Dating a minister

Like many courting interfaith couples, we had fascinating discussions about religion. program in Economics, I was secure in my identity as a Jewish woman, although as a pastor's wife I found myself attending church more than I would have liked.

In my third year of graduate school, I married John. As I struggled through graduate school, I staved off depression by learning a lot about Judaism, celebrating an adult bat mitzvah and eventually joining Havurat Shalom, a congregation in which the members share the role of spiritual leader. (In the 1970s and 1980s and even the 1990s, there were still expectations that the pastor's wife would attend church occasionally and be sociable with the congregation, and my Jewishness hurt John's career.) I sometimes fantasized about becoming a rabbi.

I am especially grateful to have the opportunity to hear from pastors’ wives since much of my focus is on pastors.

Our recent, informal survey simply asked the open-ended question: “What do you wish you had been told before you became a minister’s wife?

Before I met my boyfriend, you would have needed to pay a modest-to-large sum of money to get me to even set foot inside a church. Blame it on everything except my childhood exposure to Catholicism.

Unlike, perhaps, some of the readers of this article, I actively support full LGBTQ equality, and I do not believe that the only province of sexuality should be the marital relationship. But you, and I, and everyone, universally agree that some classes of sexual behavior are simply acceptable, like child molestation, or sexual assault.

And pastors dating their parishioners—although seemingly more benign at first—actually fits into that category. When you belong to a church, the ministers consult each other about what’s going on in your life—and this can create conflicts of interest if you’re dating one of them In my case, when I grew increasingly frazzled by my relationship with my pastor, I couldn’t go to one of the other ministers and talk about it. This would be like dating your manager, and then going to the CEO of the company for relationship advice.

They are not ordained beyond their ministerial duties which should also be from a position of service and humility, not from dominance and superior authority.

Good question: The relationship of a minister and a member of the congregation is not the same as a supervisor and subordinate.