We hire the pastor, hut not his wife.

Is there some quasi-ecclesiastical office known as “minister’s wife?”

In American Christianity over the last couple of centuries, the pastor’s wife has come to be regarded as a special kind of woman with a special kind of responsibility. Because it has been assumed that the pastor is a super Christian, his wife must be also especially holy. Much honor and prestige has been associated with this special “office.” Many women have risen to the challenge and met the expectations. The successes are well known; the failures, like men who have failed in the pastorate, are soon forgotten.

But in recent years more and more women have wrestled with some of the expectations and qualifications that go with their “office.” They have begun to wonder whether it is proper for them to conform to all that is expected. Their questions are not merely the outworking of feminism in American culture or symptoms of the individualism of the “me” generation. They arise out of the troubling awareness of many women—not all of them young—that what Scripture requires a pastor’s wife to be is obscured by cultural demands. Some examples:

“Cleanliness Is Next To Godliness”

This little maxim is not one of the Ten Commandments. Nevertheless, it has taken on the force of Holy Writ and become the basis of numerous criticisms and judgments about the pastor’s wife. A clean, tidy house is desirable, of course. But must the pastor’s wife have the cleanest and tidiest of them all?

The mania for cleanliness is a cultural value embedded in the middle classes of Europe and North America. But the kingdom of God does not depend upon Lysol and Endust. To invest too much time in cleaning and arranging possessions is to establish false priorities. ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.

Our digital archives are a work in progress. Let us know if corrections need to be made.

Tags:
Issue: