Pastors and their wives

The term ''pastor's wife'' came up frequently at the recent National Vineyard conference. All the women l spoke to about it struggled with the term. l expected women who function as pastors to be uncomfortable, but interestingly, women who did not want to be considered as pastors felt the same. For one woman in particular, the title both diminished her own identity, and placed unwanted expectations on her. She was viewed as someone who should know what was going on, and felt pressured to carry out certain duties – eg children's ministry. The theme for the conference was "stand and deliver". One speaker talked about the high rate of ministry marriage breakdown in USA. Perhaps this issue contributes to the problem. I can't think of any other field of employment in our society where one spouse is defined by the occupation of the other. We don't talk about the plumber's wife, the nurse's husband, or the policeman's wife. We certainly don't expect one spouse to perform duties prescribed by the other spouse's occupation. I view minstry as different – it is a calling that touches every part of life. But surely it is time for new language that doesn't box in or define women in uneccessary ways. We need terminology that values women regardless of where they sit on the continuum, and where appropriate, reflects their own callings. What about unmarried women who are pastors? Or married female pastors whose spouses are not involved? l would be interested to know how women in the Uniting and Anglican Churches experience this. To my knowledge it is not possible to look at all these scenarios within my own denomination.

3 thoughts on “Pastors and their wives

  1. Hear, hear Christina!
    I never did find ‘apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, teachers and pastors’ wives……’ in the Bible – or ‘pastors’ kids’, either.
    I wonder if some of the difficulty is because there is something a bit skewed about the way we think about full time or paid pastoring in the first place.

  2. Hi Nicki – if you happen to be related to Danny, say hi to him from Scott and l! l think the views of what it is to be a pastor does contribute to the problem. lt is probably broader than whether or not one pastors full time or is paid. lt seems that as soon as someone adopts the title in any capacity, the rest of the branding follows. One of the women from the conference was talking from the perspective of a new plant. Her husband is in full time employment outside the church. l think it is wrapped in habit, stereotypes, views on headship, and perceptions about women’s authority to lead. The ‘Timothy debate’ continues…


  3. Danny says ‘hi’!
    You are right, of course, it is the title itself, abused by 1700 odd years of misunderstanding, that carries the weight of all kinds of obligations – including on wives – with it.
    I think that our views and expectations of leaders are defined by what we think church is – as we change one, the other will change also

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