Decalogue for a Preacher’s Wife
At least once a year, I post this to remind myself not only how far I’ve come, but also how far I had to go to get here.
A copy of the article, reprinted, below, was laminated and gifted to me in early 1968. The woman who gave it to me said she thought of me when she read it, and thought I personified the woman it described.
It goes without saying, I was her role model, and didn’t even know it at the time. Today, I feel sick to my stomach when I think about the damage caused me and this well-intentioned woman who tried so hard to fit into the patriarchal world of Southern Baptists. (For those of you who might not know, I was a Baptist preacher’s wife for 28 years.)
At the time, knee deep into the patriarchy of the times, and being the submissive, dependent preacher’s wife that I was, I took her comment as a compliment and tried even harder to fulfill the commandments given in this article as if they were inspired by God, rather than a man steeped in control over women.
Today, I shudder when I read it, and think about the damage an article like this does to anyone who falls victim to it. Of the damage the expectation did to me. It has taken me since then to heal from this destructive attitude and teaching. I share it today, as a declaration of who I am what I stand for, and what I absolutely won’t stand for–and that’s the teaching in this newspaper article.
(You may feel differently, but this is my reality, my truth.)
Ten Commandments for Ministers’ Wives
By Robert Crouch
1. Thou shalt not be afraid either of the board of deacons, Woman’s Missionary Society, the school board, or of anything that is in the heavens above or the earth beneath or the waters under the earth, caring for neither a lazy, casual, hit-or-miss life nor for public praise but only for your role as a pastor’s wife that enables you to a useful Christian service all the days of your life.
2. Thou shalt not make unto thee a graven image of the wife of the chairman of the board of deacons, wife of the president of the Baptist state convention; nor shalt thou bow thy knee too deeply before the pressures of the Woman’s Missionary Society. Rather thou shalt keep an open mind and remember first thy husband and his needs in everyday life.
3. Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord in vain for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh His name in vain, but thou shalt include high ethics and the teachings of the New Testament as you help your husband and raise your family.
4. Each year shalt thou labor while the pastor’s wife, thou and thy husband and thy children, so that when thou goest to a new field thou shalt continue to study and keep abreast of progress; and at no time shalt thou make a carnival of the works of the former pastor, pastor’s wife, or of thy successors.
5. Thou shalt not covet they neighbor’s church nor thy neighbor’s salary nor have the greatest number of unread books in your husband’s library.
6. Thou shalt not envy a successful fellow minister or minister’s wife or the love that his parishioners have for them.
7. Thou shalt not kill the intellectual and scientific curiosity of thy husband by substituting lackadaisical attitudes and efforts for the joy of devoted learning, but thou shalt provide the stimulus to your husband so he can continue to study and remain fresh and clear in his thinking.
8. Thou shalt not commit adultery; but to the state Baptist convention, Southern Baptist Convention, and your local church and its ideals and distinctive function shalt thou be true.
9. Thou shalt not steal thy husband’s place in the congregation nor the love that people of the church have for him. Thou shalt not cause him to falter while he is the pastor; nor shalt thou steal time from him that he needs for study, exercise and rest.
10. Thou shalt love, feed and care for that man all the days of his life in order that he may accomplish his primary task in the world – that of serving the Lord.
Robert C. Crouch is (or was) a surgeon in Asheville, N.C., and the son of W. Perry Crouch, executive secretary of the North Carolina Baptist Convention. He closed his address before the North Carolina Baptist Ministers’ Wives Association with the Ten Commandments for Ministers’ Wives. Talk about putting a man and HIS calling above all else–I shudder to think of the damage this article and this attitude has done to preacher’s wives over the years.