Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Pelosi and the Pope

The Speaker of the House of Representatives is Nancy Pelosi. Ms. Pelosi is very proud of her Roman Catholic heritage and speaks about it often. In fact, she took the opportunity not long ago to lecture Americans about the fact that the Roman Catholic Church had only recently begun to think abortion was wrong.

Ms. Pelosi has also noted her personal opposition to abortion but, she suggests, is bound to support it because it is in the Constitution of the United States. She, like many of her colleagues, regrets the fact that Roman Catholics must not allow their personal, religious views get in the way of supporting the Constitution.

On her recent trip to Rome and the Vatican, Ms. Pelosi seems to have gotten a personal lecture on Roman Catholic theology from Pope Benedict, a theological expert. According to some reports, he told Ms. Pelosi that under no circumstances was a Roman Catholic politician allowed to promote abortion.

I do not know if Ms. Pelosi, the third person in line for the Presidency after Mr. Obama and Mr. Biden, was able to correct the Pope about the US approach to Catholic theology, but I sure hope so. According to many Catholics, the new Pope is very confused about abortion and actually thinks that babies are alive in the womb.

Way to go Ms. Speaker!

Gary Sweeten

Ministry Cultural Shock

When I joined the staff at College Hill Church it was quite a big transition. We had been on the campus of University of Cincinnati for five years rubbing elbows and having laid back relationships with a bunch of college kids. Not only did we fit in with the hippies and kids we were deeply involved in the house church commune type movement of the Jesus Revolution.

This made our move to College Hill a huge shift in culture. One of the first meetings we attended was at the home of people who headed a group of young couples called Ceiling Seventy for the combined total of the couples' ages. The carpet was thick and lush, the drapes thick velvet and the decor upper class.

On the way home, we drove in silence back to our little house near U.C. Finally Karen broke in and said wanly, "What have we done? We will never fit into this group." We discussed the fact that for five years we had lived in an open house with dozens of students who hung out with us and played with our kids. Now we felt overwhelmed by the upper class homes of our new friends.

We actually did make that transition over time and stayed on the staff for over sixteen years. We learned to fit in and we loved our friends. They treated us like royalty and we learned so much about church life, leadership, ministry and healthy Christianity. I am very glad we did not bail out but the culture shock was very tough to face and overcome.

Married in Ministry is a difficult challenge. Many couples change churches, locations, cultural expectations and job descriptions many times in a career and each leaving and joining is a challenge. What has been your experience?

Monday, February 16, 2009

Change in Focus

Mary and Joseph, an early couple in ministry together

We have changed the focus of this blog to emphasize the lives of Wives and Husbands in Ministry together. I have asked some couples to write me about the insights, struggles and joys of ministry in a church, para-church or mission agency.

Most of the writers will be Women who are married to Ministers, but some are Ordained. We will keep their identities private so their past and present organizations are not embarrassed.

I hope we can get honest, behind the scenes information about the ways couples handle their private and public lives when they must live in "Glass Houses".

I joined the staff of a very large mega-church in Cincinnati after being in business, school teaching and university administration. Karen and I had two children ages five and two when we left the University to enter the nether world of "Clergy Life". The cultural, social, spiritual and relational changes were like moving to Mars.

I am thankful that out church leaders did not expect my wife to be a free but visible member of the staff who would play the piano, teach Sunday school and attend every service. We grew up in rural churches where all those things were silent but strongly expected values and expectations.

But, make no mistake, despite the grace of our Elders, being in the Professional Ministry is living in the public eye. Our kids were known to everybody and some of the parishioners had unrealistic ideas about how perfect we and they should be as "Spiritual role models".

I am an extrovert with an enormous capacity for public interaction. Karen is a quiet, Introverted woman who loves being alone or with a few friends. We are very different and have very different gifts to boot.

Misunderstandings and confusions are common among the church members and that often results in pain for the family members. Some Elders and Lay Leaders have unrealistic expectations from the Ministry Family/Couple and place enormous pressure on the Pastor to get his wife and family "on board".

We hope you will write your comments and let us know what you think. If you are a Couple in Ministry, you may be interested in blogging with us. Send me a sample of your ideas at