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Minister moms multitask

Minister moms multitask

This article about about women who have children and have made the ordination vow has popped up in enough places it seems appropriate that our readers should give their take.

My take is, if the physical limitations of men to bear children aside, our male clergy with a spouse who works should have the same issues, shouldn’t they? I mean if they are modeling what we say is a weakness in our culture. Or does the church as institution have an expectation of male and female clergy with children, an expectation no different than the typical secular employer?


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I think the article is missing an important point. The issue is far more complex than which of the parents is the priest and how that affects perceptions of work-life balance. In any family with young children where both parents work full-time outside the home, burnout is a concern. We are all over-subscribed, all struggling for that elusive balance. The problem is magnified when one spouse works non-standard hours (as with clergy) and that’s not necessarily or only for the clergy person, but also for the spouse — of whichever gender — who may be left putting in a full 40-hour or more work week and then carrying on after-hours as a single parent while their partner is at work.

If you believe (as I do) that the church needs married priests and priests with families, then as an institution it faces a dilemma, because the demands of working in the church spill over and become a drain on the family: evenings missed, weekends effectively halved, and work magnified manyfold for the spouse who covers the balance. For those who feel called to ordained work in the church — or for their families — it’s a sobering reality.

The urgent questions, then, are: How does a priest manage to, as Cornwell says in the article, “make sure that I [am] really taking my days off and really honoring my family as well as my congregation”? How does a priest model — and the church support — healthy family dynamics? And how does the spouse, how do the children, not bear the brunt of the priest’s calling to serve? To broaden the discussion, what about those who are called not to ordained ministry but to serving the church in a lay capacity? Are similar issues at play? And if so, how can the church offer sustenance instead of burnout to ALL who are committed to giving of their time and talents — whether lay or ordained — and to those who love them?

— Anne Stone

Michel Alexandre Salim, AOJN

This challenge can, and should, be turned, into a wonderful opportunity — for religious denominations that support the ordination of women to provide support for their clergies with families, and show, especially in Anglo-American societies, how work and family life can be balanced when women are full participants in society.

I don’t have specific recommendations, but looking at how continental Europeans, esp in Scandinavia and France, could be helpful.

Lois Keen

Wow, the comments on the original article are really something. Just in case I forgot what bigotry is still out there masquerading in scriptural clothing…

I never had children. I’m a childless woman priest. And I thank God – and my husband – every day, that my husband does most of the housework I would be doing if the roles were reversed. He believes he has a calling to be a clergy woman’s spouse and he takes it to the bank. And has his own job as a freelance professional photographer as well.

Meanwhile, in seminary one of the women clergy attached to my seminary was pregnant. It was the first time I had seen a pregnant woman at the altar. All of a sudden the whole enterprise became truly whole.

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