Is marriage a requirement for pastoral ministry? That question is not new, having been a major focus of debates at crucial points in church history, but it is being asked once again.
Erik Eckholm of The New York Times asked the question in a news story that put a focus on Mark Almlie, a single seminary graduate who has been looking for a pastorate. As Eckholm reports, Almlie, “despite a sterling education and years of experience, has faced an obstacle that does not exist in most other professions: He is a single pastor, in a field where those doing the hiring overwhelmingly prefer married people and, especially, married men with children.”
Mr. Almlie calls this unfair discrimination, and he suggested that the motive behind this discrimination comes down to what Eckholm described as “irrational fears” that an unmarried pastor would be hampered in counseling, might be susceptible to sexual advances, or “might be gay.” In Almlie’s words, “Prejudice against single pastors abounds.”