The Pastoral Challenge of Marrying

I read with great interest this post over at the Gospel Coalition’s site.  Collin Hanson asks how pastors in America need to possibly rethink their current practice of marrying people in light of U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker’s decision to overturn Proposition 8.  The audience is actually conservative pastors who see a rapid encroachment of the State into the Church with little shame or concern on the State’s part.

The article has four different pastors who weigh in on the issue to varying degrees of helpfulness.  I found Steve DeWitt’s to be the most helpful.  Here is a glimpse into his response if you haven’t already clicked on the link and read it yourself:

. . . . What makes a wedding “Christian” is a Christian man and a woman covenanting to follow God’s plan and fulfill God’s purpose for marriage.

At the same time, a pastor in the American culture acts as a steward for the state in the civil rite. We are required to make sure the couple signs their wedding certificate making them officially married in the eyes of the government. In my state, the certificates contain nasty warnings for religious leaders who fail to properly fill out, sign, and file the wedding certificate.

This leads to the interesting question: When is a couple actually married? In the eyes of the government marriage happens when a sanctioned official declares it and the signatures of the couple affirm it. In the eyes of God, I believe, it happens when the couple, in accordance with God’s created plan for marriage, vow to be husband and wife to one another. What if they forget to sign the certificate or it is lost in the mail? Are they married? In the eyes of God, yes. In the eyes of the government, no.

This whole thing raises an important question that pastors must begin to address.  I am personally leaning strongly toward only marrying members of my church and no one else, though I continue to think about the whole thing right now.  I also find this interview of D. A. Carson in the Southern Baptist Journal of Theology very helpful as well.  Not sure if I will find myself actually practicing the method done in France but I can see a lot of wisdom in doing so.

We live in interesting times here in America. 

H/T to Andy Naselli who got me going on this whole thing.

About Matt Henry

Middle-aged pastor trying to figure out how to be missional in his world. Loves his wife, his children, and his dog Bear. I have a love of woodworking even though woodworking doesn't always love me. The name is xagete but is pronounced exegete.

Posted on July 18, 2013, in Bible Observations, Church, Missional and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. I’ve regretted doing marriages as favors for parents. No accountability to church membership in most cases. I agree with the way your thoughts are trending.

    • Actually we should begin to talk this over during our staff meetings. I see wisdom in having a new policy in place sooner than later.

  2. Reblogged this on Church, State, Faith and Culture and commented:
    From my friend and Sr. Pastor. Lots of good reasons to think about this issue pastors.

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