Single or married: these are the two fundamental relationship states in which we usually find ourselves. In between we may have dating or relationships that aren’t marriage but can , in some ways,, feel like it. As Christians, we are all called first and foremost to pursue our relationship with God and learn how to serve his church. Being single or married adds another element to the mix. For much of church history, most seminarians would have taken a vow of chastity. We would not have to ask the question of how marriage and singleness fit into our lives and ministries. Because CTS believes both marriage and singleness are roles in which we can equally serve God, these are questions we have the privilege of exploring here.
In this edition of the Kerux, we wanted to explore people’s feelings and thoughts on how singleness and marriage function and are perceived in our own community. Each of us has our own experiences but we also sought other voices in our community. Here are some of our reflections as well as thoughts from the CTS community. We hope that you will take the time to read some of our brothers and sisters’ thoughts throughout this edition. It is our hope to open an ongoing conversation on the dynamics of how both marriage and singleness can function within CTS and the broader body of Christ in healthy ways, and welcome your further contributions to the conversation in future editions of the Kerux.
In talking to fellow students, we found mixed experiences in regards to the function of marriage and singleness in the seminary. Some had very positive feedback, while others found it to be an area of struggle with room for growth. We believe that CTS is a community that makes a concerted effort, albeit imperfect, to respect and reach out to both populations. Brian Hofman reflects, “I appreciate being in a setting where there are large populations of both single and married students. I think there is a bit of a tendency to view single students simply as those who aren’t married yet, but I’ve encountered more pressure toward marriage in other settings that I’ve been in.”
It seems to us that being single at CTS can sometimes be difficult and ostracizing, in part due to broader attitudes in church and Christian society. For many singles, there is a natural and deep desire to find the joys of love and marriage, but even that healthy desire can quickly become problematic if it turns into discontent or even pressure. As single individuals there is usually at least some pressure to get married. Often there is an expectation that marriage be our “final” state, that singleness is temporary and thus getting married should be a goal. Perhaps there is even an idea among the wider church that not being married means that something is wrong with us. We do not believe this to be the case.
Singleness is something that has been valued by the church throughout time. As Grant Hofman wittingly remarks, “Jesus Christ seemed pretty single and yet lived a fairly fruitful life.” Paul is known for promoting the value of remaining single in I Corinthians 7. As many of us have learned in church history, singleness was commonly practiced by ascetics, monks, nuns, and bishops. For women, the option to join a nunnery offered in some societies a real freedom from the demand to submit to a not necessarily happy or fulfilling lifelong marriage. Single individuals may at times have more freedom to follow their call to ministry if they do not have children to consider. In some situations, especially in settings where one’s mission work could put one’s family in very real medical or physical danger, being single can be a great advantage.
None of this should be taken to diminish marriage. Marriage can provide each individual with the love and support of the other. Together these two should be more than a sum of the parts. Spouses can encourage and support each other in their ministry. Peter is said to have brought his wife along on his missionary journeys. Brian Hofman adds, “For me personally, being a married student has helped me stay more grounded and connected to the world outside of the seminary, and my conversations with Tess help me practice explaining the things that I’m learning in a less technical, theological way.” This advantage of marriage, its help in grounding both individuals in community, reminds us of the need for singles to be grounded in community as well. Both need to be recognized by the church as full participants in the community with distinct gifts and ministries to offer.
In the end, both singles and married individuals have important and vital roles to play in the church. To say to a single person, “You should get married” or have the idea that marriage would be their better state is hurtful and untrue. In the same way, to consider that a married person cannot be as effective in ministry because of having a spouse (or children) is also harmful and hurtful to the person. Holding these views does not build up others. While we have not all been married, we all know what it is like to be single to some degree, although someone single for a short period of time has a different experience than someone single for a lifetime. To put pressure or expectations on single individuals in regards to marriage does not build the church, but instead can damage it. Grant Hofman reflects, “It is my hope, then, that this new pattern [of singles finding fulfillment in singleness] might allow us to see both marriage and singleness as gifts from God. I hope we avoid triumphing either gift over the other, and recognize each as vital to the life of the church.” Brian Hofman sums it up, “Neither marriage nor singleness is superior to the other, and we all need connections to the community and family of the body of Christ.”
We hope that you find the various student perspectives in this edition of Kerux helpful in thinking about marriage and singleness and the ways in which they enrich our experience of community at CTS. Each person has different approaches and different concerns that come from varied experiences in regards to marriage and singleness. What are your thoughts on this issue at CTS?
Written by the Kerux Staff