December 30, 2009

The Angriest People

I recently came across an article that appeared in Circuit Rider (a magazine for United Methodist clergy) a couple years ago. "Keeping Up Appearances," by marriage and family counselor Linda Hileman (herself a PK and clergy spouse), discusses the isolation many clergy families endure, having no one with whom they can be honest about their feelings and struggles.

She discusses the case of Mary Winkler, the Baptist minister's wife in Tennessee who killed her husband in 2006. Church members all said she was "the perfect pastor's wife" and that "they had no problems, as far as we knew." Those congregants and Winkler's lawyers all made statements about her, but Hileman wants to know where her friends and family were. Did she have anyone with whom she shared her private pain?

Hileman's piece is definitely worth the read, but I'll share the money quote here, in case you don't have time to read the whole article:
The vast majority of pastors state that the ministry is detrimental to
their families. One counselor, who sees a large number of clergy and clergy
spouses in his practice, says that United Methodist clergy-wives are the
angriest people he sees. It is ironic that in a connectional system such as
the United Methodist Church, we and our families have so few

This is the quote that I always remember from this article. "...the angriest people he sees..." I try not to let that be a self-fulfilling prophesy, but I think about it whenever I feel angry, and I wonder what it is about the UMC in particular that makes clergy-wives so angry. Is it the lack of choice in the appointment process? Is it the frequency of moves? What do you think?


  1. I shared this article with my wife. She noticed and commented about how hateful older pastor's wives look. She thinks much of the anger is because of getting jerked around from here to there by a small group who hold so much control over your life.

  2. I agree with the above post. I am a pastor's wife. Sometimes there is TOO much connection and too much control where the focus is on the denomination and not on God. I have a lot to say but because of fear of repurcussion on my husband's job, I can't. I imagine that's why everyone is so angry. Everyone is TOO connected and too controlled that you have to put on a false face. I find my support outside the denomination. I especially find my support WITH GOD, which I'm seeing is rare in the UMC.

  3. While the anger of pastor's wives shows up on their faces, it often shows up in the middle of us male pastors. The health of clergy and their families is often a reflection of how healthy that church is.

    The UM system is too closed and connected. While I have a few trusted UM clergy friends, I have a larger group of non UM clergy friends. This is one reason that I joined the Academy of Parish Clergy.

    The overconnection mentioned above creates co-dependent clergy in my opinion. While UM theology is not fundamentalist the mindset of control is and is just as abusive.

  4. My husband has a weight problem that has intensified since becoming clergy.

    Also, he has slowly lost the ability to make his own decisions. He has to ask everyone else because of the UM system of control.

  5. WOW! I say Thanks for all the candid comments. This is a big issue and I plan to write a Post with my thoughts because I have too much to say for just this comment section!

  6. The sad thing about retired clergy spouses in many instances? Is many times they are the most abusive; particularly to women clergy.


  7. yes and some retired male clergy get a big kick about pretending to be the pastor's friend but then stab him or her in the back

  8. I have shared this article with the director of the Duke Clergy Health Initiative. I serve on the clergy advisory committee for this and will see about getting some discussion on this topic.

  9. Do you know what happens to Methodist spouses when he decides he wants a divorce. The wife becomes homeless. There is no support from the congregation or the conference. It is the most unchristian thing I have ever experienced even though I worked tirelssly in the church before the divorce. Anonymous

  10. In regards to Anonymous (Jan 3)'s comment:

    How helpful do you all think it would be to have a conference (or district) position that would be the "spouse and family" advocate? I'm sure they would annoy the you-know-what out of the cabinet members making appointments, but wouldn't it be helpful to have someone that suggestions, complaints, & general requests could go through, so they would be anonymous and not risk the clergy's standing?

  11. My husband served the UMC for twelve years during which he finished his seminary courses. During his last appointment he was threatened, shunned, and demeaned-and that was by his district superintendent; his three congregations were also abusive to him.
    He finally resigned his position, losing his healthcare and parsonage.
    He accepted a position at Walmart, even though he has a Masters Degree and ninety hours of seminary.
    We now own our own home, visit often with our families, and finally experiecing some security of God's graciousness.
    Last week my husband told me he had called the D.S. In the area where we reside and offered to again be appointed to another congregation---I'm so confused!

  12. Thank you for the honesty of this topic. I saw the anger in others when I was new, now I feel it in myself. Because we question the effect of itinerancy on families, we have been deemed as uncommitted to the UMC. Made to question the call to ministry, and I would love nothing more than for my husband to return to another profession. So the anger begins. The control, the lack of consideration of the family unit as a whole, the rejection, rejection, rejection from older clergy. Is it any surprise we are angry?