Full Text for Pastoral Theology and Practice- Volume 47 - Refusing to Conduct a Wedding (Video)

"PASTORAL THEOLOGY & PRACTICE" PROF. HAROLD SENKBEIL & DR. RICHARD WARNECK CAPTIONING PROVIDED BY: CAPTION FIRST, INC. P.O. BOX 1924 Lombard, IL 60148 1-800-825-7234 * * * * * This is being provided in a rough-draft format. Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART) is provided in Order to facilitate communication accessibility and may not be a totally verbatim record of the proceedings * * * * >> ERIC: Should a pastor ever refuse to conduct a wedding? What about when the couple has been living together, for instance? Or, what if one member of the couple is not a Christian? >> PROF. HAROLD SENKBEIL: Eric, you've raised some very important questions. And I think the place to begin with the questions you've asked is to remind yourself that a pastor is under no obligation to marry anyone and everyone that happens to come to him for a wedding. Rather, your primary responsibility is to the members of your parish. Certainly it's true that in the days in which we live, a lot of people don't turn to the church for anything until it comes the these important occasions, such as a wedding or a death. We don't want to shrink from that opportunity. It indeed becomes an opportunity for evangelism and outreach. But even so, it's important that couples who come to you understand that marriage is a divine institution. It's not to be entered into inadvisably or lightly as our marriage rite�says and so therefore you want to teach regarding what marriage is in a Christian context and you want it indeed to be a Christian wedding, which brings me to the last question you asked. What about marriages between Christians and non-Christians? Certainly because marriage exists in the kingdom of the left hand in the area of the public sphere, it is certainly possible, indeed likely, that there will be Christians married to non-Christians. Now, in the early church, in Biblical times, the apostle really addresses this when he writes to the Christians in Corinth about circumstances that evidently really occurred in their midst, namely members of their congregation had been previously married to other people, of course. Some of them did not become Christians. And the issue now was: Is such a marriage a valid marriage? In first Corinthians 7 we read the following. "if any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever and he consents to live with her, she shoes not divorce him. If any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever and she consents to live with him, he should not divorce her." Notice that in God's eyes, the essence of marriage is mutual consent. And if that consent is there, it is indeed a valid marriage in the sight of God and one which can indeed be blessed by the church and that there can be a marriage ceremony conducted. The circumstances, however, of being married to an unbeliever raises all kinds of problems for the Christian. In this case, in firsts Corinthians, there was a first existing marriage before the one party or the other. In that case the apostle counsels that there ought not to be a separation in that marriage. In fact, he goes on to say, in verse 16 of I Corinthians 7, "wife, how do you know whether you will save your husband? Husband, how do you know whether you will save your wife?" And so in those circumstances, the Christian has an obligation to witness and testify to the unbelieving party so that he or she might be brought into the faith. Now, that said, it's important that in such situations as couples come to you intending to marry an unbeliever that there would be clear discussion regarding the implications of this because, of course, a marriage is a union of husband and wife in both mind and body and spirit. And if they cannot share at the core of their marriage this common faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and the conviction of the validity and the certainty and the surety of the Word of God, they are indeed starting off on shaky ground. In certain circumstances, however, if the unbelieving party is willing and open to considering the claims of the Christian faith, indeed in many cases, I can see that you could invite such a person into your adult class immediately upon notification of this planned marriage. So this would be part and parcel of your preparation for this couple. In those kinds of situations, of course, one may indeed officiate at such a wedding. And these are the pastoral parameters that need to be included. Now, your first question was: Should a pastor ever refuse a wedding? And one of the things we must remember is that a pastor is under no obligation to marry anybody who comes his way, as I said before. It's not that we're the local marrying Sam, as the old statement used to be, namely that person in every community who just conducts weddings for remuneration of one kind or another. Rather, we're a minister of Christ's church. And so the weddings which we conduct are for members of our congregation or enquirers into the faith who are in the process of becoming members of our congregation. There are certain circumstances that God forbids people entering into a marriage. And of course those situations we would not conduct those weddings. I've already talked about them in terms of marriages which would be strictly prohibited by God: Homosexual marriage, for example. Or also there are certain what are called laws of consanguinity, which is sharing a common blood, a close relationship by birth. Those kinds of marriages are forbidden by God and a pastor would not officiate and those kinds of weddings. You'll find those prohibitions in the 18th chapter of Leviticus and the 27th chapter of Deuteronomy. These kinds of close relationships, therefore, prohibit marriages between those parties. And that's something you'd want to be aware of. As I said earlier, sometimes the state has additional regulations, such as forbidding marriages between cousins. And that would be something you'd also want to be aware of. What are the local parameters? What do the governing authorities say regarding close relationships and marriages? So, that's the long answer. The short answer is, yes, sometimes pastors refuse to conduct weddings, but they do so always for positive reasons, for reasons for the benefit of the couple involved and the benefit of the church and the testimony that's given to the assembly of Christians in that place. * * * * * This is being provided in a rough-draft format. Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART) is provided in Order to facilitate communication accessibility and may not be a totally verbatim record of the proceedings * * * *