In Pursuit of the Almighty's Dollar: A History of Money and American Protestantism

By James Hudnut-Beumler | Go to book overview

CHAPTER EIGHT
Ministers' Wives: A View
from the Side of Labor

Viewed from the perspective of labor, there have been at least three constants over the last 250 years of American Protestant church life. The first is that a remarkably stable proportion of raised by congregations (approximately two-thirds) has gone directly to the support of the clergy. The second constant is that Protestant clergy, of whatever denomination, have been expected to preach as their principal function in ministry, so much so that preacher is an American synonym for the words that antecedent European ecclesial traditions would use—minister, pastor, or priest. The third constant is that these clergy have overwhelmingly been married males. The one exception to this rule was rather short lived. In the early republic, Francis Asbury, father of American Methodism, preferred that his itinerants be unmarried so they could expend all of their energy in spreading the gospel; this preference was quickly abandoned by his successors. In a state where voluntary support of religion made consumers of church members, clergy came attached to spouses, and a spouse was one of the characteristics churches believed they were buying when they hired a man to preach.

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