“A Pastor’s Sketches” by Ichabod Spencer–



Ichabod Spencer was born in 1798 in Rupert, Vermont.  He became a believer at the age of eighteen.  Spencer became an educator and was offered two positions as president of a college or university, but he declined them both because he felt that God had called him to preach.  In the first few years of his ministry he witnessed the conversions of 250 people in Northampton, Massachusetts.  In 1832 he accepted the call to pastor at Second Presbyterian Church in Brooklyn, New York.  This was the church he remained until his death in 1854.  His pastoral style of ministry won him the nickname of “The Bunyan of Brooklyn.”  He was remembered as a “true shepherd” who preached the Word in season and out of season.[1]


Principles of Spencer’s Approach to Evangelism

Be Aware of the Spiritual Condition

Spencer was very insightful to the spiritual condition of his congregants.  His approach to evangelism depended on the actions or verbal expressions of the person he visited.  Sometimes he met with people who countered the gospel message with “logical” arguments or diversionary tactics.  For this type of person, Spencer used a form of apologetics to appeal to their intellect.  In one example, a man questioned the existence of God, to which Spencer presented a lengthy explanation of “cause and effect” (17).  In his argument he stated that God was the cause of all creation (creation being the effects of God).  Spencer challenged the man with a humorous illustration, “You do not fling dust in the air, and find it come down a man or a monkey” (17).  Spencer engaged in theological debates and allowed himself to be available for questions.  He patiently listened as they presented their opinions, and always answered their query from a biblical perspective. 

Keep the Gospel Basic

Spencer kept the gospel message very basic yet true, using common terms and words that were understandable.  He believed that to use more words than necessary leaned on “crazy philosophizing” which tended to “awaken doubt than call forth faith” (59).  Once the gospel had been presented, he called for a response.  Often people did not respond positively because sin prevented them from doing so.  Spencer had the uncanny ability to know what sin a person suffered, in fact he referred to this as “conspiring” with the Holy Spirit (153).  In one case he presented the gospel to a man and his family.  The response seemed positive in that they all knelt and had a prayer together, but the man never showed up at church.  Through a chance meeting on the road, Spencer realized the man was an alcoholic.  With much deliberation, the man threw his bottle away, went back home, and soon after became a “child of God” (256-63).

Counter False or Erroneous Beliefs

Sometimes the people Spencer encountered had erroneous beliefs about the Bible.  They were either confused or, for some reason, were hostile against the Word.  Spencer did not allow anyone to pick apart the gospel in order to discount the whole message nor did he allow faulty thinking to fester.  In one account, a young man wanted to get baptized and insisted on getting immersed.  Spencer interrogated him about the meaning of baptism.  After much discussion, Spencer decided to baptize the man in the river just as Philip baptized the eunuch.  The man was hesitant and Spencer confronted him about his “vanity” and desire to gain attention through immersion baptism (which is not practiced in their denomination) (167-73).  Another facet of faulty thinking was that some did not come to Christ because they thought it should be done through their own volition (165).  Others thought they were too sinful for Christ to accept them, but rather than interpreting this as a form of humility, Spencer saw it as an indication of pride, self-righteousness, and a “wicked heart” (227-28).

Know the Limit

Spencer realized that there were times when he could do no spiritual coaxing since God uses “gloomy months” to bring people closer to Him (223), because there were times when he was powerless in evoking a positive response from people (275).  Though it was never too late to repent and receive salvation, there was one particular episode when Spencer was at a man’s deathbed.  The man refused to accept Christ.  His reason was that he had led a life in opposition to God and had made his choice long ago.  His father had influenced him to believe that there was no hell and all people who died went to heaven.  During his final days of life, he advised his younger brother to cling to Christ and ignore their father’s Universalist beliefs.  Though he apparently knew the truth, he never prayed for God’s mercy to be upon him.  He died eternally separated from God because he could not forgive his father for leading him astray (264-77).

 Never Compromise the Word

The gospel was never compromised.  There were situations in which Spencer could have downplayed the gospel in order to cater to people’s liking, but he never did.  In one episode, a woman was lying on her deathbed and confessed to Spencer that she would have preferred “fanciful” sermons, but instead he preached Scriptural doctrine and insisted that people read their Bibles (283).  She acknowledged that his biblical teachings and urging allowed her faith in God to become stronger.  In another instance during a revival, Spencer was faced with a small group of people who complained about the Bible’s message of God’s judgment, the law, and the human condition prone to wickedness (125).  Spencer could have apologized and promised to give milder messages in the future, but instead he presented a much harsher discourse that evening on the “wickedness of men” and the “anger of God against the wicked.”  As a result, the majority of those people who complained became believers (125-26).  Spencer understood that people, who were “convicted sinners,” had no idea what was best for their soul  (124).  Spencer’s philosophy was that “truth is never injurious” and anything other than biblical truth was a “trick” (115).

Strengths and Weaknesses of Spencer’s Approach


Spencer’s approach was very direct and confrontational.  This was a strength because many of the people he encountered denied their need for a Savior, and confronting them with their true sinfulness and depravity forced them to realize their dire state.  Some who felt they were not very sinful needed this direct approach in order to truly compare themselves with God.  This approach spurred others to examine their faulty belief systems and break down barriers erected from intellectual philosophizing and rationalizing. 

The ability for Spencer to adapt his presentation based on the audience is a strength.  He either kept the basic gospel simple and understandable or used apologetics to appeal to intellectuals.  Although he altered the presentation, Spencer never compromised the truth of the gospel and followed up the gospel message with a call to respond.  Insisting on a decision following a gospel presentation forced the person to personalize the message then verbalize their understanding of it.  Though Spencer called for a response, he knew his limitation and in the case of the dying Universalist, he did not push the man to concede to Christ. 

Spencer was very knowledgeable about various counterarguments to the gospel, which is a strength for any Christian.  There were examples of his lengthy discussions, one about creationism and the other about the doctrine of election.  Spencer was able to find the core issue of a person’s objection.  In the case of “The Young Irishman,” he elaborated on the topic of matter, Spirit, the mind, human perception, knowledge, power and will.  Since Spencer exhausted the topics, the young man had no recourse but to admit that Satan had misled him and “renounce his infidelity” (49).  Regarding the doctrine of election, Spencer spoke about predestination, free will, obedience, and receptiveness to the Word.  For each subject Spencer gave two or more points to support his statement.  His arguments seemed to flow naturally and without hesitation, which resulted in the man to make a public profession of faith.

To show empathy and genuine concern for people was another of Spencer’s strengths. He was not afraid to touch people who were deathly ill.  There were many instances in which Spencer visited those who were dying.  An illustration of empathy was shown when the young Universalist was dying.   Spencer was not afraid to show his emotions and while sharing a moment of silence with the wife and mother of the man, he became “subdued to tears” (272).  Spencer’s genuine concern for the dying was shown in the amount of time he spent with them.  He did not think of it as an inconvenience to visit the same person day after day for several hours.  The most loving thing Spencer did was to present the gospel and correct any biblical misconceptions to those who were dying.  When he ministered to a dying young woman, he held her hand and patiently listened to her concerns as she voiced them between labored breathing (89-103).  Those he ministered always appreciated his care and concern, and would thank him for his time even if they did not agree with him.


There were no weaknesses to Spencer’s approach to evangelism because the encounters he had with the majority of the people resulted in a conversion.  His upfront and candid presentation style worked for his personality.  This confrontational approach may not work for an introverted woman, but it was effective for Spencer, who seemed to be very extroverted and opinionated. 

Strategy of Evangelism to Follow in Ministry

Know Your “Stuff” 

All Christians should be aware of the world’s objections to the gospel, and be prepared to defend the Word.   Spencer dealt with various issues such as creationism, predestination, universalism, and ignorance.  Each time he faced opposition, he had a ready answer.  Spencer clearly practiced Colossians 4:6—“Let you speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one (NKJV).”  When Spencer discussed creationism with the Irishman, he reiterated Romans 1:18-20 in the form of “everyday” language.    Spencer took to heart what Jesus advised believers— to be “wise as serpents” (Matthew 10:16). 

Be Lovingly Confrontative

As Spencer noted, sinners do not know what is best for their souls, so the most loving thing a Christian can do for a non-believer is to engage and disseminate faulty thinking or any misconceptions of the Bible.  If the person is living in an obvious sin, a Christian must direct him or her to God’s Word.  Spencer personally lived 2Timothy 4:2— “Preach the Word! Be ready in season and out of season.  Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching (NKJV).”  It seemed that Spencer’s reason for trying hard to convince people of the truth was so that they “may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil” (2Timothy 2:26 NKJV). 

Demonstrate Care and Concern

Christians should be willing to spend time with non-believers and present the gospel to them.  Spencer exemplified Matthew 5:44 & 46—“Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you…for if you love those who love you, what reward have you?  Do not even the tax collectors do the same (NKJV)?” All believers should follow Spencer’s example for his patience with skeptics, his ministry to the terminally ill, and his persuasion of people to live godly lives. 

Never Compromise or Minimized the Gospel

Spencer knew that sinners did not know what was best for their souls, and because of this fact, they might have preferred hearing a different gospel than the one he told.   However, he did not change the gospel to suit their tastes.  He recognized that the Word was the only way to free them from their state of being.  Spencer believed the truth of John 8:32—“And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free (NKJV).”  Believers should never be afraid to tell the whole gospel because it is a message of hope.


Christians should be in the habit of building their own lives on the foundation of their “holy faith,” praying for the direction of the Holy Spirit, living to honor God, to “show mercy” to people whose faith is inconsistent, and having the courage to “snatch” others from the “flames of judgment” by sharing the gospel with them (Jude 20-23 NLT).  The purpose of every believer is to “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things commanded by Jesus” (Matthew 28:19-20 NKJV).  Spencer accepted and fully carried out God’s command, and as such, he was a great example for all dedicated followers to imitate.  He never cowered from the truth, and went out of his way to convince people of their fate and spiritual circumstances in the light of God’s Word. 

[1] “Introduction to Spencer and his sketches,” A Pastor’s Sketches, Vestavia Hills, AL: Solid Ground Christian Books, 2002.

Copyright © 2008 M. Teresa Trascritti

An Examination of the CBF’s Views and Disagreements with the 2000 BFM

BibliographyAn Examination of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship’s

Views and Disagreements of Specific Areas of

The 2000 Baptist Faith and Message


The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship is an organization whose stance on inclusiveness has lead to diverse interpretations of the Bible and a misunderstanding of the pastoral office. They vigorously support the ordination of women and sidestep the issue of homosexuals in ministry by overtly proclaiming “soul competency” and the autonomy of the local church. This paper will examine the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship’s opposing views of soul competency: “freedom in religion” and the “priesthood of all believers” in the current Southern Baptist Convention’s Baptist Faith and Message.

Brief History

    The 1963 Southern Baptist Statement of Faith was revised to, “build upon the structure of the 1925 Statement, keeping in mind the ‘certain needs’ of our generation.” Conservatives felt that changes to the statement allowed moderates “theological loopholes.”  These ‘loopholes,’ labeled as “Biblical criticism,” “documentary hypothesis,” or “historical-critical method,” were taught to students at institutions like Southern Seminary, making reformation in Southern Baptist seminaries a priority issue.
Friction between the moderates and conservatives escalated, especially after the presidential election of Adrian Rogers in 1979, which conservatives called “The Conservative Resurgence.” The election of a conservative president allowed conservative appointments to the Committee on Committees, which was crucial to the process of hiring conservative seminary presidents. The moderates soon became the minority of the convention’s board and agencies. Out of frustration for being continually “shut out” of convention leadership, the moderates created the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship in 1991.

The conservatives considered the 1963 Baptist Faith and Message to be “ambiguous” on the issue of biblical interpretation and “theological matter.” The moderates’ misuse of “criterion” was a reason the statement of beliefs was rephrased. The Baptist Faith and Message was rewritten in 2000, at the dismay of moderates. The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship claimed that Baptist distinctives were forsaken in the revised statement.

Soul Competency: Freedom of Religion

“Soul Competency” was defined as, “that inner authority through which persons recognized and responded to biblical truth.” Moderates criticized Conservatives for their interpretation of the Bible, which they felt had been limited to “only one understanding and one interpretation.” Moderates felt that every person was “free” to interpret the Bible in “their own way,” which included the exploration of Jewish and Muslim religious views.Conservatives were seen as “separatists” who “avoided associations with religious ‘liberals’” but affiliated with other denominations if they agreed with the “plenary inspiration of the Scriptures.” Conservatives seemed strict in their regard of Scripture and doctrine by staunchly adhering to the “truth of inerrant Scripture,” which was not to be “disputed” or “reconciled” with new scientific or philosophical theories but rather “held and proclaimed.”  Moderates, on the other hand, were more “change minded,” in that “doctrine and revelation do not change, but that interpretation in the light of changing knowledge do.”Daniel Vestal, leader of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, claimed that the difference between Moderate and Conservative Baptists was simply a “different understanding and interpretation of Holy Scripture.” He insisted that the Bible does not “claim nor reveal inerrancy.” In fact many Moderates interpreted the Bible based on the “culture and times in which it was written.” If there were perceived contradictions (“paradoxical passages”) in Scripture with the sayings of Moses, Jesus, and Paul, Moderates upheld Jesus’ words over other Scripture. This is what was referred to as the “criterion.”

Moderates believed “Biblical inerrancy” meant that the Bible acted as the “arbiter” of the Godhead, which made it the object of “idolatry” by “de-emphasizing” the role of Jesus as the criterion. Moderates blamed Conservatives for “humanizing God” by describing Him as being “exclusive, intolerant, and legalistic.” Moderates preferred to convey God as being “inclusive, forgiving, and accepting,” which influenced their mindset to allow “liberalism” and “neo-orthodoxy” into their midst. To Moderates, “Freedom in Religion” meant “blessing one another amidst our differences and finding ways to build bridges.” The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship sought to cooperate and unify itself with all believers in Christ and reasoned, “Baptists are only a part of that great and inclusive Church.”

In addition to the freedom of interpretation, Moderates thought one’s experience was important in the quest for God, which was epitomized by Vestal’s use of Walter Rauschenbusch’s quote, “When we Baptists insist on personal experience as the only essential thing in religion, we are hewing our way back to original Christianity.”

Soul Competency: Priesthood of All Believers

The Core Values of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship included the autonomy of the church to “ordain whomever they perceive as gifted for ministry.” Moderates often used Galatians 3:27-28 to justify the call and ordination of women to the pastorate. Any opposition to a woman’s call to the pastorate was seen as “contrary to Biblical and Baptist heritages,” which emphasized the “priesthood of all believers and congregational authority.”

To Moderates, excluding women from pastoral leadership was similar to the biblical defense of slavery in 1845. The ordination of women was a Moderate’s response of “affirmation” of females and was rationalized thusly: “He (Jesus) called women to follow him; he treated women as equally capable of dealing with sacred issues. Our model for the role of women in matters of faith is the Lord Jesus.”

Conservatives required a pastor to be the “husband of one wife,” which made women disqualified for the position. Women in the pastorate did not fit into God’s “order of authority,” where God is head of Christ, Christ is head of man, and man is head of woman. Although women were “held in high honor” for their work in Christ’s kingdom, women could never be considered for pastoral leadership because “man was first in creation and the woman was first in the Edenic fall.” Women felt “devalued” and “wounded” by Conservatives of the Southern Baptist Convention, but found “healing” with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship’s endorsement of women in ministry.

The “priesthood of all believers” also included homosexuals. Moderates in the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship believed God could call homosexuals to ministry, and their lifestyle was left to “freedom of individual conscience” and the “autonomy of the local church.” Although the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship claimed they reject homosexual practice, the organization regarded homosexuality as merely a “different perspective.” A Moderate expressed the thoughts of many Cooperative Baptist Fellowship members, “Do we really want to sit here and say God’s Spirit cannot call a homosexual (even a practicing homosexual) to follow God’s call?”

In conclusion, the Moderates’ efforts to be inclusive lead to diverse interpretations of the Bible and a misunderstanding of the pastoral office. “Soul competency” was advocated to allow individual freedoms of interpretation that took precedence over Biblical truths, which in turn adversely affected the teaching at Southern Baptist seminaries. Many disenfranchised Southern Baptist women, who sought affirmation for their call to ministry, were drawn to the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship because of their emphasis on “soul competency” and the “priesthood of all believers.” The unwillingness for the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship to convey a solid Biblical position on a person’s call to ministry made the ordination of homosexuals a viable option. Although the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship divorced itself from the Southern Baptist Convention in 1991, they continue to denounce the activities of the Convention and have acted contrary to their stated purpose of being “the presence of Christ in the world.”

Copyright © 2007 M. Teresa Trascritti



<!–[if !supportEndnotes]–>


End notes:

[i]<!–[endif]–> David Hull, Baptist Understanding our Faith and Message [online], accessed 26 June 2003, http://www.cbfonline.org/resource/sermonfile.cfm?forumid= 1111; Internet.


<!–[if !supportFootnotes]–>[ii]<!–[endif]–> William L. Lumpkin, Baptist Confessions of Faith. Valley Forge, VA: The Judson Press, 1969, page 393.


<!–[if !supportFootnotes]–>[iii]<!–[endif]–> Jerry Sutton, The Baptist Reformation: The Conservative Resurgence in the Southern Baptist

Convention. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2000, page 415.

<!–[if !supportFootnotes]–>[iv]<!–[endif]–> Sutton, Reformation, page 417.


<!–[if !supportFootnotes]–>[v]<!–[endif]–> Ibid., page 82.


<!–[if !supportFootnotes]–>[vi]<!–[endif]–> Ibid., page 63.


<!–[if !supportFootnotes]–>[vii]<!–[endif]–> Bill J. Leonard, God’s Last and Only Hope: The Fragmentation of the Southern Baptist

Convention, Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1990, page 4.


<!–[if !supportFootnotes]–>[viii]<!–[endif]–> Steve DeVane, Patterson Predicts SBC Split in Article for Baptist Paper [on-line], accessed 24 June 2003, available from: http://www.abpnews.com/abpnew/story.cfm?newsid= 3192&srch=1; Internet.


<!–[if !supportFootnotes]–>[ix]<!–[endif]–> Sutton, Reformation, page 415.


<!–[if !supportFootnotes]–>[x]<!–[endif]–> Michael Foust, Seminary Magazine Addresses Issues Involving Baptist Faith and Message [on-line], accessed 30 June 2003, available from: http://www.sbts.edu/news/archives/ fall2000 /NR033.php; Internet.


<!–[if !supportFootnotes]–>[xi]<!–[endif]–> Leonard, God’s Last, page 75.


<!–[if !supportFootnotes]–>[xii]<!–[endif]–> Walter B. Shurden, and Randy Shepley, eds., Going for the Jugular: A Documentary History of

the SBC Holy War; Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 1996, page xvii.


<!–[if !supportFootnotes]–>[xiii]<!–[endif]–> Ibid, page xv.


<!–[if !supportFootnotes]–>[xiv]<!–[endif]–> James C. Hefley, The Truth in Crisis- The Controversy in the Southern Baptist Convention, Volume 1, Hannibal, MO: Hannibal Books, 1999, page 17.


<!–[if !supportFootnotes]–>[xv]<!–[endif]–> Hefley, Truth vol. 1, page 46.


<!–[if !supportFootnotes]–>[xvi]<!–[endif]–> Ibid., page 46.


<!–[if !supportFootnotes]–>[xvii]<!–[endif]–> Shurden, Jugular, page 267.


<!–[if !supportFootnotes]–>[xviii]<!–[endif]–> Bob Allen, Two Churches Targeted Over Women Pastors [on-line], accessed 24 June 2003,

available from: http://www.abpnews.com/abpnews/story.cfm?newsid=3094&srch=1; Internet.


<!–[if !supportFootnotes]–>[xix]<!–[endif]–> Baptist General Convention of Texas, 1963 and 2000 Baptist Faith and Message Statements Comparison and Commentary [on-line], accessed 26 June 2003, available from: http://www.bgct.org/bfm; Internet.


<!–[if !supportFootnotes]–>[xx]<!–[endif]–> Ibid.


<!–[if !supportFootnotes]–>[xxi]<!–[endif]–>Shurden, Jugular, page xviii.


<!–[if !supportFootnotes]–>[xxii]<!–[endif]–> Daniel Vestal, Daniel Vestal Q & A: A Conversation with Coordinator Daniel Vestal [on-line], accessed 23 June 2003, available from: http://www.cooperativebaptist.com; Internet.


<!–[if !supportFootnotes]–>[xxiii]<!–[endif]–> Ibid., page 268.


<!–[if !supportFootnotes]–>[xxiv]<!–[endif]–> Daniel Vestal, Why I am Baptist. Atlanta: CBF Resource Center, 2002.


<!–[if !supportFootnotes]–>[xxv]<!–[endif]–> Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, Who We Are: Identity, Vision, Mission, Core Value and Initiatives [on-line], accessed 6 June 2003, available from: http://www.cbfmf.net/ about/mission.cfm; Internet.

<!–[if !supportFootnotes]–>[xxvi]<!–[endif]–> Hull, Understanding; Internet.

<!–[if !supportFootnotes]–>[xxvii]<!–[endif]–> Ibid.

<!–[if !supportFootnotes]–>[xxviii]<!–[endif]–> Leonard, God’s Last, page 152.

<!–[if !supportFootnotes]–>[xxix]<!–[endif]–> Ibid.,page 268.


<!–[if !supportFootnotes]–>[xxx]<!–[endif]–> Ibid., pages 151-152.


<!–[if !supportFootnotes]–>[xxxi]<!–[endif]–> Shurden, Jugular, pages 122-123.


<!–[if !supportFootnotes]–>[xxxii]<!–[endif]–> Robert O’Brien, Woman Calls CBF Chaplaincy Endorsement a ‘Healing’ Moment [on-line], accessed 7 July 2003, available from: http://members.aol.com/cbfinva/news/woman.htm; Internet.


<!–[if !supportFootnotes]–>[xxxiii]<!–[endif]–> Bob Allen, CBF Council Adopts Value Statement ‘Welcoming but not Affirming’ of Gays [on-line], accessed 6 July 2003, available from: http://www.abpnews.com/abpnews/story.cfm? newsid=2016&srch=1; Internet.


<!–[if !supportFootnotes]–>[xxxiv]<!–[endif]–> Ibid.


<!–[if !supportFootnotes]–>[xxxv]<!–[endif]–> Cooperative, Who We Are, Internet.




Many earlier studies on abortion focused on complications, techniques and maternal mortality, with later studies concentrating on long-term health consequences that were driven by a political agenda. Some studies noted that a woman who terminates her pregnancy under circumstances of duress and coercion is likely to experience adverse psychological problems. Although this may be a valid concern with induced abortions, not many clinical studies have been done regarding psychological aftereffects. In some cases, psychiatric disorders such as depression and anxiety are seen following an elective abortion. However, the most common psychological response to abortion was depression and regret.

Relevant Research

“Induced Abortion, Facts in Brief”

This fact sheet was a typical example of politically generated information made available to the general public. The information released by the Alan Guttmacher Institute showed that risk of death is eleven times higher during childbirth than abortions, and major complications are “minimal” acquiring for less than 1% of abortions. They reported fourteen percent of all abortions were paid with state public funds, while some were paid from federal Medicaid funding in cases of rape, incest, and endangerment to the woman’s health. Some states paid for the abortions of indigent women to help curb the estimated 1.3 million unplanned pregnancies that occurred.

To their credit, they briefly mentioned that death following an abortive procedure was possible. They stated, “the risk of death associated with abortion increases with the length of pregnancy.” They explained that an abortion at 8 weeks or less yielded 1 death in every 500,000 abortions, while a 16-20 week abortion resulted in 1 out of 27, 000. For someone seeking an abortion at 21 weeks or more, the possibility of death increased to 1 out of 8, 000 procedures.

The problem with this fact sheet was that abortion was portrayed as being a better alternative than childbirth because the procedure was endorsed by the federal government and gladly paid for by individual states. It never mentioned the possibility of psychological complications or any long-term physical effects following induced abortions. In fact, the data showed that an early abortion using the vacuum aspiration method (noted as the “most common procedure”) was harmless simply because they claimed it caused “no childbearing problems.”

The fact sheet also presented the 1992 court decision (Planned Parenthood vs. Casey) in a negative light—citing that the ruling “significantly weakened” the “legal protections” of women by granting states the ability to impose certain abortion restrictions, thus creating an “undue burden” for women who sought an abortion. They insinuated that the enforcement of parental consent or notification in thirty-two states was an illustration of “undue burden.”

“Long-Term Physical and Psychological Health Consequences of Induced Abortion”

Thorp et al. published a report in the January 2003 issue of Obstetrical & Gynecological Survey. The research indicated that the ratio for elective abortions in 1996 were 23 out of 1,000 women. They also indicated that a person having an induced abortion was more likely to have complications in later pregnancies and to suffer from severe mood disorders. Psychological effects of induced abortion include depression and emotional problems that sometimes result in suicide or suicide attempt (although long-term mental health effects could not be established due to the lack of a proper control group). Physical complications included breast cancer, placenta previa and the likelihood of preterm births or early deliveries (20-30 weeks of gestation), especially with an increased number of abortions.

Based on the findings, Thorp et al. believed clinicians are “obligated to inform” a young first-time pregnant woman of the added risk of breast cancer if she decided to abort. Informed consent should also “caution” women that having elective abortions lead to higher instances of depression and suicidal ideation.

There were several problems with this study. Only data from legal surgical abortions were considered (data from medical abortions were not used), and a true experimental design could not be established due “inappropriate comparison groups of women without a history of abortion.” The research results were compiled from published articles and not from actual subjects. Obtaining information “scientifically” was not possible since cases of induced abortion and breast cancer or other problems are usually acquired during self-disclosure in adverse medical situations.

Long-term studies cannot be conducted because many women do not report induced abortions during routine exams. Thorp et al. realized that more research needs to be done of women in “unintended or crisis pregnancies.” Without a longitudinal study on lifetime effects of elective abortions, the authors summed, “Women are making important health decisions with incomplete information.”

“Psychiatric Admissions of Low-Income Women Following Abortion and Childbirth”

A study conducted by Reardon et al. revealed that women who were separated, widowed or divorced during the abortion procedure were at higher risk for psychiatric admission. They also found that “depression, negative emotions and dissatisfaction with the abortion decision increased with time.” A small number of women experienced symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder following an abortive procedure.

They determined that women who had abortions were more likely to suffer from depression than those who had unintended pregnancies and carried to term. The concluding interpretation of the study was: “Subsequent psychiatric admissions are more common among low-income women who have an induced abortion than among those who carry a pregnancy to term, both in the short and longer term.”

Reardon et al. sited several limitations of their study. Their research only contained data received from the “lowest socioeconomic group in the United States,” and complete medical histories of patients (including psychiatric diagnosis and previous pregnancies) were unavailable. They were unable to use marital status/social support as a determiner for post-abortive adjustment.

Psychological Responses of Women After First-Trimester Abortion

The study by Major et al. conducted a two-year study of emotional responses of women who aborted during their first trimester of pregnancy. The data was collected an hour before the procedure, an hour after, one month later, and two years post-abortion. They discovered that women who were initially satisfied with their decision to abort eventually became dissatisfied with their decision, resulting in increased negative emotions (sadness and regret two years after the procedure). Even though negative emotions increased over time, “severe psychological distress” was rare, and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder was less than the percentage found in the general population. Major et al. believed that the best predictor for post-abortion feelings and mental health was the evaluation of pre-abortion mental health.

One of the problems Major et al. found with their results was that responses were based on self-report, yielding a possibility that feelings may have been over or underestimated; and the sample results of the two-year follow-up had diminished to 50% of the original respondents (from 882 to 442). Also, there was an absence of a “good baseline measure of mental health prior to the discovery of the pregnancy,” in other words, they had no data to show that certain women may have been depressive before they became pregnant.


All studies that were examined showed that depression was an innate emotional reaction to abortion. The fact sheet, produced by the Alan Guttmacher Institute, gave no indication that extreme emotional or physical aftereffects existed following an abortion, only that the risk of death increased with a late term abortion. The truth is that most women will survive an abortive procedure, but will be plagued with the emotional aftereffects for many years following an abortion. Not only will the women experience grief and loss, they will carry the enormous burden of guilt.

Although the research findings indicated that “severe psychological distress” and post-traumatic stress disorder were rare, the realization that a woman was responsible for the termination of her own baby’s life was devastating enough to create an immediate sense of distress. Due to recent research findings, women now face an increased risk of breast cancer, in addition to the looming feeling of remorse they will feel for the rest of their lives.

When asked how the church might help someone who is contemplating abortion, someone suggested, “Make sure there are pamphlets available with the physical addresses of pro-life centers within a 30 mile radius of the church. Provide a 24-hour telephone number of a pro-life hotline and get a volunteer to be a designated driver for anyone who needs transportation to one of these facilities.” When questioned how the church might help someone emotionally heal from an abortion, another person commented, “Just love them.”


Allen Guttmacher Institute. Facts in Brief: Induced Abortion. New York: The Alllen Guttmacker Institute, 2002 [on-line]. Accessed 25 October 2003. Available from http://www.guttmacher.org; Internet.

Major, Brenda, Catherine Cozzarelli, M. Lynne Cooper, Josephine Z ubek, Caroline Richards, Michael Wilhite, and Richard H. Gramzow. Psychological Responses of Women After First-Trimester Abortion. Archives of General Psychiatry, Vol. 57 (8), August 2000 [on-line]. Accessed 27 October 2003. Available from http://archpsyc.ama-assn.org/cgi/ content/abstract/57/8/777; Internet.

Reardon, David C., Jesse R. Cougle, Vincent M. Rue, Martha W. Shuping, Priscilla K. Coleman and Philip G. Ney. Psychiatric Admissions of Low-Income Women Following Abortion and Childbirth. Canadian Medical Association Journal, May 2003 [on-line]. Accessed 25 October 2003. Available from http://www.cmaj.ca/cgi/content/full/168/10/1253; Internet.

Stotland, Nada L. Assessing the Mental Health Impact of Induced Abortion. Medline Review. Medscape Women’s Health 1(8), 1996 [on-line]. Accessed 25 October 2003. Available from http://eileen.250x.com/Main/Pass/MntlHlthImpct.htm; Internet.

Thorp, John M. Jr., Katherine E. Hartmann, and Elizabeth Shadigian. Long-Term Physical and Psychological Health Consequences of Induced Abortion: Review of the Evidence. Obstetrical & Gynecological Survey, Vol. 58 (1), January 2003 [on-line]. Accessed 26 October 2003. Available from http://www.ncrtl.org/images/concept/evidencereview.pdf; Internet.

John M. ThorpJr., Katherine E. Hartmann, and Elizabeth Shadigian, Long-Term Physical and Psychological Health Consequences of Induced Abortion, Obstetrical & Gynecological Survey, Vol. 58 (1) [on-line], accessed 26 October 2003, available from http://www.ncrtl.org/images/concept/ evidencereview.pdf, internet.

Nada L. Stotland, Assessing the Mental Health Impact of Induced Abortion, Medline Review, Medscape Women’s Health 1(8), 1996 [on-line], accessed 25 October 2003, available from http://eileen.250x.com/Main/Pass/ MntlHlthImpct.htm, internet.


Copyright © 2007 M. Teresa Trascritti


This paper examines the causes and consequences of marital breakdown within the minister’s marriage, specifically in the areas of sexual intimacy, marital expectations, time management, and dysfunctional family of origin.


The top ten problem areas ministers identified in ministry and marriage were: (1) Finding the time for pastoral duties; (2) Creating time for personal recreation; (3) Finding time for family; (4) Dealing with criticism from church members; (5) Continuing professional education; (6) Handling lack of congregational loyalty; (7) Responding to unrealistic expectations; (8) Facing feelings of professional inadequacy; (9) Exercising pastoral authority; and (10) Handling job dissatisfaction.[1] Other problem areas were: struggling with perfectionism, conquering sexual temptations, coping with loneliness, and dealing with low self-esteem.[2]

Causes of Marital Crisis

“Time with wife and family” is a problem for some ministers because ministry is “unstructured and unpredictable.”[3] A compounding problem ministers encounter is that it is “easier” to dismiss their family’s request of his time in favor of ministering to church members. If he decides to spend time with his family the congregation may misinterpret his actions as negligence of his ministerial duties, and his effectiveness will be hampered.[1] The minister would rather relinquish family time than risk “alienation of church members.” [2] The minister often finds himself in a “catch-22” because if he spends time with his family and neglects some church responsibility, he is accused of being lazy, but if he spends time doing the church responsibility and neglects spending time with his family, someone may say that his priorities “aren’t straight.”[3] Ministers lack peer accountability, and feel lonely and isolated because they tend to have only “casual relationships” that never move to the deeper level of friendship due to the lack of time.[4]

A minister’s church obligations may require him to be away from home on nights or weekends, to travel long distances during the week, or be involved in “confidential relationships” with many types of people. These duties may sometimes prevent the minister from participating in “homemaking” or daily housekeeping tasks; however, the minister may use church duties as an excuse to detach himself from his marriage or family commitments.[5]

The senior pastor’s wife may feel resentful or “cheated” at the prospect of having the “same pastor” for the rest of her life.[6] Some ministers may use their theological knowledge as a way of “pulling rank,” to belittle their spouse, or to express other kinds of suppressed negative feelings. The minister may even disguise an argument by “over intellectualizing” it in an effort to create a feeling of superiority within himself and in the process, producing a feeling of inferiority in the spouse.[7] It is the lack of self-awareness and elevating oneself without the accountability of another person that may delude ministers into thinking they are “immune” to sexual temptation or immorality.[8]

Perhaps the marital problem is due to the wife’s discontent with her husband’s profession. There are three basic types of minister’s wives worth noting: (1) The Team Worker- who sees herself as the “unofficial co-pastor” or assistant pastor, and views ministry as a shared team effort with her husband (such as a co-laborer); (2) The Background Supporter- whose identity is enmeshed with her husband’s because she has no identity of her own (she is “Mrs. Rev. so-and-so”), and her prime reason for existing is to meet the needs of her husband and family, and (3) The Detached Type- who has her own identity and usually works outside the home and has “minimal need” for contact with her husband’s work. One author believes that the “detached type” wife creates the best ministerial marriage because the couple has autonomy yet support each other in their “professional choices.”[9]

Although the marriage of the minister is basically very similar to the marriages of other people, ministers struggle with “unique pressures” and live in an unusual circumstance that demands additional requirements of marriage. Many minister’s marriage are in trouble not because they are a minister, but because they have not done the basic things which are necessary to make a marriage work.[1] Marriage is “God’s idea” but some ministers are oblivious to the fact that having a successful marriage is “tough work.” Marriage is supposed to be a “one hundred-one hundred” arrangement—each spouse should be putting in a “one hundred percent” effort.[2] The minister’s marriage however may be bombarded with “chronic busyness” that prevent each partner to give “100-percent.”[3] If the minister is pastor of a small church, financial burdens create “havoc” on the marriage as well.[4]

Other causes for marital stress are the minister’s dysfunctional family of origin, “unreasonable expectations” of marriage and spouse, “acute marital disappointment,” “blaming others” including his wife, attraction to pornography and fantasy as a “refuge” and “substitute,” formation of counseling relationships without “safeguards,” and attraction to a sexual liaison as an opportunity to gain intimacy and admiration.[5]

Dysfunctional Family of Origin

A dysfunctional family of origin can cause a “fear of intimacy.” Ministers suffering from a “fear of intimacy” may create a pseudo-intimacy through pornography, prostitutes, and “short affairs” with other women. Unfortunately, his need for intimacy is never satisfied because it is not directed towards his wife. He is left feeling “empty, lonely, ashamed, and guilty.”[6] He becomes vulnerable to the development of an “unhealthy intimacy” as he finds his emotional needs being met by people other than his wife.[7]

The “residue” of a dysfunctional family of origin can result in “emotional scars” such as low self-esteem.[8] A minister who suffers from low self-esteem may hunger for acceptance to the point of avoiding conflict in an effort to “keep everybody happy.”[9] This need for acceptance inevitably affects his intimacy level and his view of sexuality. Often, low self-esteem leads to depression because the minister develops a “pseudo-self” because he fears rejection or harbors feelings of shame.[1]

Some ministers have a tendency to become “codependent rescuers.” They may have been raised in a dysfunctional home where they “rescued” or “enabled” family members. The problem with this type of dysfunction is that the person concentrates on the needs of others. For instance, if this type of person counsels a “hurting wounded woman,” he would be tempted to have an intimate relationship with her because of his incessant need to rescue, to be the “hero,” and to receive praise.[2]

Internal stresses can be caused by an insatiable need for approval that prevents the person from saying “no.” Some internal stresses may be due to an internal drive that keeps the person “pushing” to work more hours in order to get “more done,” but the work never seems to get finished and there is never an opportunity to relax. A minister might have the “Messiah complex,” which prevents him from delegating responsibilities because he feels that he is the only one capable of accomplishing the task. Discouragement and a “sense of failure” happens when ministers experience simultaneous conflicts at church and home, and are too busy taking care of others that they neglect their own basic needs for self-care.[3]

A male’s “exaggerated interest” in sex and “ambivalence” about his own sexuality can be the result of being raised by an aggressive and dominant mother (who “made most of the decisions in the home”) and a passive or “quiet” father.[4] When a mother’s method of curbing her son’s aggression is to withdraw affection from him, it can result in intense pain, bitterness, and deep-seated anger. This suppressed rage can cause the son to avoid conflict and in adulthood, trigger symptoms of headaches, intestinal problems, sleeplessness, and withdrawal from sex.[5]

The “bottom line” is that many sexual problems stem from emotional problems and developmental maladjustments.[6] When counseling ministers, it is imperative to look into their sexuality because many have doubt and guilt concerning sex, and are unable to discuss it with anyone.[7]

Unreasonable Expectations and Marital Disappointment

Intimacy is defined as a “vivid feeling of closeness arising from a purposefully selected and developed mutually committed adult relationship.”[8] When a minister has an “unhappy” marriage that is void of intimacy, it puts great pressure on him because he is not getting the “healing and support” of sharing his daily burdens with his wife.[1] He is “inwardly tortured” and “emotionally drained” because he feels disappointment, guilt, and failure in his marriage.[2] The wife also is suffering from stress because she must “put on an act” for the congregation or “risk ruining her husband’s career” by letting everyone know about their marital problem. A minister’s wife may harbor resentment towards her husband’s position, especially if she feels like she is playing “second or third fiddle.” Her resentment is exasperated because his “desires and schedule” often dominate their time.[3]

Ministers may have entered marriage with high expectations, such as believing all his needs will be met by his wife. [4] Though many marriages “start well,” with a high level of intimacy and genuine sensitivity to the other’s needs, their “sensitivity” towards each other may shift to children, careers, and community interests, resulting in “cooling” of relational intimacy.[5] Also, when certain expectations are met with disappointment, lack of intimacy and discontentment with marital sex results, which puts a strain on the marriage.[6]

Communication is “essential to relational intimacy,” however ministers neglect communicating with their spouse because they come home “tired of communicating” with others.[7] This lack of communication creates “isolation and alienation” between the couple in their own home. The minister ought to “reflect the expression of God’s love” through his marriage, as an “image and example” of how other people can grow in the quality of their love for each other.[8] When a minister’s marriage does not demonstrate the warmth and tenderness of “human love at its best,” it hampers their Christian testimony because “outsiders” will look at them and wonder if their religion is true.[9]

Ministers-in-training often believe that they can “compensate” for “anything they missed” while working on a Christian vocation. A wife will have feelings of resentment and hatred when the minister misses crucial life events such as the birth of a child in favor of ministry.[10] The truth is that some family experiences cannot be continually “neglected, delayed, or bypassed” without causing severe damage to their marriage and family life.[11]

Perhaps the couple’s marriage never aligned with God’s expectation of marriage. A study conducted by the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary indicated that there were three qualities of a godly marriage: (1) There is an establishment of a biblical foundation for marriage, in that each acts as a “servant of Jesus Christ” towards the other and are demonstrating “Christ-centeredness” in their marriage, (2) A sacrificial headship of the husband exists within the marriage, in which he places his wife’s concerns “first,” and (3) Husbands promote holiness in their marriage through personal example, which prompts their wives to grow and develop in holiness too.[1]

Unreasonable expectations may have been placed on the minister simply because he occupies the pastorate.[2] The most identified mark of the pastorate is that it is an “impossible job.” There is an extreme pressure to succeed and a constant fear of job security.[3] This creates “unexpressed anger” which is usually suppressed and surfaces as depression.[4] Spouses may not have examined the role expectations of a minister, and ignorance of the position resulted. For example, ministers might receive praise and requests for counseling from “attractive” and “romantically eligible” people following a worship service. This can create jealousy or anxiety in the wife. On the “flip-side,” some wives are more personable than their minister-husbands, which may produce “negative feelings” in the spouse, causing stress in the marriage.[5]

External stresses often hamper the marital relationship. Many are “unavoidable” to the minister. For instance, ministers may feel “overwhelmed” with all the work to be done and are continually frustrated because they cannot “do it all,” they feel pressure to “entertain the congregation,” pressure to “produce,” and “church shoppers” add stress by moving to another church rather than resolve problems or address difficult issues.[6]

Relevant Statistics About Ministry and Marriage

Findings from a 2002 survey indicated that fifteen hundred ministers leave the ministry each month due to moral failure, spiritual burnout or contention in their churches, Eighty percent of seminary and Bible school graduates who enter the ministry will leave the ministry within the first five years, ninety percent of ministers said their seminary or Bible school did a “poor job” in preparing them for ministry, Eighty percent of minister’s wives feel their spouse is “overworked,” Eighty percent of minister’s wives feel “left out” and “unappreciated” by the church congregation, Eighty percent of minister’s wives wish their spouse would choose another profession, Seventy percent of ministers constantly fight depression, Almost forty percent polled said they have had an extra-marital affair since beginning their ministry, and ninety-five percent of ministers do not regularly pray with their spouses.[1]

Results from Thorburn and Balswick’s survey, Extra-Marital Sexual Behavior in the Ministry, indicated “pastors have the highest incidence of sexual contact among professional helpers,” “pastors usually get involved with someone they know,” and “pastors are slightly more likely to have intercourse with a counselee or a friend.” A pastor may engage in an intimate sexual contact with a counselee because he became “caught up” in a momentary attraction based on his own unconscious needs or the neediness of the counselee, or he may be unconsciously seeking to express the “power of his position” in the relationship.[2]

The Long-term Effects and Consequences of Unresolved Marital Issues

When marital stress is unresolved, the couple is left with a “superficial” relationship. They “put up a front” for appearance’s sake even though they are suffering deeply. They avoid seeing a marriage counselor because they fear being “downgraded” or becoming the subject of gossip.[3] They are inhibited from seeking help because there is intense pressure to model the perfect marriage for the congregation, which only intensifies the feelings of guilt and depression.[4] Because of this “secret,” the couple is unable to develop very close friendships with other couples in the church.[5]

“Neglected Spouse Syndrome” develops when the wife of a minister receives little to no attention from her husband for a prolonged period of time. The feelings of neglect and abandonment turns into resentment and anger, which is expressed as “nagging for more time,” “criticism of the spouse,” “getting even by reciprocal neglect,” and “getting physically sick.”[6] When negative feelings are not directly communicated, the possibility of “passive-submissive behavior” is likely, for instance an “unconscious passive-submissive punishment” is to withhold sex.[7]

The “battle for control” in a marriage may “feel like a fight” only to the spouse who is “giving in.” The spouse may have no idea that the expression “I’m sorry” is actually masking a “deep fear” of separation or violence. Meanwhile, the individual who gives in feels controlled and dominated. The resentment builds up and the relationship suffers.[8]

Sexual power struggles can occur when a wife views her husband’s sexual desires as “selfish demands,” and uses sex (either giving or withholding) as a way of gaining power or expressing anger.[1] Sometimes an inability to resolve conflict causes sexual power struggles, for example, a husband might feel manipulated by his wife’s use of sex when she “gives in” to him sexually only after he has given into her demands in other areas of their relationship.[2]

“Sharing” in ministry can result in competitiveness between spouses, or it can become a source of irritation for the couple, causing “relational fatigue.”[3] Sexual power struggles can happen when a minister’s wife feels powerless.[4] When sex in marriage becomes a “battleground,” it can make the couple feel powerless, angry, vulnerable, and tense.[5]

The broad definition of an “extra-marital” sexual behavior is “the sexual behavior which occurs outside the bond of marriage, by those who are married.”[6] The definition was narrowed, to “extra-marital sexual behavior, without emotional or spiritual investment is fornication, and sexual behavior with someone other than a spouse that includes an emotional or spiritual investment, is adultery.”[7]

A minister might become vulnerable to an affair (or “extra-marital sexual behavior”) when “common interests” and sexual intimacy with his wife diminishes.[8] The process is gradual and might begin with the minister becoming “preoccupied” with another woman in that he starts thinking about a counselee during his day, and shifting the focus from her problems to her “as a person.” Eventually the minister starts to compare the other woman to his wife, noticing that the other woman laughs at his jokes and is fascinated by him. He starts to tell his wife that she should be more like the other woman (in terms of characteristics and appearance). The desire to be with the woman becomes so strong that the minister starts to find excuses to be with her. He then starts to have sexual fantasies about her that may “intrude” during sexual intimacy with his wife. During a counseling session, the minister begins to share his own marital problems with the other woman (the counselee), which only intensifies his “perceived unhappiness.”[9]

Some women may see a minister (especially an evangelist) as a sexual object because his personality is “powerful and winsome,” his speech is persuasive, his dress and appearance are “attractive,” and his meetings are “conducive to openness and trust.”[10] There are many women who find this combination of factors powerfully “irresistible.” “Hysteroid” women who often seek “meaning” and “identity” are obsessively drawn to this type of male figure. Lonely wives, who are yearning for intimacy and lack “romantic excitement” in their lives, fill the void in their lives through fantasies to “overcome reality.” When these “available women” encounter an evangelist suffering from the pressures of ministry, loneliness, and “heightened levels” of testosterone, there is a great possibility for infidelity to occur. The minister may rationalize his sexual exploit by convincing himself that God had brought the two together.[1]

A minister’s wife may also be vulnerable to having an affair if she feels neglected by her husband, becomes concerned about “losing her attractiveness,” and sees in another man the qualities “she wishes her husband had.”[2] When the couple reaches their capacity of “marital discontentment,” the marriage often fails and ends in divorce.[3] Over the years, there has been a notable increase in the number of “clergy marriages” ending in divorce. Divorce is disruptive to any family, but more so to the “clergy family.”[4]

There are consequences for certain actions, for instance McBurney recounted a time when “a young pastor” confessed an “adulterous relationship” he was having with a church member. His wife knew and had forgiven him, and when he was advised by McBurney to confess the relationship to his elders he was met with anger and lack of forgiveness and was quickly fired.[5]

De-Stressing the Marital Relationship

Couples must learn to allow faith and love to “permeate” the core of their marriage. The permeation of faith and love within marriage is “manifested” in “essential elements”: closeness, conflict resolution, and cognition.[6] Couples also need to reestablish “covenantal commitment,” staking their “honor, their word, and their identity” on fulfilling their covenantal obligations toward the spouse regardless of what the other person “does or does not do.”[7]

To deescalate a marital power struggle, it is helpful for a counselor to help the “clergy couple” to do a number of things, (1) Help the couple to recognize the “battle for control” in which they are participants and to aid them into understand the “underlying reasons” for the battle, (2) “Negotiate a truce” between the couple and teach them how to resolve conflicts in a “creative way,” and (3) Explain to them the benefits of a “balanced, mature view of submissiveness.”[8]

Couples ought to take steps to “preserve a loving relationship” by learning to resolve conflict, and develop interests outside of marriage. They should also work on their communication skills, commit to spiritually growing together through devotions and worship, and keeping the sexual relationship “active.”[1]

Ministers need to be aware and conscious of “red flags” from other women, a few of which are: (1) a “growing dependence,” characterized as a woman requesting more time to meet and asks you to help her make personal decisions, (2) “affirmation and praise” from a person whom appears to ‘understand’ and ‘admire’ you, (3) “complaints about loneliness” that leads to a “confession” that her loneliness is subsided when you are with her, (4) “giving gifts” to you, which creates a feeling of obligation on your part to reciprocate, (5) “physical contact” that may start out as an “innocent” hug of appreciation, and (6) “other seductive behavior” such as sending non-verbal “messages” about her availability and her concentrating on sexual issues during individual counseling sessions.[2]

Ways of strengthening a minister’s marriage should include, (1) Placing one’s life, marriage, and family in God’s hands day after day, and trusting His care in all events and circumstances, (2) Enjoying each other’s successes and being supportive when one or the other partner fails, (3) Hearing one’s spouse when he or she is hurting and making essential changes in life-styles to help the partner cope effectively, (3) Coming to terms with one’s spouse as a real person rather than living with a fantasy or forcing someone into false roles, (4) Sharing each other’s private life, (5) Permitting unique interests and activities to emerge and thrive as spouses age, change and grow, (6) Protecting the marriage/family as a unit against the disruptive forces sometimes imposed by community or church, (7) Keeping fit in all respects so that one possesses reserves of energy to handle schedules that are frequently overloaded and face crises when they arise, and (8) Scheduling some “couple time” that remains “inviolate” and permits them to catch up with each other.[3]

In regards to infidelity, repairing the damage to rebuild a marriage means that “roadblocks to reconciliation” should be extricated from the marital relationship. These roadblocks include, “anger and unforgiveness,” “pride,” “fear,” “the third person (the lover from an affair),” “old patterns of relationship” (especially those that are “destructive” or “negative”), “the cost of the affair,” and “the counsel of the ungodly.”[4]

The couple ought to focus on the strengths and unique aspects that “unify” a couple in a “clergy marriage,” such as the “events of the day are shared with a common point of reference,” “the wife is not left out of her husband’s world, as in the case of most other professionals,” “both are often involved together in the same tasks with the same goals,” and “less ‘fragmentation’ of life because all the pieces can be ‘put together.’”[5]

Ministers need accountability and should find other ministers with whom to build “mutual and trusting relationships” where there is “open talk and prayer without the fear of gossip.” These types of friendships will aid in the reduction of stress and loneliness that is often accompanied with being a minister.[1] Finding a mentor who has the “wisdom, experience, and anointing” to minister to the minister in another good idea. A minister ought to return to his “first love” and devote time in studying God’s Word because it is important for a minister to be “fed” by the Word. This can be accomplished in taking time for personal devotions, individual prayer time, and attending ministry conferences.[2] “The burden of the ministry” also requires “honesty and humility” and a comprehension of a minister’s own human limits.[3]

Several things need to be recognized in order to “deal” with the problem of the neglected spouse, (1) “acknowledge the feeling of each spouse,” (2) “identify patterns of behavior and communication being used,” (3) “clear out the ‘backlog’ of hurt and resentment,” (4) “become aware of each other’s needs and have permission to place those ahead of ministry demands,” and (5) “educate the church of the legitimate needs of the minister’s family.”[4]

In order to protect oneself from “vocational vulnerability,” married ministers have “three defenses”: (1) He must “maintain” his marriages by having a “continuous romantic affair” by “rekindling fires of passion” with his wife, because being in love with one’s mate provides the “best defense” against a sexual affair. This process of “relighting the fire” may take months of “inventive, energetic courting” but it is possible if the relationship is built on the foundation of a covenantal commitment; (2) One must “reassess attitudes” about falling in love. A “common path” to sexual immorality is the idea that feelings are uncontrollable, or that a person can be “genuinely in love” with two people at the same time. [5] This type of thinking “gives permission” for the person to “fall in love” with another woman without any regard of faithfulness for his wife. Finally, (3) A minister must avoid “every appearance and opportunity of evil.” This means that a minister should never spend “long periods” of time alone with another woman because it may place him in a vulnerable situation leading to “false accusations” or “intense temptation.”[6] A minister should “set limits” on his time with other women, protect his mind from “romantic fantasies,” involve her husband in counseling, and stop himself from comparing other women to his wife.[7]


There are many causes for the marital breakdown of a minister’s marriage. Some ministers expect their spouses to be in full support of their long hours at church, but because they neglect to spend any time with their family it creates resentment in the spouse. Often, this resentment causes the wife to use sex as a weapon to manipulate her husband and as an outlet for the expression of her anger. The sexual power struggle may result in the husband’s sexual needs being unmet by the wife, making him more vulnerable to sexual temptation as he unwittingly gets his needs met from another woman.

There is a “snowball effect” when lack of communication is experienced in a marriage. For example, the husband often comes home verbally exhausted from working at church that he neglects to communicate with his wife. If this happens continually, the lack of communication will cause “isolation” and “alienation” between the minister and his wife, and might manifest itself into unresolved conflict because there is an inability to discuss issues. Isolation and alienation causes marital stress. Sometimes the stress pushes ministers to put more time into ministry, which only compounds the problem within the marriage. As the emotional distance between the couple becomes wider, there is a great possibility that spouses will divorce or have their needs met elsewhere. The latter leaves the minister or wife susceptible to sexual temptations. When either succumbs to the temptation, it can result into misplaced intimacy with another person, which only deepens the problems within the marriage.

Some preventative measures can be taken before the marriage reaches the point of isolation and alienation, (1) a husband should encourage his wife to use her gifts, (2) a minister ought to get his wife involved in his life and regard her as his “chief confidante,” (3) the couple should attend conferences together, (4) a husband should help his wife with child-rearing, (5) they should spend time together as a couple, (6) the minister can delegate certain church obligations to laypeople, (7) the couple should show continually appreciation for each other, (8) the husband should take certain precautions when counseling women, such as scheduling a session during times when someone else will be in another office, setting time limits on counseling duration and number of sessions, and counseling together as a couple, and (9) a wife should support her husband in his work, in his role as a husband, and through “physical expressions of love.”[1]

The “world’s” definition of marriage is “the legal union of a man and woman as husband and wife,”[2] but a Christian’s marriage ought to be more than just a “legal union” and should be held at a higher standard. A biblical marriage is defined as, “an intimate and complementing union between a man and a woman in which the two become one physically, in the whole of life (i.e. “one flesh”).”[3] The couple needs to return to the true meaning of marriage, which is “to serve God and to reflect the relationship of the Godhead.”[4]


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Rodd, Cyril, ed. The Pastor’s Problems. Edinburgh: T.& T. Clark Limited, 1985.

Tackett, Charles W. The Southern Baptist Journal of Theology, vol. 7 no. 4. The SBJT Form: Applications of Counseling in MinistryWhat Are the Characteristics of the Godliest Couples that You Have Seen in Your Marital Research Lab to Date? Louisville, KY: The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, 2003.

Thorburn, John W. and Jack O. Balswick. Demographic Data on Extra-Marital Sexual Behavior in the Ministry. Pastoral Psychology, vol. 46. Human Sciences Press, Inc., 1998.

Turnbull, Ralph G. A Minister’s Obstacles. New York: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1946.

Ulstein, Stephan. Pastors Off the Record: Straight Talk About Life in the Ministry. Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 1993.

Worthington, Everett L. Jr. and Douglas McMurry. Marriage Conflicts. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1994.

[1] Mary LaGrand Bouma, Divorce in the Parsonage. Minneapolis, MN: Bethany Fellowship, Inc., 1979, 100-124.

Dictionary.com. Marriage [on-line]. Accessed 3 May 2004. Available from http://dictionary. reference.com/search?q=marriage. Internet.

[3] Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology, Marriage [on-line], accessed 3 May 2004, available from http://biblestudytools.net/Dictionaries/Bakers EvangelicalDictionary/ bed.cgi, internet.

[4] Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology, Marriage [on-line], accessed 3 May 2004, available from http://biblestudytools.net/Dictionaries/Bakers EvangelicalDictionary/ bed.cgi, internet.

[1] Richard A. Murphy, Maranatha Life Life-Line for Pastors [on-line], 2002.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Samuel H. Miller, An Honest Man of God. New York, NY: The Ministers and Missionaries Benefit Board, 1960, 13.

[4] Everett L. Worthington Jr. and Douglas McMurry, Marriage Conflicts. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1994, 129.

[5] Louis McBurney, Counseling Christian Workers: Resources for Christian Counseling. Waco, TX: Word Books Publisher, 1986, 265.

[6] Ibid., 266.

[7] Ibid., 267.

[1] Ibid., 152.

[2] Ibid., 268.

[3] C.W. Brister, Caring for the Caregivers: How to Help Ministers and Missionaries. Nashville, TN: Broadman Press, 1985, 192.

[4] Everett L. Worthington Jr. and Douglas McMurry, Marriage Conflicts. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1994, 157.

[5] David & Vera Mace, What’s Happening to Clergy Marriages? Nashville, TN: Abingdon, 1981, 119.

[1] Ibid., 83.

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[2] Ray W. Ragsdale, The Mid-Life Crises of a Minister. Waco, TX: Word Books Publisher, 1978, 63.

[3] David and Vera Mace, What’s Happening to Clergy Marriages? Nashville, TN: Abingdon, 1981, 25.

[4] Everett L. Worthington Jr. and Douglas McMurry, Marriage Conflicts, p. 25.

[5] Louis McBurney, Counseling Christian Workers: Resources for Christian Counseling. Waco, TX: Word Books Publisher, 1986, 51.

[6] Everett L. Worthington Jr. and Douglas McMurry, Marriage Conflicts. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1994, 101.

[7] Ibid., 124.

[8] Louis McBurney, Counseling Christian Workers: Resources for Christian Counseling. Waco, TX: Word Books Publisher, 1986, 143.

[1] Ibid., 137.

[2] Louis McBurney, Counseling Christian Workers: Resources for Christian Counseling. Waco, TX: Word Books Publisher, 1986, 137.

[3] Ibid., 138.

[4] Ibid., 139.

[5] Ibid., 136.

[6] John W. Thorburn and Jack O. Balswick, Demographic Data on Extra-Marital Sexual Behavior in the Ministry, Pastoral Psychology, vol. 46, Human Sciences Press, Inc., 1998.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ray W. Ragsdale, The Mid-Life Crises of a Minister. Waco, TX: Word Books Publisher, 1978, 61.

[9] Louis McBurney, Counseling Christian Workers: Resources for Christian Counseling. Waco, TX: Word Books Publisher, 1986, 268.

[10] Ibid., 83.

[1] Richard A. Murphy, Maranatha Life’s Live-Line for Pastors: Statistics About Pastors [on-line], accessed 5 April 2004, available from www.maranathalife.com, internet

[2] John W. Thorburn and Jack O. Balswick, Demographic Data on Extra-Marital Sexual Behavior in the Ministry, Pastoral Psychology, vol. 46, Human Sciences Press, Inc., 1998.

[3] David and Vera Mace, What’s Happening to Clergy Marriages? Nashville, TN: Abingdon, 1981, 27.

[4] David and Vera Mace, What’s Happening to Clergy Marriages? Nashville, TN: Abingdon, 1981, 71.

[5] Ibid., 43.

[6] Louis McBurney, Counseling Christian Workers: Resources for Christian Counseling. Waco, TX: Word Books Publisher, 1986, 119.

[7] Ray W. Ragsdale, The Mid-Life Crises of a Minister. Waco, TX: Word Books Publisher, 1978, 66.

[8] Louis McBurney, Counseling Christian Workers: Resources for Christian Counseling. Waco, TX: Word Books Publisher, 1986, 135.

[1] Charles W. Tackett, Characteristics of Godliest Couples Research, SBTS Journal of Theology, 89.

[2] Louis McBurney, Counseling Christian Workers: Resources for Christian Counseling. Waco, TX: Word Books Publisher, 1986, 56.

[3] Ibid., 61.

[4] Ibid., 63.

[5] Richard A. Hunt, Ministry and Marriage. Dallas, TX: Ministry Studies Board, 1976, 49.

[6] Paul Meier and Frank Minirth, What They Didn’t Teach You in Seminary. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1993, 40-41.

[1] David and Vera Mace, What’s Happening to Clergy Marriages? Nashville, TN: Abingdon, 1981, 24.

[2] Ibid., 24.

[3] Louis McBurney, Counseling Christian Workers: Resources for Christian Counseling. Waco, TX: Word Books Publisher, 1986, 139.

[4] Stanley J. Grenz and Roy D. Bell, Betrayal of Trust: Confronting and Preventing Clergy Sexual Misconduct. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1995, 49.

[5] Ray W. Ragsdale, The Mid-Life Crises of a Minister. Waco, TX: Word Books Publisher, 1978, 56.

[6] Stanley J. Grenz and Roy D. Bell, Betrayal of Trust: Confronting and Preventing Clergy Sexual Misconduct. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1995, 49.

[7] Ray W. Ragsdale, The Mid-Life Crises of a Minister. Waco, TX: Word Books Publisher, 1978, 57.

[8] David and Vera Mace, What’s Happening to Clergy Marriages? Nashville, TN: Abingdon, 1981, 24.

[9] Ibid., 24.

[10] C.W. Brister, Caring for the Caregivers: How to Help Ministers and Missionaries. Nashville, TN: Broadman Press, 1985, 174.

[11] Ibid., 173.

[1] Ibid., 52.

[2] Ibid., 53.

[3] Paul Meier and Frank Minirth, What They Didn’t Teach You in Seminary. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1993, 46-47.

[4] Clyde M. Narramore, Why A Christian Leader May Fall. Westchester, IL: Crossway Books, 1988, 77.

[5] Louis McBurney, Counseling Christian Workers: Resources for Christian Counseling. Waco, TX: Word Books Publisher, 1986, 133.

[6] Clyde M. Narramore, Why A Christian Leader May Fall. Westchester, IL: Crossway Books, 1988, 63.

[7] Louis McBurney, Counseling Christian Workers: Resources for Christian Counseling. Waco, TX: Word Books Publisher, 1986, 139.

[8] Brian L. Harbour, Marriage in the Minister’s Home. Nashville, TN: Convention Press, 1992, 18.

[1] Brian L. Harbour, Marriage in the Minister’s Home. Nashville, TN: Convention Press, 1992, 9.

[2] Brian L. Harbour, Marriage in the Minister’s Home. Nashville, TN: Convention Press, 1992, 13.

[3] Ibid., 22.

[4] Ibid., 106.

[5] Stanley J. Grenz and Roy D. Bell, Betrayal of Trust: Confronting and Preventing Clergy Sexual Misconduct. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1995, 62.

[6] Ibid., 49.

[7] Ibid., 50.

[8] Stanley J. Grenz and Roy D. Bell, Betrayal of Trust: Confronting and Preventing Clergy Sexual Misconduct. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1995, 51.

[9] Ibid., 51.

[1] Brian L. Harbour, Marriage in the Minister’s Home. Nashville, TN: Convention Press, 1992, 66.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid, 87.

[4] Ibid, 86.

[5] Richard A. Hunt, Ministry and Marriage. Dallas, TX: Ministry Studies Board, 1976, 70.

[6] Ibid, 67.

[7] Richard A. Hunt, Ministry and Marriage. Dallas, TX: Ministry Studies Board, 1976, 68.

[8] Stanley J. Grenz and Roy D. Bell, Betrayal of Trust: Confronting and Preventing Clergy Sexual Misconduct. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1995, 133.

[9] William L. Malcomson ed., How to Survive in the Ministry, Valley Forge, PA: Judson Press, 1982, 59-60.

[1] C.W. Brister, Caring for the Caregivers: How to Help Ministers and Missionaries. Nashville, TN: Broadman Press, 1985, 186.

[2] Ibid,186.

[3] Brian L. Harbour, Marriage in the Minister’s Home. Nashville, TN: Convention Press, 1992, 62.


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