Some Churches Separate Civil and Religious Marriage

December 15, 2007

Some churches have decided that until same-sex partners can have a civil wedding ceremony in the church, they will not hold any at all.

Read the whole article at Planet Out News, here.



6 Responses to “Some Churches Separate Civil and Religious Marriage”

  1. FrMichael Says:

    A poorly written story obscuring whatever point the churches are trying to make.

    I don’t get it: were those churches conducting civil weddings that weren’t religious to begin with? If so, that shows a remarkable lack of integrity: “Get married in our church– but it doesn’t have to be religious.” I didn’t realize the UCC was competing with Vegas wedding chapels.

    Or is it simply that the reverends won’t sign a civil marriage license? That’s a “nonviolent protest” that does nothing but inconvenience the couple getting married and affects not the government not one iota.

  2. Jeff Says:

    It may be poorly written from the perspective of a Roman Catholic priest, but I didn’t have any problem understanding the story as an Anglican and as a gay man.

    The parishes I have attended that do this simply wish to assert that the function of the sacrament of marriage for the Church is very different from the function of the secular institution of marriage. To conflate them degrades the sacrament, and the inequality within the Church’s sacrament is problematic at the moment.


  3. FrMichael Says:

    “The function of the sacrament of marriage for the Church is very different from the function of the secular institution of marriage.”

    First of all, I know that Matrimony is not a sacrament in Anglicanism. Why use the term?

    Second, are the secular and Christian ideals that different? Unity and procreation have been the goals of both secular and Christian marriage historically, although the secular realm has not favored the aspect of holiness within marriage other than strictures (once legally) against adultery. Two out of three similarities is pretty good in my book.

    Third, I still do not understand the effectiveness of this “nonviolent action.” The putative “oppressor,” the government, isn’t hurt in the least by the action. This isn’t the Montgomery Bus system being financially brought to their knees by a boycott: at the level of the registrar of marriages, there is no negative effect whatsoever. The only people “hurt” by this action are couples seeking to get married, who have the slight inconvenience of getting married in a courthouse.

    What is the point of this?

  4. Jeff Says:

    Marriage is a sacramental rite in Anglicanism. Per the Episcopal Catechism: “Other sacramental rites which evolvd in the Church include confirmation, ordination, holy matrimony, reconciliation of a penitent, and unction. Although they are means of grace, they ar not necessar for all persons in the same way that Baptism and Eucharist are.”

    Marriage has a long tradition historically of being many different things and evolving. Marriage has been about power, status, money, procreation, and eventually and much more recently, love and unity. Most Anglican theologians that I know of do not hold procreation high on the list in the purpose of marriage, particularly with problems of overpopulation, world poverty and the like– marriage purely for procreation is a Roman doctrine.

    The point of civil marriage, whatever it has been historically, is now to bestow legal rights upon the couple by the nation-state, an institution that the Church deems somewhat artificial and irrelevant. Human dignity, peace, and justice transcend artificial lines drawn upon a map. That is one thing I will say that the Roman Church has been more or less good at understanding, so I would think you would get that point if nothing else.

    Awareness is the point. This is not a hierarchichal decision being made by some pontiff sitting far-removed from the people, in which case it might be an inconvenience. But in just about all but the Roman Catholic church, the actual faithful get a say in their theological positions. The people themselves made these statement through their own polity, and have said that they want to be in unity and solidarity with the disenfranchised GLBT minority.

    Again, I said I would hardly expect you to understand, Fr. Michael, based on your past contributions here. It is written in the gay press for gay people, and I posted it on a gay Anglican blog. It is not written on a Roman Catholic blog for anti-gay celibate priests. If it were you might have a more valid point in your critique. But then, I suppose, it would have been written differently, and that’s the point.


  5. FrMichael Says:

    I’m taking it from your last comment that the reason for this boycott is twofold:

    1) It is a PR move (I don’t mean that negatively) to draw attention to the legal inequality between married heterosexual couples and same-sex couples.

    2) It is an exercise in solidarity with the suffering, the suffering here being same-sex couples unable to be legally married.

    I don’t really understand #1 (given that there are other means to draw attention to the matter that don’t hurt the innocent) but #2 makes sense, given the premise that same-sex couples should be able to marry.

    I won’t get into the more contentious points: you have answered my question, “What is the point of this?” Thank you.

  6. Jeff Says:

    No, at least not fully.

    In the parishes I am aware of, boycott is not the right word either.

    By conflating secular and religious marriage the Church becomes an agent of the State.

    That is problematic.

    The Church will not participate in unequal and unjust enterprises of the State. It may in the future continue once again when it can ensure that it is doing so as convenience for the couple and not as necessity, but that cannot happen until relationships are treated equally,


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