(Photo: Duke Taber)
As a single and divorced man, it took Pastor Duke Taber eight years and more than 185 rejection letters before finding a congregation that would consider him as leader of their church. Even after three years as the lead pastor of a small church in Pine Haven, Wyo., Taber said he still gets his "feathers ruffled" when someone attaches a stigma about singles.
"Honestly, I got a little frosted at a comment made by my friends concerning their pastoral search and the fact they wouldn't consider a single pastor," said Taber, who writes the popular blog, "Small Town Preacher – Big Time God."
It was during dinner with his friends who are in pastoral ministry and looking to retire when the discussion turned to their search for a replacement. "In the context of that conversation the statement was made, 'we would not consider someone who was not married,'" he explained.
"I was not upset enough to confront them about their attitude. They are retiring and have served faithfully at their church for 19 years. I love them both, but inside it seriously hit a sore spot with me, so as I usually do, I wait a couple of days to meditate on things and then I write," Taber said.
Whether a single person can serve as a pastor based on biblical teachings is sometimes debated.
In a debate prompted by a NY Times article on the subject two years ago, theologian R. Albert Mohler said, "Both the logic of Scripture and the centrality of marriage in society [justify] the strong inclination of congregations to hire a man who is not only married but faithfully married."
In his column, after quoting several passages from the Bible he believed supported his view, Mohler wrote, "Beyond what has already been stated, the married pastor has the protection of a wife, the status of a leader in the home, the fulfillment of the marital relation, and thus the freedom to relate to the congregation as one who is already committed within the covenant of marriage, and who is able to serve as a model for other men within the congregation and the watching community."
However, Taber believes statements such as the one his friends made are "seriously prejudicial."
"There is a misnomer in our society," Taber wrote in his blog post, "Are Christian Singles The New Second Class Christian?"
"It is the thought that we have to find someone else to be our other half or that we have to be married to be complete," he continued. "This is totally against what the Bible teaches concerning the nature of man. God created man in His image. He created them male and female. It does not teach that He created two half beings that when they come together they are complete, but instead it teaches that both male and female are complete creations formed in His image.
"The nature of marriage is not final completion but a miraculous union of two complete people becoming one. So to view a single person as somehow not able to pastor or be a leader is one that is truly non-biblical."
Taber told CP he has had "to walk paths that not many others walk."
"I have to take special care how I treat single ladies in my church. I have to watch how I treat married ladies at the church whose husbands don't attend," he said. "Prior to that, I had to grin and bear the comments like 'Are you married?' and the responding 'oh.'"
Asked to elaborate on the "oh" part of his statement, Taber said, "The kind of 'oh' used when someone is dismissing you like 'Oh, that is not what I wanted to hear."
He said he was ethically bound not to date from within his own congregation due to abuse of power issues and not promoting any type of jealousy issues in the congregation.
"You do have to prove that as a single, you still can minister. It is hard to describe the attitude out there," he said.
Taber points out that Jesus was single and concludes in his blog, "The church assumes that the wife will lead the women, or the children, or play the piano. I find none of these things listed as qualifications for leaders in the Scriptures.
"Don't you think it is about time that the church addresses the issue of single leaders? Isn't it about time we stopped running our churches based on things that are not biblical? I do!"