They may work incredibly long hours, earn relatively low pay, and spend the majority of their working hours with women other than their own wives.
Yet clergymen are expected, nay, even commanded, "to pattern your life and that of your family . . . in accordance with the teachings of Christ, so that you may be a wholesome example to your people," as the ordination of the Book of Common Prayer puts it.
About 60 men and women - clergy of both sexes and their spouses - gathered during last Sunday's Festival for Marriage at St. Albans School to examine marriages of the clergy.
The 90-minute workshop on clergy marriages was one of 58 such workshops that drew a capacity registration of 1,200 persons to the day-long festival. It ended with an evening worship service and dramatic reconfirmation of marriage vows.
The clergy role puts special strains on marriages, workshop participants agreed. Not the least of these are the expectations that everyone else has for the conduct of family life in the parsonage.
"When I began to date Dick, the thing I liked least about him was the fact that he was a clergyman," confessed Dr. Louise Busch, who with her husband, Richard, was one of three clerical couples leading the workshop.
Clerical couples inevitably become "models" of marriage and family life "whether they want to or not," pointed out another member of the leadership team, Ann Jackle.
Her husband, the Rev. Dr. Charles Jackle, who is born an Episcopal priest and a Psychotherapist at the Pastrol Counseling and Consultation Centers of Washington, lamented this fact.
"Clergy marriages are not by and large very attractive, not very fulfilling and not marriages that people want to emulate. Couples find it difficult to be human; clergy marriages tend to be rather dour," he asserted.
"Clergy are modelling," he said, laping into physchological jargon, "in their marriages, but in a way that is very unappetizing."
"Of course they're unattractive models," retorted Episcopal bishop John T. Walker. "When two people are not free to be themselves, then their marriage can't be a very attractive model. When people feel they are always on display, always having to put their best foot forward, it creates tremendous pressures.
"I know a little something about that," Bishop Walker continued, explaning that he had on a number of occasions been "the first black" in a number of situations throughout his life. "The burden of trying to be exemplary for an entire segment of the population is beyond belief."
Some participants disagreed with the view that congregations demand blameless behavior of their clergy.
"Sometimes we end up selling our congregations short," said Bishop Walker. It is a mistake, he continued, to "come into a situation and live by their (the congregation's) expectations."
What he counseled was to "take hold of the expectations people bring . If they aren't your expectations, you discuss it and deal with it. The conflict can be creative."
Dr. Jackle citied a survey of United Presbyterian clergy that found clergymens' wives resentful of the long hours their husbands spend away from home and the fact that much of that time was spent with other women, particularly in counseling situations or in pastoral calls.
The clergy as a group, he contended, tend to be "worksholics," putting in 60-to-8O hour works.
"But what adds to making clergy marriages unhappy marriages is the money. The clergyman puts in an 80 hour week but doesn't get 80 hours pay. The dentist's wife, if her husbands' works an 80 hour week, will at least get a trip to Jamaica out of it."
Dr. Jackle suggested that the 80 hour week for clergy was both a source of and a result of clergy marriage problems.
"The wife feels bad because her husband spends so much time at his work, but when she questions him he'd say he has to do God's work, then she felt bad about feeling bad," he said.
"It's a big temptation to escape into 'God's work,'" he said, calling this the workaholic's solution to a browned off marriage.
"It's a temptation to get your gratification that way" through ledership of church activities "rather than stay home and work through conflicts that are inevitable in marriage, one clergyman acknowledged.
"I tell my clergy that if they are good managers, they will find lazy leaders in congregations to help," said Bishop Walker. Clergy, he said, should not feel obligated to turn up at every church function, he said. "If they are there, they're there because they want to be there and not because they're doing Christ's work."
As for the charge that clergymen spend much of their time with women, other than their wives, no one denied it.
"It's true. Women feel safe with us, commented one minister.
"When I'm with a clergyman I can feel free, because I have the feeling that he's in charge of the morals," was the way one of the women Present expressed it.
But another woman, the wife of a clergyman, articulated the feelings of some clergy wives. "He gives all the good stuff - being kind and accepting and patient and loving - out there when he's with all those other people; when he comes home he wants to let it all down."
Special problems that stem from the growing number of women clergy also were reflected in this session. One clergywoman, whose husband is not ordained, reported that her husband "doesn't have a peer group" in some social situations. Among their circle of clergy friends, she said, "when we go some place, I am with the wives and he is with the men" - clergymen with whom he has little in common.
One clergyman reported a happy solution to a perennial problem of clergy wives - the lack of a pastor. "She couldn't relate to me as her pastor - I am her husband. Yet she needed a pastor, just like any other church member. So she found another clergyman" whom she could turn to for counseling and occasionally attends services at the pastor's church.
At first, the man said, 'I found it hard to accept. But then I thought about it - about how all these years she's been denied a pastor. Now I think it'skind of neat.