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We don’t… again!

IDoThe church and marriage. Every March and September our local newspaper, the Press, publishes a lift-out Wedding Directory/Advertising Feature (called “I do“) along with the daily newspaper. Twenty A3 pages very attractively present hints, lists, articles, venues, jewellery, dresses, cakes, flowers, etc…. I wrote about the last one, in March. That was the first one in which there had been no church presence…

This one, the September one,… is now the second. OK – I can find one occurrence of the word “religious”, it’s in an advertisement for renting a particular church building “for your wedding or other special religious occasion”. The particular building is not used by a parish or particular Christian community.

Despite hundreds reading my last post, not one said that they had tried to send “I do” an article and it was refused. I wonder if, with those hundreds who read the last one, anyone attempted to put in an article this time?

Some challenged me last time that I should put in an article. Fair point. But should I really be Fr Fixit for every issue that I highlight here? OK – since no one appears to have picked up the challenge from last time, maybe I do need to put energy into sending them a short article for next time! (I have sent the editor of “I Do” an email to discuss my point, and offering to contribute next time).

But is there seriously not a single denomination, not a single individual Christian community, not even a single Christian individual (ordained or lay) in the Press readership area (or beyond) who has the energy to submit an attractive article about Christian Marriage or having a wedding in church?! Or an advertisement?

What is the understanding of people about getting married in church? How well-informed are regular church-goers? When you walk into your church is there a leaflet explaining this – for regulars and visitors? Is it on your church’s website?

Is the main image of the church’s attitude to marriage seen to be anti-gay, anti-divorce, anti-contraception, anti-pre-marital-sex, anti… anti… anti… with possible apologies to Maggie Gallagher, is this YouTube video not too far from the way most people understand the church’s attitude?

There is a cartoon, I cannot now locate, of a large office building with everyone within it extremely busy… but everyone is busy with internal communication – there is no connection going either in or out from the outside world. Is that what the church is like? Is that how people perceive the church? In the earthquake here – how do people perceive the church? Yes, there is regular mention of the Salvation Army out there working… there is mention of the Anglican “iconic buildings”, and of the Catholic cathedral… and…? (One of our churches simply had the sign up, “closed”. Good to see the bishop’s reflection in the Press this morning. Good to hear that more positive signs are being distributed).

I think offering weddings an essential part of the church’s mission. Preparing a couple for marriage is a privilege. It can be done by the priest in partnership with others. The whole Christian community can be an environment that supports this couple – including into the years ahead. The primary Christian message and life is about love – embodied so richly in marriage. And by “em-bodied” isn’t it time for Christians to be enthusiastic about sex?! Read the Song of Songs! Children are baptised and welcomed into the community. The Christian community could be, should be, perceived as being, and actually be, a great place to start and maintain marriage and family life. As well as the many other ways that people live.

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26 Responses to We don’t… again!

    • Thanks, Tim. Yes, the absence of the church at such events, including educational, and careers – concerns me. Well done The Scottish Episcopal Church! (But I wish our surprise was at the absence, rather than the presence).

  1. The Song of Songs was our wedding Old Testament Reading (2:8-10, 14, 16a; 8:6-7a)

    Hark! my lover–here he comes
    springing across the mountains,
    leaping across the hills.
    My lover is like a gazelle
    or a young stag.

    “Set me as a seal on your heart,
    as a seal on your arm;
    For stern as death is love,
    relentless as the nether world is devotion;
    its flames are a blazing fire.
    Deep waters cannot quench love,
    nor floods sweep it away.”

    Possibly my favorite Old Testament reading (except for God and Abraham bargaining over Sodom 🙂 ).

  2. The Church should have never allowed the State to usurp the sanctification of Marriage – in fact Liberals hate marriage and have been hell bent on destroying it as an institution for the pst forty years.

    Marriage is a “Holy Mystery of the Church” or Sacrament given to us from God for the purposes of procreation and raising the next generation.

    The Church should reclaim it and get the state out of it.

    A Church marriage means something incredibly special – a secular one is just about property rights and benefits and in fact is not worth the paper it is printed on as our divorce statistics graphically reveal.

    • Thanks for your thoughts, Andrei. I think, clearly, we in NZ are way beyond allowing “the State to usurp the sanctification of Marriage” – we seem to be giving up the particular difference that Christian marriage offers. Being an orthodox charismatic evangelical catholic, I am never exactly sure what the label “Liberals” refers to. I prefer to discuss, openly and respectfully, issue by issue, rather that classifying individuals into categories. Labels, I think, are for tins of food more than for people. For Anglicans, procreation is one of the three purposes of marriage – we are perfectly happy to marry those who cannot procreate. As for divorce statistics – as far as I know they are no different for church weddings (including RC ones) than for non-church weddings. But I’d be interested if you can back up your point with actual different statistics.

      Thanks, Matt. I am an unrecovering Song-of-Songs-aholic!

  3. As for divorce statistics – as far as I know they are no different for church weddings (including RC ones) than for non-church weddings

    Now that would be an interesting exercise comparing the Divorce rates of those with Sacramental Marriages against those with Church (non Sacramental) marriages and secular marriages. Hard to set up though. Are Anglican marriages Sacramental Fr Bosco?

    we are perfectly happy to marry those who cannot procreate.

    This violates canon Law – check the Rudder, it is part of your heritage predating as it does the Great Schism. Non consummation of a marriage is grounds for annulment ie it becomes as though the marriage never occurred.

    Now when it comes to marrying a couple outside the age of child bearing it is legitimate because we don’t know God wont bless such a couple with Children as he did Abraham and Sarah as well as Zachariah, and his wife Elizabeth, who was sterile. It might be unlikely but not impossible

    • Andrei, there was an article about this recently in the fortnightly “NZ Catholic” – there is no difference in divorce statistics for RCs to the rest of the general population. Anglican marriages are regarded as sacramental (Answer 52 of the Catechism in a NZ Prayer Book). As to your point about non-consumation – we are IMO straying increasingly into areas that are unhelpful. Yes, RCs will not marry someone who cannot consumate – Anglicans IMO are not so bound. RCs have a tradition of “Josephite marriages”. I think the distinctions between divorce and annulment can become tiresomely legalistic – fun for canon lawyers, maybe, but quite a way away from the primary point of this thread. Even RCs “annulments” are not quite “as though the marriage never occurred” – check their status of the children of such an “annulled” marriage. Really, these are the sort of “issues”, I think, that makes the church look very, very silly and irrelevant in the eyes of those not so inclined – which was a primary point of my post. Now reinforced.

  4. Here in the UK there was recently a wedding fair in Birmingham. The Church of England had a stall which the Bishop Of Birmingham regularly attended.
    This was very succesful, however couples are often talked out of having church weddings as venues offer a complete package for weddings and persuade couples by offering better deals than the church can compete with.

    • Thanks. By responding to individuals I run the risk of turning the comments column into merely a dialogue, when it’s really better when comments start to respond to each other. However.
      John – I’m very saddened to have the church drawn into competing for cheaper weddings. I actually wrote a post about inexpensive church weddings, linked through from this post. If churches see weddings as part of our mission, there will be ways to help bring those costs down.
      Lucia – I cannot see what you are “correcting”. Thanks for your public openness. The Roman Catholic Church recognizes more sacraments than you list of those not in communion with Rome. It is fascinating that RCs use contraception the same rate as others. NZ does not have same-sex marriage, those in a committed same-sex relationship can obtain a Civil Union.
      Meg – it would be interesting to hear from others and their rites. In NZ the Prayer Book has an “I do” version on page 792.
      Tim – you express well and forcefully part of what I was pointing to in the post. I’m more a holistic-bible approach than individual chapter and verse approach. As the linked video highlighted.
      I also think there’s more than God’s blessing involved: marriage, not just the wedding, is sacramental; in marriage there is the possibility of encountering God’s love in a deep way. IMO.
      Thanks for all these contributions.

  5. Having had my husband (successfully) go through the Catholic annulment process, I have IMO, a pretty good understanding on the Catholic position on marriage.

    Any marriage undertaken freely by two baptised Christians of any type where none of the annulment conditions are present are said to be in a sacramental marriage. So the intent at the time of the vows is what is important. And it has to be consummated, as consummation is a restating of the vows.

    The Catholic Church recognises these marriages, as She recognises the valid Baptisms of those who are not Catholic. These are the only two Sacraments she does recognise, all others are null.

    Any sexual activity that is contraceptive is a negation of the marriage vows, and this is the greatest reason for the high number of divorces in sacramental marriages, IMO. Catholics, unfortunately, contracept a the same rate as the general population.

    Bosco,

    Do Anglicans in NZ “marry” those of the same sex? If so, these cannot be marriages as marriage requires two baptised persons of the opposite sex in order to be a real marriage.

    Anyway, now that I’ve stated my correction to the conversation, I’ll fade into the background again. 🙂

  6. Why is it called ‘I do’ when in the marriage service the answer to the question ‘Will you…’ is ‘I will’! The media always get that wrong!

  7. Increasingly, and rightly, the people do not want, and will not subject themselves to, an outmoded and gratuitous legalistic framework[0] lacking natural authority[1].

    [0] where denomination of baptism may or may not be relevant or recognised, … if-you’re-divorced-you-can’t-remarry, all the rest of this conditional crap with more rules & regulations than a role-playing game.

    [1] If there’s going to be a source of authority for the church’s prescriptions, it must ultimately have biblical backing. Show me chapter & verse where it distinguishes between church-based & State-based views of marriage, divorce versus annulment, the legal state of children depending on denomination of baptism… in C21. These things are human contrivances, and oppressive beyond the point of offensiveness with it!!

    Notably, however, there are people for whom a purely sacramental approach is valid.

    Not that you’ll get very far at wedding fairs if you yell “scramental, baby!” at everyone.

    But you might, if you say that the church offers a form to celebrate and express God’s blessing on an outer sign of inner love without the small-print.

  8. Wow, it does not take much to bring out the prejudice and ignorance of some.

    Andrei, please go study the history of marriage. You live in a fabricated world regarding marriage. There is no documentable evidence that the primitive Christian church was involved in marriage for a number of centuries, it was purely a civil/state contract, for millennia, usually in favor of the rights of the husband. All legal marriages are civil marriages. If the couple are not civilly married, then they are not legally married. In some nations such as the US, Canada, the UK, NZ, etc., the state has authorized ministers of religion to solemnize civil marriages. In those nations the state appears not to be concerned with what the religion adds to the solemnization ceremony or rite, as long as it fulfills the state’s minimum requirements to solemnize the civil marriage.

    All marriage is civil marriage because you cannot legally marry without state approval, without submitting to the law. In my country, Mexico, there are no legal religious marriages. You can be married by a minister of religion as many times as you want and you are not legally married. To be legally married in Mexico, as well as many nations of the world, you must have a civil ceremony. Most ministers of religion here will not conduct a religious ceremony without proof of the civil marriage first.

    The state also decides when a legal marriage has ended, further proof that all legal marriage is civil marriage. See how well a religious divorce will stand up in court if there is no legal civil dissolution of the marriage.

    As far as religious marriage, any religion is free to create its own requirements for its members to recognize a civil marriage as a religious marriage. The religion is also free to create the regulations by which it will allow its ministers of religion to serve as the officiant of a civil marriage. So the Roman church is free to create rules, to discriminate, which state that its priests may not officiate at marriages where the civilly approved marriage partners do not meet the Roman church’s requirements for a religious marriage.

    •••••

    As far as churches participating in wedding shows. I am for it. However, I feel that the parish’s first priority is its own members. I am not truly comfortable with the concept of evangelization by offering the church as a venue for someone’s marriage. I have seen dozens of couples who have come to church for six months because the priest has made that a requirement for the priest to officiate at the couple’s wedding and/or to use the church as their wedding venue. After they have attained what they wanted, the couple never darken the church’s door again. I personally have never seen such a couple become members of the parish as a result of using the church as their wedding venue. I am not saying that it does not happen, I believe that it does. I do not believe that it happens very often.

  9. BTW Padre, I had not seen your article on catholic, charismatic, evangelical and orthodox. I beleive that I am also all of these, and perhaps a bit liberal and celtic to boot.

  10. Is the main image of the church’s attitude to marriage seen to be anti-gay, anti-divorce, anti-contraception, anti-pre-marital-sex, anti… anti… anti… with possible apologies to Maggie Gallagher, is this YouTube video not too far from the way most people understand the church’s attitude?

    Well that Maggie Gallagher cartoon is offensive, its a crude Saul Alisky demonization from militant secularists.

    As for the Litany if things ascribed as Church anti-isms well sixty years ago the majority of the population would have agreed with most, if not all that list.

    The Churches messages might not always be popular but that does not make them wrong. What is popularity when you think of the renown Lady Gaga obtains with her stunts and trashy behaviour?

    Nothing.

    You think the Church should resile from its age old teachings in the face of militant secularism?

    Would it be appropriate for a Priest to perform a marriage ceremony in his Church, chosen because of its look and perhaps style of service where the parties concerned have no interest in the Church beyond its aesthetics and will never darken its doors again after the wedding is complete?

    I attended such a wedding – modeled on Princess Di’s though of necessity far less elaborate shortly after that occurred

    Might the Anglican church just become just a variation on the Las Vegas wedding chapels for those who don’t want an Elvis themed wedding? It might generate income but would it save souls.

    And do you want to promote Kitsch or the Holy Sacrament?

  11. Andrei, you are just a new commenter on this site. The WordPress filter put your latest comment into the Spam basket. As this site receives a lot of spam it is lucky that I spotted it before deleting all spam comments, and I have allowed it through moderation. Please read the comments policy. I have been lenient previously to a troll and regretted it as this person would not desist from ad hominems.

    The newspaper, the Press, today publishes church service times for Sunday. There was an article from the bishop reflecting on the earthquake. There is church presence on the internet. My post was concern that the particular perspective of Christian marriage has not been present in the important media of “I Do”. If you think that means I “think the Church should resile from its age old teachings in the face of militant secularism” or that by having a short article in “I Do” the Anglican church will “just become just a variation on the Las Vegas wedding chapels for those who don’t want an Elvis themed wedding” or if you toss in controversial name after controversial name I will consider your comments flaming, and if the spam filter does not remove your comments, I will.

    People are very welcome to contribute in this community. Disagreement and difference is fine and welcome. Please do so respectfully and without ad hominems or without creating straw men.

  12. I love marriage and in fact I am going to a wedding today. The world has lost sight of the true meaning and basis for marriage, also being blinded from what the marriage relationship represents.
    I wrote a brief article on my views last week, please feel free to check it out and comment. bit.ly/aFYCs7

    • Thanks Jon. I like your article. I also am not so pessimistic that the meaning of marriage has been lost sight of. We can look at the glass half full: how amazing and wonderful it is how many, many couples do stay together for life – through all its joys and difficulties. 🙂

  13. Dahveed,

    In the C of E parish system, couples have the right to be married in a church if one of them has some connection to the parish (such as living in it). I’m not sure of the exact details or how much discretion the parish priest has, as my partner is quite church-phobic and also doesn’t want to get married so I haven’t looked into it further, but I’m pretty sure attendance is not a requirement.

    I suspect that even what I know counts as specialist “church geek” knowledge and so I think there is value in church attendance at wedding fairs etc as that may well serve the needs of parishioners (ie those living in a particular parish) who might think they do have to attend a church to get married there.

    I wonder whether the use of the word “matrimony” to distinguish from “marriage” might clarify discussions where the civil religious aspects of it are under discussion (though perhaps “matrimony” isn’t appropriate for various other faiths…interesting that so many cultures have marriage as some kind of recognised institution).

  14. Song, I think that the situation that you describe in the CoE is because it is the state church. It would be interesting to know if it is the same/similar in other nations with state churches

  15. Also Song, trying to differentiate by using marriage vs matrimony is just words games with two words which mean the same thing. They are synonymous.

  16. I want to respond to the comments that the church’s primary focus should be its own congregation.

    I’d love to see Churches offering marriage as a community ministry. Not just as a venue or conducting a ceremony, but also pre-marriage counselling to give the couple the tools to have a strong marriage in the years following the ceremony. I don’t think it should matter if the couple are members of the congregation or not – it’s about building strong marriages and strong families which makes a healthy community.

    • Thanks, Adulcia. I think there is an increasing understanding that church is not just a spiritual club where we are there for the members, but a “missional” understanding that we are salt, and light, and leaven within our community, serving Christ in them, pointing to and enhancing the good in their lives. That is the positive understanding of parish boundaries. The parish community has a particular responsibility for all living within the parish.

  17. As you will note I am slow to pick this thread up.

    About 10 years ago my then parish decided to take a stall at one wedding show. This resulted in many weddings over the next few years producing fees for all concerned. The chancel in this church had been de-cluttered many years before and was able to be used in creative ways.

    More recently another parish that wished to re-start facing its surrounding community published a “wedding chapel” flyer.

    With that example a third parish, with a very iconic church, a few are starting conversations about returning to “wedding chapel” mode. A side advantage is when the groom and his mates mow the lawns before the big day.

    I understand in all cases pastoral care, as perceived to be relevant in each case, was offerred.

    • Thanks, Alan. This is opening up an important discussion: is the Christian community primarily there as an “in group” – where marriage is offered for the regular worshippers; or is the community “missional”, offering celebrations of God’s presence in sacred moments of all our lives, including those who are not regular worshippers? Blessings.

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About This Site Welcome to this ecumenical website of resources and reflections on liturgy, spirituality, and worship for individuals and communities. It is run by Rev. Bosco Peters.

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