The accidental minister's wife
March 23, 2009 7:40 AM   Subscribe

My husband, who has been agnostic since we met and hasn't attended church in years, has rather suddenly decided to pursue a career in the ministry. I don't know what to do or who to talk to about my concerns.

First off, I am Buddhist and he is Christian. I have no problems with what he believes, nor does he have any issue with what I believe. This is just a very unexpected turn of events and I never envisioned becoming a minister's wife.

My concerns:
1. He says that since ministers are essentially public figures, they must be very careful about appearances so as to avoid scandal.
a. We're both kinky, and have attended public events and clubs. He says we won't be able to do that anymore, and I'll have to avoid discussing the topic with anyone. (I'm not out about it anyway, but I don't make a special effort to hide it either.)
b. He says he's not going to watch porn anymore and is in the process of deciding how he feels about other sex acts (presumably the kinky ones). I'm worried that we'll end up with missionary-position only.
c. He says that people are bound to gossip and judge me because I am his wife. I lead a pretty unremarkable life (except for the kinky stuff) but this makes me self-conscious as hell and it feels very restrictive (i.e. sometimes I like to go to gay dance clubs with friends, my bachelorette party was at a strip club, etc).

2. I'm afraid that as he becomes closer to the Christian community, it's going to create a wedge between us. He says he has no problem with my beliefs NOW, and he's even very curious about Buddhism, but he's almost certainly going to get pressure from less open-minded people who insist I'm going to hell.
a. Then again, he did say that I can't make an informed decision about whether or not I'm Christian without having read the Gospels. I countered with "Why don't you read the Qu'ran, just to make sure you're not Muslim?"

3. I really, honestly don't have a problem with anyone's belief system, BUT I don't necessarily want to talk about it, or be around a bunch of people who think I'm wrong. I feel like a fish out of water in a church, and I can't in good conscience "go through the motions" (not that he is asking me to). I grew up as a Christian and left the church when I was 14 because it just didn't make any sense to me.

OK, so all that said - my husband is a very good man who I love infinitely, and who loves me unconditionally. He is not one of "those" Christians - he believes in marriage rights for same-sex couples, he's pro-choice, feminist, etc. We agree on pretty much everything except the whole God & Christ thing. We don't have kids and won't be having any, so that's not an issue. I am definitely not considering leaving him, but I just don't know what to do with this new information. Help?
posted by anonymous to Religion & Philosophy (32 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
it sounds to me like you should take him at his word and see how it plays out. i think you need to keep an open mind to the situation, and not let your projections become self-fulfilling. your sex life may take a hit in the short term though...
posted by askmehow at 7:50 AM on March 23, 2009

Maybe take your cues from rabbis, who seem to have a better attitude towards sex than their Christian counterparts. To them, God's creation is something to be enjoyed.
posted by anonymous_account at 7:53 AM on March 23, 2009

I'm afraid that as he becomes closer to the Christian community, it's going to create a wedge between us. He says he has no problem with my beliefs NOW, and he's even very curious about Buddhism, but he's almost certainly going to get pressure from less open-minded people who insist I'm going to hell.

The leap from agnosticism to ministry is a fairly large one.

You don't say which Christian community, but I'm sure you're aware that there is a fairly wide spectrum of beliefs (or orthodoxy, or conservatism - however you want to call it). Interfaith marriages are not at all uncommon in many of the branches, and a minister/pastor/priest should be able to provide some advice and guidance here.

He obviously knows that he is about to ask a great deal of you that was not necessarily part of the original bargain, so couples counseling is probably not a bad idea either.
posted by jquinby at 7:59 AM on March 23, 2009

I can't tell if your anguish is over the potential effects on your life together, or with the speed with which he has come to his decision. Your headline suggests the latter: "rather suddenly decided."

It's certainly what I'm left wondering. Why is he doing this? Do you doubt his motivations?

You have stressed that he has no problem with what you believe, but your list of concerns reveal he may well have (or develop) a problem with who you are, and moreover it is you who will have to conform to the demands of his new career.

I know it's an AskMeFi cliche, but all I can think to suggest is that you show him your question here.
posted by werkzeuger at 8:03 AM on March 23, 2009

...also, it's very likely that as his wife, you will be asked to participate to some extent during the training/formation and so on. Example: for the diaconate, the ordained office for married men in the Catholic Church, the wife is absolutely part of the formation process.
posted by jquinby at 8:04 AM on March 23, 2009

What was the catalyst for this sudden change? I was agnostic for a long time and then I just threw in the towel and started calling myself an Atheist when I realized I was only saying I was agnostic just so other people could feel like I believed in something.

I certainly was never at a point where I'd have jumped from being agnostic to wanting to minister to other people.

What happened?
posted by JFitzpatrick at 8:06 AM on March 23, 2009

As someone that knows several ministers wives, he isn't pursuing a a "career in the ministry", he is pursuing a lifestyle. Those are two different things. He won't be working 9-5 and leaving his job on evenings and weekends. The wives I know are in very liberal parishes and yet feel very concious of the social roles and gossip that swirls around them. As your are in a partnership, this isn't something he gets to decide on his own, any more than you choosing to pursing a dream of being a forest ranger would happen without more indepth discusions. If he is trying to sell you on this idea he is doing a piss-poor job of it (really - I have a new job, sorry our sex life will suck now?) You are right to be concerned and should bring it up in counselling.
posted by saucysault at 8:08 AM on March 23, 2009 [17 favorites]

I can somewhat relate. Here's an answer I gave in another thread about my beliefs.

My father is a second career pastor and went to seminary as I was entering my junior year of high school. I pretty much solidified my beliefs during this time, but it was another 6 or 7 years before I felt comfortable articulating them (I still don't around my family).

Your husband is correct in that people will be into your business like you can't imagine. My favorite story relating to this was someone once told my dad, "I saw your son buying beer." My dad's response was "My son is 30," but you can be sure I heard the story and changed my beer buying practices.

My mother once forgot to take in the laundry, on a Saturday, that was drying on the line. There was a debate about whether she should risk it on a Sunday. It was decided that Monday morning would be when she takes it in.

My father also once accepted a call to a new church. I was in college at the time, so my room contents were moved without me being there. The people doing the moving discovered art by Tim Vigil amongst my possessions, they called my dad, concerned that someone had broken into the parsonage and left behind Satanic items. My dad explained that usually when people break into a home they take stuff. He called me to find out what the items were. I explained as best as I could, also informed him they had been in an opaque cover bound between plates of plexiglass, so they really had to go digging. He retracted his job acceptance. I'm not sure if I saved him from a horrible job or cost him a job.

I've probably attended more church services than most church going folk. Since my mother would otherwise have had to sit alone I attended church with her. I didn't "go through the motions," but did behave like I would at any other religious ceremony. I stood when they did, sat when they did, respectfully bowed my head during prayer. I didn't have any trouble reconciling this with my lack of religious beliefs.

I'm not sure what denomination you're looking at here, but you have a lot of hurdles to get through before he becomes a pastor. There's the academics, the certifications, the psychological evaluations, and the final call. There's a lot that could change.

I always thought it would be cool to be a minister (other than the whole not believing in God thing).

I view my father's profession like any other. He's good at it. I'm proud of him for doing it. I respect that he has a different world view than mine.

I have a friend that is clergy, and from my parent's example, I can say it's difficult to have outside friendships. You really can't be friends with the people from the church. Church politics are horrible. You have to have people in your life that don't see you as a clergy couple.
posted by cjorgensen at 8:09 AM on March 23, 2009 [14 favorites]

I don't know what to do or who to talk to about my concerns.

Your husband, of course! He's made a radical change that's going to affect not only his life, but yours, so this is the perfect time to have many long, drawn out discussions asking "WTF?!" What is this going to do ya'll's finances, this career change of his? What future plans did you guys have and how will they have to change? Ministers have "need" to have children in order to advance or be legitimate in some churches, does that mean he wants kids now? Suppose the church says he has to move across the country, what happens then? Etc, etc.

Take a deep breath, gather your thoughts and then sit his ass down and calmly ask "What. the. hell? You've made a unilateral decision to change our life and we need to talk about this now, before you take another step."
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:11 AM on March 23, 2009 [2 favorites]

(This is all my speculation, of course):

It will almost certainly drive a wedge between you, unless he's going for Unitarianism or Universal Life or something like that. He's trying to take it easy on you for now to avoid scaring you off, but this is basically a virus -- starts small, but I think he'll start putting more and more pressure on you to, say, join the church or stop going to dance clubs or whatever. Depending on his denomination, he may eventually "see the light" and stop supporting same sex marriage and abortion rights. Can you handle that?

Find out what denomination he's planning on, do some research, ask another question here when you find out more info. Good luck.
posted by the dief at 8:12 AM on March 23, 2009

Oh, and in case he wasn't aware, the roles for women in men and women are very different in most Christian ministries. I hope he is aware that he will be asking you to give up and suppress far more than he will himself. You should look into a few minister's wives forums for the denomination he is interested in.

Also, forgive my numerous typos. I don't feel so good today.
posted by saucysault at 8:16 AM on March 23, 2009 [1 favorite]

Hm. I think this is a very sudden and radical lifestyle shift. If this were my husband I would want to talk it through with him with a counselor and I'd also want him to see a doctor. I'd want the doctor to know that this was a sudden and radical shift in his behavior. Frankly, I'd want his head examined!

Very anecdotally, a young relative who always had a bit of a tumultuous life started suddenly behaving quite erratically. Because he'd always been reckless and a frequent drug user his crazy behavior was sort of dismissed for awhile. He got involved in some cult like activities and starting really ramping up his interest in extreme sports and being quite reckless. His Dad started to realize that something was really "off" even though this wasn't so far out of the norm for this kid. Kid had a brain tumor. It's been pretty tragic, actually. And this guy is still dealing with the health repercussions.

Not to say that this is anything like what is happening to your husband but, again, if this were my guy, I'd want to explore all options. And, he would have to take me seriously when I suggest that his life choices affect me and that compromises and considerations are likely quite necessary. Your fears are reasonable and understandable and appropriate -- don't let anyone bully you out of those. I think you have some digging to do here. Good luck.
posted by amanda at 8:30 AM on March 23, 2009

Part of being married is accepting that you've chosen to become a contingent being. One accepts a measured loss of autonomy and gains, in return, a partner. Decisions which in the past might have been made for one's self now are made for the couple as a unit. That can constrain, but it can also sustain in difficult times. And radical changes that affect both partners need to be discussed and ratified by both partners. Anything else is an abuse of the extraordinary intimacy and radical trust that marriage engenders.

For your husband to make this life transforming decision without consulting you is a breach of that intimacy and trust. Seriously, such a significant decision comes to you out of nowhere? You need to step back from this particular conundrum and ask why it is that these serious issues of faith are working themselves out in him without you as a dialogue partner. Obviously marriage is not a state of constant panoptic supervision, but it's shocking that he would change so radically without giving you some indication of that, and without drawing upon your insights and your love in order to make these changes in a responsible way.

If you need to articulate your concerns to him in a way that he can take seriously, I'd suggest that the two of you read Genesis 2-3 together and discuss in particular what Gen 2.24 means to him. For yourself, you might say that you believe that the bond you created when you got married is itself a god-given thing and one that demands respect and care at a level more fundamental than his call to the clergy. You might read 1st Corinthians 13 together and discuss how love is a primary source of God's revelation to man, going beyond understanding and ambition. You could ask him how he intends to reconcile the God given love which sustains your marriage with what he believes to be a divinely given mandate to serve his community through the church.

In the end, you can tell him that you simply don't understand his choice, though you want to. That he needs to move slowly, deliberately, and transparently so that this radical change in your lives doesn't drive the two of you apart. That he needs to stop dictating to you how your lives will change ans to start asking you what you're comfortable with.

After that, you need to seek counseling together.
posted by felix betachat at 8:32 AM on March 23, 2009 [20 favorites]

While there is a large overlap between religion and conservatism, it is not complete. Likewise, there's a large overlap between seminaries and conservatism, but it is not complete. There are very progressive seminaries out there. If you husband is truly interested in ministry, maybe a progressive seminary (i.e. supportive of sexuality/polytheism/gay rights/etc.) might serve him, you, and the relationship best.

Feel free to MeMail me if you want any help finding one in your area.
posted by ericc at 8:34 AM on March 23, 2009 [1 favorite]

Nthing that he needs to involve you in this decision far more actively, as it will affect you far differently than it affects him. He'll have a job to do in this church that he's chosen and is accepting the closer scrutiny, while you not only have not chosen this level of scrutiny, but will have no official role other than "being known as the pastor's wife."

I also find it worrisome that he is so deciding to reassess your sex life without it being a mutual decision? This is something that should be negotiated, not merely decided by him in accordance with is newfound faith.

Has he thought through how he will feel when you are judged, and more importantly, if he's thought through how he will react? Will be get defensive? Angry? Insulted? Can he react calmly and stay focused? Asking you to minimize reasons for gossip is one thing, but if his solution to gossip is to expect you to tiptoe and feel guilty for any little thing, well, that's not a very realistic or supportive position.

Perhaps he's caught up in the moment and is glossing over the details in his excitement, but in his rush, he's leaving consideration for your marriage behind. I think you two have some serious talking to do, preferably with a counselor who can be openminded about religion AND kink. (Eesh, good luck finding one of those.)
posted by desuetude at 8:38 AM on March 23, 2009 [3 favorites]

saucysault kind of hit on this with the forest ranger thing, but I think it might help you to specifically reframe it as being Not About the Religion. It's not (from what I hear you saying) that you have a problem with what he believes about God, it's that he's declaring that there will be a large change in your lifestyle. I'd be pretty upset if my [hypothetical] partner declared he were joining the military and turning me into an Army wife without talking to me about it; I'd also be pretty upset if he decided to become a househusband without discussing the lifestyle changes and income shifts with me. This career he's proposing to embark on entails a huge change in the bargain that the two of you struck when you married; he's lucky that he's got your continuing love and support, but he doesn't get to take that for granted and unilaterally alter your way of life.
posted by katemonster at 8:39 AM on March 23, 2009 [1 favorite]

This is a big decision with a lot of impact on you and your marriage. Why does he think it's ok to make it and inform you about it, rather then making you part of the decision making process? Is this an old pattern, or a new one?

How did the two of you get into the kink community? Did one of you take the lead? Which one? Might this have something to do with that? Did he have concerns with that that might not have been given sufficient weight? Is he now overcompensating?

Really though, ultimately, the person you need to talk about this with is him.
posted by Good Brain at 8:54 AM on March 23, 2009

The part that would concern me most here is the rather radical changes he's imposing on you -- your sex life, primarily, but the part where he wants to dictate what you can and cannot talk about to others ("I'll have to avoid discussing the topic with anyone.") is worrisome.

If my wife were to suddenly make a lot of unilateral decisions that affected our marriage in such fundamental ways -- whether for religious reasons or any other -- then yeah, I'd be concerned. At the end of the day the only person you can work this out with is your husband; you need to decide what (if anything) you're willing to give up to accommodate this new interest of his, and he needs to decide whether he can tolerate being around "less open-minded people who insist I'm going to hell". The two of you need to talk through this and sort out the boundaries before anybody's opinions get too deeply entrenched.

A sudden about-face like this doesn't usually happen without something causing it. Start there.
posted by ook at 9:11 AM on March 23, 2009 [2 favorites]

It sounds like your husband, as a minister, would be a useful voice for liberal Christianity. The world needs more of that, so good luck to him.

If you and he want to keep unsavory friends and aggravate the conservative religious establishment, you're in good company.
posted by fantabulous timewaster at 9:17 AM on March 23, 2009 [4 favorites]

I would be kind of freaked out about this as well and wonder where it came from. I think for now, since this seems to be a very early stage of exploration, you really need to be supportive and keep channels of communication open. I do wonder how much of this interest is a perhaps unconscious reaction to the kink in your relationship and if he somehow feels guilty about it. Is there a possibility of counseling for you as a couple? I think for these types of major life changes it can help to have somehow from the outside help you work through the transition.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 9:39 AM on March 23, 2009

The issues of belief here are completely tangential to the real issue, which is that it seems as if your husband is making a decision that will radically alter your life, and is simply telling you about possible consequences, but without consulting you. On top of that, it seems from your description as if his decision was kind of arbitrary, rather than one borne from a true calling. I think less time talking about the specifics, and more time talking about your relationship, is warranted.
posted by OmieWise at 9:47 AM on March 23, 2009

Has your husband been active in his church as a lay-leader? (is he a deacon, or does he lead classes/groups?) If not, this is a HUGE step to take. I would urge him to try being involved in one of the above activities before he makes the dive.

And, I agree with others above who have said that this is NOT a decision that he should make on his own - it's your life too - and if he follows through with this, it will be a radical change for both of you.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 10:03 AM on March 23, 2009

Your husband is correct in that people will be into your business like you can't imagine. My favorite story relating to this was someone once told my dad, "I saw your son buying beer." My dad's response was "My son is 30," but you can be sure I heard the story and changed my beer buying practices.

I grew up in rural Alabama as the son of the small town's Episcopal priest. Now, I know to the majority of hethans around MeFi that any Christian might as well be Fred Phelps, but I can assure you that in rural Alabama, the Episcopal Church is as godless and hellbound as anyone can get and not be Jewish (or Catholic).

One Christmas night I was out at a party with some friends and I had a beer in my hand. I was legal, but that didn't stop one person from coming up to me and asking, "hey, aren't you a preacher's son, and here it is Christmas?!?" to which I replied, "Yep, but my father only sprang for beer tonight."

This drew astonished looks. Was I serious? Did my dad know I drank? Did my dad condone drinking? Scandal!!

Later I told my father and his exact reaction was, "fuck 'em."

Now, my father has been a fairly successful minister over the years and he has never let the community sway him from his "fuck 'em" attitude. He's always been an unashamed liberal, he's arrogant and free with his use of both liquor and swear words. Perhaps your husband's newness with the profession is tempering his thought. He should remember that his private life is his private life and anyone who has a problem with that should get bent. Sure, maybe you guys shouldn't publish an account of how you pegged him in the church bulletin, but don't let the Maude Flanderses of the world tell you how to live.

Incidentally, when I went off to school at a small Methodist liberal arts college I'd packed everything into my car and was pulling out of the driveway. My father came over to say goodbye and close my door. As he swung it shut, his parting words were, "You know the difference between a Baptist and a Methodist? A Methodist will say hello when you pass them in the liquor store."
posted by Pollomacho at 10:07 AM on March 23, 2009 [10 favorites]

While there is a large overlap between religion and conservatism, it is not complete.

This cannot be stressed enough. Anecdotally: one friend of mine, a married woman, is a youth pastor by profession and a beloved member of a local primarily-gay sports organization. Another chose a school of theology to pursue an M.Div. that would complement both a concurrent M.S.W. program and a staunch liberal outlook (deep in Dixie, no less).

A "career in the ministry" is a pretty broad description, to be honest. A chaplaincy might be a fair middle ground relative to your concerns; if I may bust out another anecdote, an acquaintance who chafed somewhat in the priesthood decided to resign from his parish and took up a chaplain position in a local hospital. It's much more like a 9-to-5 job and he now lives in a same-sex relationship which (to my understanding--I'm not really in touch with him) isn't considered a big deal by his new employer.
posted by kittyprecious at 10:11 AM on March 23, 2009 [1 favorite]

My husband, who has been agnostic since we met and hasn't attended church in years, has rather suddenly decided to pursue a career in the ministry. I don't know what to do or who to talk to about my concerns.

I'm guessing that before you met, your husband was more religious--and probably not by choice so much as he was brought up in a household where religion, and the tenets of going to church, etc. were just the accepted norm and he was, pretty much, coerced into this.

So, he grows up, moves out, gets away from the folks, and his first move is to leave all that religious stuff behind him. But he still has that whole background influencing him, whether he knows it or not.

And you two have this great sex life, really fun and kinky, and he should be going "Hallelujah!" and throwing his hands up in the air and celebrating that. And it sounds like he was, for a while.

But something pushed him over the edge. If I had to guess, I'd bet it was something you did recently that really pushed the sexual boundaries.

And whatever that something was, the religiously-indoctrinated kid in him felt Shame.

And so now, this guy who put the religious stuff behind him to live a happy, adult agnostic life has done a complete turnaround and is having some kind of "get thee behind me, Satan" over-reaction, and he's acting out on that by just going completely head-over-heels in the other direction and is going to become, of all things, a minister.

So, yeah, the first thing you need to do is figure out what the catalyst was for this.

Then sit him down and talk to him like a reasonable, responsible adult and explain that you love the way you guys were, you don't feel ashamed, you two are a consensual, mature couple and everything's good, and there's no need to take this drastic step because he is not a bad person who should feel bad.

Because all of this "we need to be conservative people, we need to start going to church, I'm going to be a minister now, you are too open in your sexuality, we can't be kinky any more" stuff is a HUGE red flag to me.

And I know you want to be accommodating and accepting because you love him, but maybe the best thing for him would be for you both to examine WHY he wants this all of a sudden so that he can come to terms with the root cause.
posted by misha at 10:34 AM on March 23, 2009 [2 favorites]

Just throwing in my 2 cents here. My father is also a second-career clergyman (Rabbi). When he and my mother got married, he was an atheist. He gradually became more and more observant in his religious practices and finally, at 55, enrolled in seminary.

My mother was very concerned about how this new profession would affect her and her relationship with my father. She is not observant, did not want to become observant, and did not want to live the sort of fish-bowl life that pulipt-rabbis and their families have to endure.

My father wanted to keep peace in the home and follow his dream (or calling, or whatever you want to call it). They talked about it for months. She was just as involved in the decision-making process as he was, and they arrived at a compromise.

He decided not to pursue a pulpit. He does his rabbi-ing in hospice, chaplaincy, and academic settings. This has taken the spotlight off his family life and his less than actively religious wife and son. It's worked out well so far, but the communication and planning beforehand was key.
posted by bluejayway at 10:57 AM on March 23, 2009 [1 favorite]

He says that people are bound to gossip and judge me because I am his wife. I lead a pretty unremarkable life (except for the kinky stuff) but this makes me self-conscious as hell and it feels very restrictive (i.e. sometimes I like to go to gay dance clubs with friends, my bachelorette party was at a strip club, etc)

I think this is true, even if the denomination he's interested in is something like Episcopalianism or United Church of Christ or Unitarian Universalism--in other words a denomination where the congregants happily go to gay dance clubs and strip clubs and what-not. Spiritual leaders and their families are expected by most of their congregants to hew to a more conservative line than most of said congregants.

Here's another concern I have: I have contemplated studying for Episcopalian orders myself, and the main thing that keeps me from doing it is my husband, who is not only an atheist but someone who professes great scorn for organized religion. And it's not that I think my potential congregants couldn't deal with his nay-saying; it's that I think it would be intolerable to him to be married to a member of the clergy.

I'm not saying that I think it would be intolerable to you to be married to a member of the clergy. What I am saying is that it seems odd to me that your husband doesn't seem to be giving your position much consideration.

Mixed-faith marriages are certainly possible in many religious traditions. I know someone who's an Episcopal priest whose husband is a practicing Reform Jew and whose daughters are being raised Jewish; I know someone else who's a Reconstructionist Rabbi whose wife is a pillar of her Unitarian Universalist congregation.

But in both of those marriages, the partner of the clergyperson was a key part of the decision-making process that brought the clergy member to their calling. Your husband sounds like he's making all these decisions unilaterally.

And the thing is that, even if he's driven by a religious epiphany to serve God, there are other ways to do it than by preaching from the pulpit. For that matter, it's hard, in most denominations, to find a pulpit to preach from--there are many more qualified clergy, in all denominations except Roman Catholicism, than there are churches in need of leadership.

So maybe some counseling might be a good next step? An objective professional third party might be able to help you both unpack some of the issues around this.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:10 AM on March 23, 2009 [1 favorite]

Here's another concern I have: I have contemplated studying for Episcopalian orders myself, and the main thing that keeps me from doing it is my husband, who is not only an atheist but someone who professes great scorn for organized religion.

This was me/us 10 years ago, execpt I was a Methodist candidate. I was in the inquiry period, and I began observing the minister women around me, mostly their family lives. The thing that struck me the most is this:

It is imperative that the minister and the spouse be in agreement over what the minister is going to be doing/dedicated to. There's no other way around it. What I found among spouses was they were either 100% a part of the ministry or they weren't there - shells of people. Or they left.

This is true of any marriage or partnership, to an extent, but it's critical in a marriage where one person is going to be owned by someone else, or a bunch of other people.

It's analagous to becoming a military spouse (someone mentioned that upthread I think) or doctor or police spouse. They have a commitment outside their family that at times will take priority over the family because they've promised to serve a larger family. You have to be behind that, or it won't work.

That's why it's critical to talk to him and find out what it is he's burning to do with this ministry. If he's latching on to one congregation and wanting to join in with what they do, great. He can do that in any number of ways without going the whole ordination route.* If he's got a vision of himself helping people in X way, and can only do that by going the whole nine yards, that's a whole other kettle of fish. It doesn't take you into account at all, and you sure need to talk about that.

You definitely have a say in this - he can't just say "this is what ministers do, so deal".

And it's not that I think my potential congregants couldn't deal with his nay-saying; it's that I think it would be intolerable to him to be married to a member of the clergy.

I eventually dropped the full ordination path for a number of reasons, this being one of them. He did not want to be following me to wherever I was sent. Also, I was having to deal with some shifts in my beleifs and some of the changes that the district had made in their requirements.

*minor thing - not all ministers go through years of rigamarole. Some congregations/sects just do it. I remember a young man wanting to go off to seminary and the preachers at the church saying he didn't need to do all that, he could apprentice and then be accepted after a period of time. There are many many levels of participation and "authorizations" to be had.
posted by lysdexic at 12:03 PM on March 23, 2009

A friend of mine has a sister who used to be a minister. Her husband had zero interest in anything religious and wouldn't even go to church. She is not a minister any more because her congregation was very unhappy with this.

Honestly, this strikes me as a relationship dealbreaker if he's really serious about this.* You would REALLY have to be on board- and let's face it, become Christian and drop the Buddhism- pretty much as a requirement in most Christian churches. And have people in your business 24-7. He's thrown a game changer at you that you did not sign up for and would require a lot of sacrifices out of you, and it's not what you want. I don't think that's fair of him to throw at you out of the blue about "this is how it is, missionary only" either.

* Though honestly, going from unobservant to "let me at the pulpit" seems really odd to me, and definitely a situation where counseling needs to be done. I don't get how you do a 180 on this.

posted by jenfullmoon at 12:56 PM on March 23, 2009

You need to talk to your husband, not us... and, like, yesterday.

It takes some time to rethink your religious beliefs, your thoughts about sexuality, and your career. If he's not prone to making huge life changes on a whim, then there's been a lot going on that you two have not shared with each other.

Now's a great time to start communicating.
posted by Houstonian at 4:31 PM on March 23, 2009

Questions that come to mind:

1- Is he somehow unhappy in his current career? Or unemployed? Could this be less about religion and more about employment?

2- Is this coming just from him, or does he have some friend or family member or coworker that's pushing him?

3- Was he really laying down a "here's how it's going to be", or was he (perhaps clumsily) asking for your feelings on the matter?

4- Is he unhappy about something else? Could he be (perhaps unconsciously) trying to maybe not drive a wedge between you, but maybe trying to spark some kind of change?

5- Maybe he's having an anti-midlife crisis kind of thing. Maybe he's feeling somehow unfulfilled by life as it is currently going, and sees the religion thing as an easy way to find fulfillment? (Or, like #4, as a way to tell you that he wants your lifestyle to change?)
posted by gjc at 4:58 PM on March 23, 2009 [1 favorite]

Adey Grummet's book sounds like it would be helpful:
Adey’s first book, Suddenly He Thinks He’s A Sunbeam was published in 2000. It is the story of what happened when her husband, ‘a perfectly normal, angst-ridden, atheistic, socialist hippy actor’ underwent a metamorphosis into a Church of England priest. It was initially commissioned as an aid to couples who are now undergoing something of the same process but it has become a core text on many theological colleges’ reading lists, was preached upon at the opening of Synod by the Bishop of London and Adey herself has had a number of public speaking engagements dealing in its material.
I've not read it - Adey's a professional singer and that's the context in which I know her.
posted by boudicca at 2:39 AM on March 24, 2009

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