be more obsessed with Paul and his way of doing things rather than Jesus. It is as simple as that sometimes I reckon.

I’m not saying that Paul was a male chauvinist pig and all that stuff, I’m not saying he isn’ t important, I’m not saying that what he writes isn’t the word of God, I’m not saying he isn’t misunderstood etc but from what I’ve seen our church is often based around Paul more than Jesus.

The image I have of Paul is a workaholic who never stopped working for the Gospel,
who always had the answers and had a certain authority because he was a naturally gifted man who had experienced an almighty miracle on the road to Damascus where he was converted.

I have nothing against him, my problem is that we largely think everyone has to be like Paul instead of like Jesus when it comes to a minister type.  Will they bounce around the place from church to church, meeting to meeting? Will they have all the answers? Will they give their life and soul for serving the church just like Paul did?
And if a minister is not like Paul he should be more like Paul.

Again,I’m neither claiming this is theologically correct, balanced or not a pile of crap but this is what I feel sometimes from the years I’ve been a church goer.

An example of this is how vast swathes of the bible, (especially the Prophets)  have been ignored in the pulpit while Romans, Galatians, Corinthians and Timothy get a regular hearing.

When you read the accounts of Paul he never seems to stop doing stuff for God, he is always flying about The Med from one church to another disciplining and encouraging, writing and preaching like some type of  type of Mark Driscollesque Duracell bunny.

And so most ministers/pastors/vicars take their lead from Paul and are expected to take their lead from Paul.
They also seem to be trained in theological college in the ways of Paul and his letters, in Romans and if women should be teaching elders or if the Greek means deacons. They can discuss what he did up on Mars Hill in Athens and most importantly the word Gospel and evangelism. The Gospel is an obession.

Again I am not saying this is wrong, only that it sometimes misses the main point which should be Jesus/God/Holy Spirit.

Is Paul who we should be taking our lead from when it comes to being a minister (and minister’s spouse)? Surely the whole point for us all (and it was for Paul) is that we should become more like Jesus?

Like we pick and choose the bits of other bible characters and would very reluctantly think of them as heroes. We often remember than although King David was a man after God’s own heart he was also a murderer and adulterer.

But because Paul was doing the Lords work and there was such a sense of urgency to it all we don’t ask as many questions of Paul or are slower to spot his sinfulness. It almost feels like Paul is too busy to sin. He is a whirlwind.

I suppose it’s a bit like a blog post.
You could write very true, accurate and mind blowing posts but be a complete disaster of a man.
When Paul told those guys in the church to follow his example he was speaking to people who actually did know him in real life. We are going on his writings and personal letters.

When Paul says follow his example to the church he was writing to was he expecting that someone in theological college nearly 2000 years later should do the same?

The reason that this has anything to do with being married to a minister is that I worry  for my wife but also for relations and good friends who have been called to be ministers.  I worry that we expect them to be like Paul instead of Jesus. The thing is that we know that Jesus is out of our league and we could never be like him so well plead for mercy. With Paul though we think that we might be able to get there if work really hard at the Gospel and doing stuff. We’re not called to take up Paul’s cross and follow him, Paul is not the bread of life or Paul doesn’t say come to me all you who are weak and heavy laden and I will give you rest. Paul won’t give us rest or freedom.

Right back to making rocket stoves.