Married Presbyterian Pastors

Protestants do not receive nearly the credit they should for seeing 500 years ago what George Weigel recently observed (and it took Hillary Clinton — a Methodist).

First, marriage can be a good thing:

The Church’s unique, Christ-given structure invests great authority in bishops. And that, in turn, puts a high premium on the ability of the bishop to know his weaknesses and learn from his mistakes. But to know and learn from his weaknesses and mistakes, the bishop has to recognize them – or be invited to recognize them, if one of a number of vices prevents him from seeing himself making mistakes. Wives and children do this charitable correction for husbands and fathers. But Catholic bishops don’t get that form of correction because they don’t have wives and children. So it has to come from somewhere else.

Second, regular assemblies of clergy (think presbyteries or classes) also have their advantages:

“Fraternal correction” among bishops is an ancient and honorable tradition in the Church. Patristic-era bishops practiced it with some vigor, the most famous case being the controversy between Cyprian of Carthage and Stephen, Bishop of Rome. Today, bishops’ respect for each other’s autonomy tends to mitigate against the practice of fraternal correction. Still, if “affective collegiality” means anything, it ought to mean having enough care for a brother-bishop, no matter his position in the episcopal college, to suggest to him that he is off-course, if that is one’s conscientious judgment, tempered by prayer.

Fraternal correction is a delicate instrument, to be used with care. If its use completely atrophies, however, the Church risks becoming an ecclesiastical version of Clintonworld.

Hello! The conciliarists of the 15th century knew this. But when you hold on to “venerable” institutions, it’s hard to change (or admit when you do).

4 thoughts on “Married Presbyterian Pastors

  1. Calling the correction that wives and children do for their husbands and fathers “charitable” is certainly charitable…


  2. If a formal hierarchical structure with bishops offers a venerable form of correction for peers as well as subordinates (and it can be for the most part, though I’ve seen evidence of the opposite being true as well), then what about all of the independent congregations, which have been on the increase in recent decades and many of which are considered “evangelicals?”

    I can think of a least one instance of an independent multi-site church embedded in the suburbs of a major metropolitan area (no, not NYC) where the senior pastor virtually bullied his way into a position of total authoritarian dominance, forcing change to the church’s constitution and bylaws to suit his own desires, and relegating the council of elders to nothing more than a group of rubber stamping yes-men. Oh, and living a lavish life style and pretty much doing whatever he pleases, whenever or wherever he feels like doing it. There is no check and balance from anyone for a case like this and I have a hunch that it’s far more prevalent that one might suspect.


  3. “Reformed and Always Reforming” thank goodness. The only thing worse than fuzzy mainline liberalism with its brothel-like counseling centers and deceptively dippy retreats is uptight conservatism with its uptight cult-like controlistsas . Both leave reactive trails of damage you can see in United Presbyterianism and American Catholicism, respectively.


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