Pastoral Standards for Performing Marriages

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I saw a report that said that there is a reaction developing among the nation's pastors relating to the divorce rate. Many pastors believe they have performed marriage ceremonies too casually, and they feel partially responsible. Indeed, I heard a non-Christian lady complain that when she and her husband sought to have a church wedding on short notice, they had a terrible time finding a minister willing to perform the ceremony without some type of pre-marital counselling. This in a town of 100,000 and many churches. Eventually they found one (shame on that church). My own denomination takes this very seriously, and says no minister is under compulsion to perform any wedding. Pre-marital counselling is generally expected too.

What are your standards for performing a wedding ceremony? My own are very strict. I won't perform a marriage for any couple unless at least one person is a long-standing member of my own church. The only exceptions would be for kids who grew up there, and then went away to college or the military. If they haven't been single adults too long, I'd be willing to do it because I'd still feel I was their home pastor. I'd also perform a ceremony for family members who are mature believers because of family ties.

Here's the reasoning. I don't believe in marrying any couple unless they're both mature believers. Marriage is challenging enough without the Holy Spirit's help. I want to be confident this union will last, and I can only feel that way when dealing with two mature believers. Even young Christians need time to develop Godly character before launching into a committment of this level. I've also seen couples supposedly be led to salvation during the counselling, then once the ceremony is over never be heard from again. Restricting ceremonies to those personally known to me will reduce the possibility of making a mistake.

What of the couple who claims to be mature believers but are not part of my church? I have to wonder why they aren't asking their home pastor to perform the ceremony. It's likely they haven't been in fellowship for a while if ever, or their home pastor knows of a problem and has refused.

What of the "right" to get married? The Justice of the Peace stands ready. There's no right to a church wedding. What of the "meaningfulness" of a church wedding? If you don't darken the doorstep of a church any other time, it tells me you're just using me for a ritual. Sorry. That's not what the church is here for. I'm also reminded of those ministers dismayed to see their churches violated with drunkeness, lewdity, and worse when opening their doors to non-Christian weddings.

These standards are my own, but most ministers of my denomination hold something similar. As you can imagine we perform relatively few weddings. I've never done one, and that's fine.

-- Anonymous, February 04, 2001

Answers

I require at least four sessions. That leaves the door open for more should I feel in my spirit a need for more. I do make an exception in the case I am asked to perform a wedding by someone that resides elsewhere. If a pastor will provide me with a letter that they provided at least four sessions, I will except this. Again, it depends on the who the pastor is.

-- Anonymous, February 04, 2001

As a wedding consultant, the best marriages are those who undergo marital counseling. In fact, I encourage this procedure before accepting a wedding. Marriage is a serious decision, that DEMANDS understanding by both parties. Marriage is a bond created by the Holy Spirit, not something else to do. On another note, I believe that most marriages are legalized fornication and have nothing to do with a spiritual connection. This is the reason for the large divorce rate. Marriage for the wrong reasons.

I find that most people choose a particular church for appearances, it has nothing to do the spiritual. For example, church must have one aisle. Another thing that gets next to me, are the secular things that people do during this ceremony. For instance, some of the music is very challenging. The way the wedding party marches down into the church. You name it I have seen it. On a professional note, I will not accept weddings that disrespect the presence of G-d, selects secular music or uses strange colors for the wedding parties. I may have my issues with the external church, but I respect the sanctuary.

On a personal note, I was engaged, went through martial counseling and saw something very ugly in my soon to be mate. If it were not for this procedure, Id be divorced AGAIN. My pastor (teacher) was a college graduate (sociology) and also has a master degree in theology and counseling. If a pastor is going to counsel folks, he/she should be qualified! He knew the right questions to ask and made sure that I was aware of the certain qualities, in front of him.

In Love and Light.

-- Anonymous, February 05, 2001


Rev. Price you have high standards in regards to marriage. I am not a minister and do not have an answer to you question. I do have a question in response to your post. Jesus said "What God has joined together let no man put asunder". What would you say to the millions of single christians who realize that only God can unite a man or woman into marriage (a marriage ceremony cannot) but yet remain single and desire to have the companionship that marriage offers.

JazzMan

-- Anonymous, February 05, 2001


Brother Jazz,

I may not understand your question completely, so let me know if I miss. What of single people wanting to get married? Nothing wrong with it at all. I'm married because I wanted to get married, but I had to find the ONE (not several) God has for me. She was born to be my wife, literally. But first I had to get saved and grow in God a little.

To the single person with that desire, good on you. Paul said it will help curb your passions and prevent sin. You have three concerns: 1. Is this truly God's will for your life? One should never step outside God's path for their life ever. That's sin and will bring misery. There are those God wants to be single, and indeed Paul said it frees them up for greater ministry. What's God got for you?

2. Finding THE one. It's possible God has several mates over a lifetime for certain individuals, but they're in the minority. The second mate ideally should come into the picture only after the first has died. God's plan for most of us will be one or none, and the fact many of us are having multiple mates shows how widespread divorce and fornication are. BTW, I do hold that there is no such thing as a sinless divorce. One or both parties blew it. So keeping those eyes open for THE one is fine. But be in close contact with the Lord to ensure this is the one born to be your spouse. You can't go back. This has a lot to do with my only dealing with two mature believers. They are most likely to hear God correctly.

One thing, dating as we know it is a minefield with a level of emotion that skews judgement and muffles the voice of God. I see the method used by Abraham's servant in finding a wife for Isaac as a wonderful model. Ask the Lord, and He'll point her out. God will also confirm it to her. Then, acting on faith she can marry without even meeting the groom. A pastor friend of mine knew a young lady only casually while in college. God spoke very specifically to both of them they were to marry. He went to her room and could tell by her face she'd had the same powerful experience. Remember they didn't know each other well, but they did know God very well. They didn't waste time in obeying God, and today they have grandchildren.

3. Timing. God has it, and it's often different than ours. My sister in law didn't marry until past age 30. Little did she know there was a drug addicted man on the other side of the country born to be her husband. First he was saved and delivered, then a friend prophesied to him he'd shortly be married. Next came Debbie's job transfer, and within a month they were married...and still are. Could Debbie have done like Sarah and Abraham and "helped" God? The result was Ishmael and heartache for many. She could have married another, or married the right man while he was still an addict. Who knows what would have happened had she rushed the issue.

To that single person I say look for God's will, God's person, and God's timing. It's the ONLY way to happiness.

-- Anonymous, February 05, 2001


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