Single Pastors, The Church, and Community
Recently I found a story about a friend from seminary in New York Times. Rarely does one wake up to find a story about a friend in the paper. Mark Almlie's story is about how he has trouble finding a job as a pastor because he is single. The article points to several possibilities for this bias. Evangelicals are more comfortable with married men and the built-in labor of a pastors' wife, who is often expected to work at the church (unpaid of course). R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, is quoted in the Times article claiming that a congregation desiring a married pastor is within the logic of the scripture. There seems to be a tendency within the modern church to write its values into the biblical witness. We forget that many of the leaders of the early church were single men and women! St. Paul even claims singlehood as better than marriage.
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I feel for Mark, as I know he has a heart for serving Jesus, but because of the assumptions and predispositions of the modern church, he is having trouble finding a call. The story also points to a troubling aspect of the church today: reading their own biases into the biblical witness. Many times that means putting people into a box, and the box has more to do with today's culture than the biblical worldview. We are less about the fruit of the spirit than having the right Christian veneer. Of course this is a description of humanity than being Christian; we all struggle with things that concern the outer veneer than loving our fellow human beings.
To that end, I believe that there is undo pressure on the family of pastors to provide unpaid work for churches, but this is a tricky issue, since the pastor is also part of the community. Being a pastor means living in a mini fish bowl.
The reality is that the church will always struggle with cultural biases, as much as we pretend differently. The church is still a community populated with sinners, myself included. I am not simply bashing the church, as the church has been there for my family more than once. (For example, our church stood by us when my son went through his brain surgery, and as I fight with going blind due to Glaucoma.) From these experiences, I see a way. When we drop the veneer of strength and are vulnerable with each other and pick up our crosses, the more likely we can experience grace in communities of love. I see the way. I see the way of Jesus -- our only hope.
Ernesto Tinajero is a freelance writer in Spokane, Washington, who earned his master's degree in theology from Fuller Seminary. Visit his blog at beingandfaith.blogspot.com.