Traditionally, clergy wives have been obliged to assist the Church in an unpaid capacity; such work has been feminised, associated with the assumed competencies of women (Denton 1962; Finch 1980, 1983; Murphy-Geiss 2011). Clergy husbands are a relatively recent phenomenon in the Church of England, emerging when women started to be ordained as deacons in 1987 and priests in 1994. Based on interviews with men whose wives were ordained as priests in the Church of England, this article will explore the dynamics of class and gender privilege. Most clergy husbands were middle class, defined through educational, occupational and cultural markers (Bourdieu 1984). The narratives highlighted how gender and class privilege was maintained and extended through the clergy spouse role. The interweaving dynamics of class and gender privilege secured preferential outcomes for participants; outcomes that were less evidenced in relation to working-class spouses. Using Bourdieu’s (1984) concepts of habitus, field and capital and Verter’s (2003) conceptualisation of spiritual capital, this article will highlight the complex ways in which gender and class advantage is perpetuated and sustained, using the Anglican parish as the analytical context, thereby emphasising the role religion plays in consolidating privilege.
Bibliographical noteFunding: ESRC for funding this project (Award numbers PTA-031-2004-00290 and PTA-026-27-2911)
- Church of England
- clergy spouses
- spiritual capital