Question about Marriage Ceremonies

Discussion in 'Church Order' started by Marrow Man, Jan 27, 2009.

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  1. Marrow Man

    Marrow Man Drunk with Powder

    I am curious about how other churches handle situations where non-members request having their marriage ceremony at your church. Does your church have a policy against this? Any advice in handling these situations?

    Just today I received a message at the church from a young lady wishing to be married at our church. I haven't called her back yet. The groom-to-be is tangentially connected to the church (his grandmother was a member before she passed away last August). I am fairly certain he is unchurched. I find out more after I return the phone call. At this point I do not know who they want to conduct the service.

    Just a few months ago, we had another couple use our church for their wedding service, but the situation was a little different. They were both members at our local mega/giga-church (Southeast Christian, the 7th largest church in the country with over 17,000 "members"). They wanted to use our sanctuary because the facilities there were just too large. They received premarital counseling from one of the pastors at Southeast, and the former minster (who knew the groom well) performed the ceremony.

    Any suggestions from your own church experiences and policies?
  2. saintjonny

    saintjonny Puritan Board Freshman

    Marriage is Common Grace

    Unlike the Ramone Catholics, us of a Reformed persuasion don't see marriage as a sacrament. It is not in the realm of special grace it is in the realm of common grace, if we can make that distinction. It is not an act of union just for those within the church but is given by God for all mankind. Therefore we encourage and commend couples to marry whether or not they are belonging to a church.

    In our situation in the UK, we don't get asked much because non-Christians generally don't get married anymore and if they do they either want a small decorative country Anglican church or they just get married in a civil ceremony at the registry office. But our policy is by all means to marry outsiders.

    Reasons beyond it being common grace are that it can be a means for introducing them to the gospel. A church I was in three years ago, there was a couple who asked to get married and they were by all means allowed, but we suggested that they do the Christianity Explored course (it's a basic evangelistic course popular here in the UK, similar to Alpha but more biblical, reformed and evangelical). By the end of the course they had both become believers and were married as Christians. Praise God!
  3. OPC'n

    OPC'n Puritan Board Doctor

    I'm not a pastor so you can take this with a grain of salt. I believe that it should be a requirement that those you are marrying are a member of a Bible-believing church...both of them. It doesn't have to be your church, however. I think this for a number of reasons. 1) by God's power you are joining two people together who are taking oaths before God. Unbelievers cannot make oaths before God without them taking God's name in vain. They and you would be better off having a governmental official marry them in a Buddhist temple. 2) if you do not have a standard/rules about whom you will marry, then it would be easier for a homosexual couple to bring discriminatory charges against you when homosexual marriages become legal when you refuse to marry them. It's better to have a long record of only marrying obedient church members so that this doesn't happen in the future.
  4. Marrow Man

    Marrow Man Drunk with Powder

    Jonny and Sarah, thank you for your responses. One thing I forgot to mention that might shed more light (or complicate matters!) is that according to the standards for our denomination, I cannot marry unbelievers (at least it is strongly discouraged).

    Jonny, I am very familiar with Christianity Explored. It is actually recommended by our denomination as an outreach/evangelism tool. Glad to see it gets a good recommendation from the other side of the "pond." :)

    -----Added 1/29/2009 at 10:01:19 EST-----


    I am curious to get feedback from other pastors. How would you handle situations like this? Would you marry non-members or allow them to use the church building for their marriage?
  5. Tripel

    Tripel Puritan Board Senior

    I know that we allow non-members to marry at our church, but the elements of the service have to be approved. We've had couples who wanted their favorite country love song performed, but of course it was nixed.
  6. TimV

    TimV Puritanboard Botanist

    Where is it in the ARP constitution or other document that you can't marry unbelievers? I would have thought administering a lawful oath was one of the traditional perks and responsibilities of all orthodox Christian ministers.
  7. Marrow Man

    Marrow Man Drunk with Powder

    I am thinking of our old Book of Worship where there is this statement:

    Our newer book of worship ("Directory of Public Worship") simply says this:

    Personally, I cannot see marrying two non-believers (or nominal believers) in a church ceremony. There is this idea in our culture that there is something "magical" about doing the ceremony in a church building with a minister, In my humble opinion. I'm not sure I want to lend credence to such thinking, but I could be wrong here, and I'm certainly willing to listen if someone wants to talk me down.
  8. TimV

    TimV Puritanboard Botanist

    Thanks! I'd like to hear what others say about this, but I don't see in either of those quotes where an ARP minister is even discouraged from marrying two unbelievers.
  9. Marrow Man

    Marrow Man Drunk with Powder

    Well, the first quote sounds like a strong encouragement that the parties be believers...
  10. Glenn Ferrell

    Glenn Ferrell Puritan Board Junior

    There’s nothing special about a church building, other than that individual Christians or churches should not allow their property to be used to facilitate or give the appearance of condoning sin. Thus, any sinful activity should be prohibited in a church building, as it should in our private homes.

    However, unbelievers getting married is not sin, and may serve to end or guard against sinful behavior.

    I have definite policies regarding whom I will and will not marry. My primary concern is not to give the impression unbelievers are entering into a “Christian” marriage. I will not say anything not true, nor allow those getting married to say anything contrary to God’s word or which they do not believe. Therefore, much in the historical Christian marriage ceremony may not be honestly used when unbelievers marry.

    Of course, I will not marry a believer to an unbeliever. I possibly would object to marrying one who was baptized as a covenant child and is not a professing believer active in a church, especially if they are marrying an unbeliever.

    However, for two unbelievers, willing to have me conduct a minimal ceremony, I might agree to perform their wedding, especially if it gave me an opportunity to share with them the gospel and the implications of marriage as ordained by God.

    There needs to be two policies: one regarding use of church property, another regarding a minister conducting a marriage ceremony, on church property or elsewhere.
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