September 6, 2012

How Spouses Became Who They Are in the Church

In the next month or so, Abingdon Press will publish American Methodism: A Compact History by Russ Richey, Ken Rowe, and Jean Miller Schmidt. Thought you might be interested in this, so I'll quote it at length. Think you'll be surprised about how we spouses became defined as we often still are.

"Stationed preachers and preachers' wives usurped roles ascribed by the Discipline to the class leaders. While class leaders struggled to find time for their duties, preachers and wives dedicated their entire lives to the cause. Preachers' wives discouraged by precept and practice in the early 19th century, became in the decades before the Civil War regular, indeed esteemed, resource persons for local church leadership. In station appointments, the preacher's wife evolved into a vital helpmate in ministry, increasingly an essential congregational leaders, and a vacation on its ow. Communities came to expect the preacher's wife to exercise a ministry, especially among other women and with the children--in teaching, in visiting, in comforting the ill and bereaved, in witnessing, in heading missionary societies, in modeling family piety, in interpreting her husband (to women and other preachers), in supporting the ministry, in negotiation the frequent moves, in short, in functioning as a sub-minister." (p. 54)

I would add that in some places these things are still expected of the wife, which confuses things if the spouse is male; because these expectations historically were prescribed only for women. Having a male clergy spouse, in and of itself, has redefined the role as have working and career-minded women.

Grace, Kathy

1 comment:

  1. It would seem that this history of the stationed preachers and their wives not only created undo burden on the role of Pastor's Spouse, but also weakened the spiritual role of lay leadership. Spiritual leadership became something for paid professionals (the pastor and his wife). It would be interesting to see if there is a correlation between the slowing growth and eventual decline of the Methodist movement and this abdication of the lay person as a spiritual guide.