There have been times where I hear wedding stories from fellow clergy and really want to tear up my license to marry and send it back to the government. (note: of course all weddings I have done have been very lovely and special)
But there are so many horror stories out there from clergy that I wonder why were are in this business at all, especially with the focus being more on the party than the actual purpose we are gathering together.
My wife came across this interesting article and shared it with me, “A Call to Clergy: Stop Performing (Legal) Marriages!”
While I don’t agree with everything he says, it certainly does put an interesting thought before us.
Should clergy be performing legal marriages?
Here’s what I think.
There was a time when clergy were once the local “educated” people. They were the ones with the university degrees and seen as smart folk living in rural places.
As a result, they became trusted, not just by locals, but also by government in being able to do certain tasks on their behalf. Such as sign marriage licenses. This has evolved to include things like passports as well. In a way, it kind of made sense since they were there in positions of trusted leadership in the community, and often the only option for such services.
But that’s changed.
Now the world is much more connected than it had been. Now people travel much further as services are being consolidated in regional centres (shopping, government services, education, employment, etc…) and the need to have these services available in every community has been diminished. There is also, at least in Canada, a growing dependence on people called “justice of the peace” or “marriage commissioners” who are able to perform marriages on the government’s behalf in place of clergy.
So, Tony raises a very fine question in the link above. Should we still be performing services on behalf of the government?
My response is “No.”
If the state wants to manage licenses for marriage, then it should be state appointed representatives who perform them. Yes, I am appointed by the state, but I agree with Tony in saying we should be separate from them for it makes it tricky when we stand up against the what we see the government doing in the face of what we see needing to be done in our communities.
Add to this the increasing secularization of our “sacraments”; random families calling to get their children “done” (baptized); increasingly asking for “less God” in marriages and funerals; all of this makes it harder on someone like me to proclaim the Truth when no one cares to listen. (this does not stop me by the way)
I would like to see marriages look like this… When planning your wedding, plan your state appointed service at the location of your choice, but also approach the church to seek a service of blessing for you and your loved one. I would love to see this happen as we do for our other sacraments, incorporated right into our time of public worship (ie. Sunday mornings). This way your biological family and your church family can support and celebrate with you in union with each other.
For those who don’t want God in their services, the option is there. For those who do, the option is there as well. As for right now, if you ask me to do a wedding for you, don’t even ask if I can leave God out of it. It’s not going to happen. But I do know some nice people who can act as a justice of the peace who would love to preside over your wedding.
Of course, whatever you choose, may God bless you on your journey.