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New book examines marriage and ministry through Edwards, Whitefield, and Wesley

October 20, 2004

Doreen Moore's Good Christians, Good Husbands? looks at how three famous preachers balanced (or did not balance) their passion for ministry with being married, and it gives clear lessons for us to learn today.

William Carey, the father of modern missions, undertook his first work in Calcutta. Dorothy Carey refused to go.

Dorothy finally gave in to the desires of her husband and, though pregnant with the couple’s fourth child, accompanied him to the field. The events that followed-in human terms-qualify as an unmitigated disaster.

Dorothy Carey was seasick for much of the five-month voyage from England to Calcutta. She later became afflicted with dysentery and then the couple lost their five-month-old son, Peter. In the end, Dorothy Carey’s mental health deteriorated to such a degree that her husband called her "wholly deranged."

What was William Carey’s response? "The cause of Christ" took precedence over his family, he replied.

Was Carey’s response biblical? Which comes first in the life of the minister-family or ministry? What are the biblical responsibilities of a husband and father? How should a wife respond to the many trying circumstances of ministry?

A new book, Good Christians, Good Husbands? Leaving a Legacy in Marriage & Ministry, written by Doreen Moore, examines these and other critical issues that ministers face in balancing their callings and their families.

Moore seeks to answer these and many other questions by examining the marriages and ministries of three of the greatest preachers in Christian history: Jonathan Edwards, George Whitefield and John Wesley.

Moore, a summa cum laude graduate of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, deals with Carey only in the introduction but delves into the lives of the three eighteenth-century leaders, all of whom were passionate about glorifying God by serving Him in their generation.

Not all of their balancing acts of ministry and family were pretty among the three men that Moore’s book examines.

For example, in 1771, John Wesley’s wife, Molly, left him after 30 years of marriage. It was not the first time Molly had left her husband but Wesley did not ask her back on this final occasion. Biographers variously called their stormy relationship a "thirty years war" and "a martyrdom that lasted thirty years."

Wesley’s theology of family belied the outcome of his moribund marriage. Moore quotes Wesley: "The person in your house that claims your first and nearest attention is, undoubtedly, your wife."

By contrast, Whitefield was able to keep a harmonious marriage to Elizabeth Whitefield despite an irrepressible commitment to public ministry. Moore unpacks four areas that shaped Whitefield’s convictions regarding marriage and family, areas that helped him succeed where Wesley failed.

Edwards was a success both as a husband and a father, Moore writes.

"The legacy he has left to the Christian community is far reaching, yet the legacy he has left to his family is equally extraordinary," Moore writes of Edwards. "Jonathan Edwards and his wife Sarah were married thirty years and had eleven children: three sons and eight daughters. The trajectory of his descendants is truly remarkable…"

The book is available for purchase in CBMW's Online Store.

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