On Spiritual love: Should pastors date girls from the Congregation?
The Catholic Church is under criticism again for abusing the ‘sheep’ of Christ! A Pennsylvania grand jury accused 300 priests of ‘eating’ 1000 lambs given to them by parents on behalf of Christ. Being a shepherded of the eternal flock of Christ is the most Nobel obligation in heaven and on earth! Imagine the pain in heaven! Many argue that Catholic priests should marry to save the little ‘lambs’ (boys).
Among the protestant, seminaries are known to be the best places for women who desire to marry pastors. Although this should not be the motivating factor for women to go to seminary, studies have shown that many girls who go to seminary desire to marry a future pastor. The argument is that if you are going to marry a pastor, one needs to understand what his career is all about. Some of my seminary buddies ended up marrying women seminarians. I can testify that most of their marriages are still very strong. This does not suggest that every marriage that emanates from this experience succeeds; rather, I am just presenting my own witness.
After graduating from seminary, young pastors are given oversight over congregations with many diverse people including single girls. These girls have parents who attend the church and some would really prefer that their daughters marry the pastor. The pressure to marry a woman from one’s congregation is enormous and given the loneliness and challenges of pastoral ministry, many young pastors find themselves submitting to the pressure and marrying from within the congregation. The question then is asked, should a pastors marry a church member?
In speaking about elders (overseers), those who are appointed to oversee the flock of Christ, Paul says that “Here is a trustworthy saying: Whoever aspires to be an overseer desires a noble task. Now the overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to his wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him, and he must do so in a manner worthy of full respect.” 1st Timothy 3-5 (NIV) This passage acts as the manual for pastoral qualification in many mainstream denominations.
Paul assumes that those who are elders are married men, “faithful to his wife.” He also presupposes that the elder is a man! It is one reason why the Catholic Church established a priesthood of men, also from the fact that Christ appointed only men as his disciples. But if Paul disqualifies single men here, then all catholic priests are disqualified! So also are all single pastors, and any woman pastor. However, we have no evidence of Paul’s marriage but we have a witness of his agony of ministry without a wife “This is my defense to those who sit in judgment on me . . . Don’t we have the right to take a believing wife along with us, as do the other apostles and the Lord’s brothers and Cephas” 1st Corinthians 9:3ff (NIV)
However Paul is not speaking as a pastor but an apostle. Pastors (Priests) are not apostles and those who shepherded the flock of Christ as apostles have failed to properly apply definitions within biblical mandates
Neither is a pastor an elder or an overseer, he is not even a bishop. The pastor is a shepherd within the Davidic definition of ‘a shepherd’. He takes the sheep every day to pasture: This involves security, guidance, counsel and feeding the flock of Christ.
My time as a shepherd in Ngong hills Parish, Kenya gave me a good perspective into the role of a shepherd of the flock of Christ. Therefore, my take is, there should be no reason why any ‘shepherd’ should do anything that would harm any member of his congregation (sheep). This includes marrying from within the congregation: it interferes with the purity of shepherding.
Teddy Njoroge Kamau (Ph.D)
Diaspora Messenger Senior columnist