America, the parson —usually a Protestant minister, but afterrnthe mid-19th centun’ often a Catholic priest—was the “person”rnill a small community: better educated than most and familiarrnwith the skills necessary to bring men and women into contactrnwith God. To have a son called to the ministry or the priesthoodrnwas a joy as well as an honor; the clerg) —with the exceptionrnof some spectacular entrepreneurs —never earned asrnmuch as the two other learned professions, physicians andrnlawyers, but it was generally felt that they should not—and, indeed,rnthat they did not—mind: after all, they were not in it forrnthe mone’, but for the Lord. They gave a counterexample tornthe pursuit of profit that is so much a part of the Americanrnscene.rnFor the clerg- of all the Christian denominations, it is generallyrnexpected that they will sen’c for the joy of serving and contentrnthemselves with relatively modest rewards in this earthlyrnlife. Although most clergy like to tell their parishioners, “Be imitatorsrnof Christ, not of me,” and “Do as I sa’, not as I do,” thernfact remains that the clergy, as those who have publicly committedrnthemselves to lifelong service, are taken as models. Inrnmost cases, they turn out to be decent models.rnBut should we expect them to be models? Should the livesrnof ordained clergy stand out as examples to be imitated?rnShould drey live by higher standards than the general Christianrnpublic? With the exception of the vow of celibacy, which is peculiarrnto Roman Catholics, the Scripture commends the virtuousrnlife to all Christians, indeed in a certain sense to all people.rnChristian or not, and does not enjoin on the clergy virtues thatrnare superior to or different from what is expected of Christiansrnin general.rnBut should religious leaders be held to a higher standard thanrnrun-of-the-mill Christians? Here views will differ. RomanrnCatholicism distinguishes the “secular” priesthood from thern”religious” (members of a religious order); the very concept ofrnsecular priests suggests a certain measure of conformity to thernworld (except, of course, with respect to celibacv). In principlern—with the exception noted —the answer is no. Jesus’srnwords, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is inrnheaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48), were addressed not to the innerrncircle of disciples—future preachers, evangelists, and bishopsrn—but to the multitudes listening to his Sermon on thernMount. Nevertheless, the reality is that the shepherds are expectedrnto lead the flocks by example as well as by precept, andrnindeed in spite of the occasional gross exception, they generallyrndo so.rnHowever, as Senator Lott says, “People are human,” errarernhumanum est, and the standard of perfection remains an ideal,rnnot an accomplishment. If there are no fast runners on therntrack, everone will plod. Should those who believe they arerncalled to follow Christ into a specific ministry make a greater effortrnand come closer to the ideal? Almost all of us will instinctivelyrnfeel that they should, which is why we are more distressedrnwith the moral failings of a minister than with those of a merchant.rnThere is a sound biblical warrant for thinking that the clergyrnshould be models. The pattern Paul proposes to Timothy deservesrnimitation by all, but the Apostie to the Gentiles confinedrnhis recommendations at this point to those who “desire the officernof a bishop,” or, later in the same chapter, to deacons (inrnother words, to acknowledged spiritual leaders). The very firstrnthing that is said of such leaders is that they must be blamelessrn(I Timothy 3:2); the last admonition is to be of “good report tornthem that are without” (I Timothy 3:7).rnThe attributes Paul cites begin with “the husband of onernwife.” Of course, all believers are encouraged to niarr)’ and tornbe faithful in marriage. Paul has written elsewhere, “To avoidrnfornication, let every man have his own wife, and let everyrnwoman ha’e her own husband” (I Corinthians 7:2). When itrncomes to “bishops” and “elders,” Paul is somewhat more precise:rn”the husband of one wife.” Perhaps this means nornpolygamy, but it more likely means no divorce, and perhapsrneven no remarriage for widowers. Both Orthodox and Protestantsrnencourage the marriage of their clergy. The Orthodoxrnpermit their priests only one marriage, and then, only beforernreceiving holy orders. Even if a priest’s wife dies, he may notrnremarry. The image is certainly of fidelity unto death, aii’d evenrnbeyond. In today’s climate of sexual libertinism, the ministr-rnmust be especially careful to set an example of sexual purityrnand marital fidelity. The exhortation was already there inrnthe first century A.D., admittedly also a time of sexual licentiousness.rnFor the clergy of all the Christianrndenominations, it is generall)’rnexpected that they will serve for thernjoy of serving and content themselvesrnwith relatively modest rewardsrnin this earthly life.rnSome of Paul’s exhortations seem repetitive: “of good behavior,”rnis paraphrased more than once. To good behavior hernadds, “given to hospitality, apt to teach.” One may think of thernpractice of both Luther and Calvin, engaging in “table talks”rnwith young students while they were enjoying their hospitality.rnThe “overseer” is not to be “given to wine . . . greedy of fili:hy lucre.”rnIn respect to alcohol, the clergy are held to a standardrnrather like that of the rulers in Proverbs 31:4-6. Some of ourrnmost noted “I’V evangelists” may have been teetotalers,rnbut they seem to have left the advice about greed of filthy lucrernas unheeded as it once was by some Renaissance cardinals.rnWho is to supply the role models for ordinary citizens in ourrngeneration? The days when college athletes were supposed tornbe clean living (perhaps even pious) and when even most professionalrnathletes could be held up as moral models seem tornhave passed, and collegians as well as professionals now have arnnose for “filthy lucre.” The strains and temptations to whichrnthe clergy are exposed have not diminished, although the opportunitiesrnfor “filthy lucre” have hardly expanded, at least notrnfor most priests and ministers. To the extent that they are mindfulrnof the words of Jesus, “If ye love me, keep my commandments”rn(John 14:15), they are not likely to become media sensations,rnbut they may serve as an inspiration and example tornthose who know them best. crnDECEMBER 1997/25rnrnrn