Can a person who is SSA serve in ministry since they can't be married?

Greetings Sam,

First off, I just wanted to take a moment and thank you for your work. Myself and friends of mine have especially benefited from your talk at RZIM in Atlanta back in 2019 on how we can know our gender. Not long after, a dear friend of mine came out as transgender. I approached the person with an attitude of wanting to hear and appreciate their story–it went very well. I’m incredibly thankful to have been in the audience for that presentation and for your hard work into these topics.

My question today involves a person who has SSA, (not pursuing a same sex relationship) but feels a call into ministry. Specifically, in regard to pastoral ministry, I see hesitation from fellow believers as Titus 1:6 and 1 Tim 3:2 appear to indicate you must be married to serve. I’m curious as to how you would answer these objections as someone who is in ministry.

With many thanks,
Karsten

Karsten,

Thanks so much for being part of RZIM Connect. And thank you for that encouragement about the event we did here at RZIM on gender identity. Wonderful to see the Lord’s timing on that.

The hesitations about your friend going into pastoral ministry are ones I’ve seen raised before. I deal with this in more detail in a chapter of 7 Myths About Singleness that covers singleness and ministry.

For now, I would want to point out this: If we are using those texts to say that marriage is a requirement for being in pastoral ministry, then we need to realise the very same passages talk about the elder’s children. So if marriage is required, then so too is having children. So that would rule out someone who is married without kids, and indeed someone who is married but with only one child (since children, plural, are mentioned in Titus 1:6). By the same thinking, a pastor who’s wife died, or who lost their children, would be required to step down from ministry.

A better understanding, I think, is that Paul’s words show that he expected marriage to be normative, not compulsory. The married pastor is to be faithfully married, and the pastor who is a parent is to be a faithful parent. And let’s remember that Paul himself was single, and founded and pastored numerous churches.

Thanks for engaging!
Sam

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