Wedding of couple who are living together....

Discussion in 'Ecclesiology' started by loomster2000, Apr 8, 2011.

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  1. loomster2000

    loomster2000 Puritan Board Freshman

    I've seen two schools of thought on this. One says that there should be a visible repentance of cohabitation before a pastor officiates over the marriage ceremony. Others maintain that it would be unlawful to forbid marriage from the couple, since doing so is not instructed explicitly in Scripture nor in the Confession.

    I'd like to get your input on this, as I have an unsaved couple requesting that I officiate at their wedding. Up until now, for couples in this circumstance, my wedding policy has asked for a time of evidential repentance of the sin of cohabitation. However, I want to rethink this and make sure that I am not exceeding Scripture and Confession.

  2. PuritanCovenanter

    PuritanCovenanter Moderator Staff Member

    Why do they want to get married by a minister of the Gospel at all? That is what is confusing to me.
  3. TimV

    TimV Puritanboard Botanist

    The penalty under God's law for sex between two people who aren't married or engaged is a fine paid to the woman's dad or to get married. So, you don't have any choice in the matter. If they want to get married you are in violation of God's holy law by hindering it.
  4. Skyler

    Skyler Puritan Board Graduate

    I'm confused. If you marry them, they won't be living in sin any more (at least not that sin). Why would you want to forbid them?
  5. Edward

    Edward Puritan Board Doctor

    Putting aside, for a moment, why they would want a pastor to perform the ceremony, shouldn't the answer be different for this non-Christian couple than it would be for Christians living in sin? After all, cohabitation is among the least of their problems.
  6. seajayrice

    seajayrice Puritan Board Sophomore

    What good would come from your refusal to marry them? Is not the desire to wed a demonstration of repentance?
  7. Skyler

    Skyler Puritan Board Graduate

    I doubt it, honestly.
  8. Andres

    Andres Puritan Board Doctor

    I obviously can't pretend to know Pastor Loomis' reasoning, but for myself, I would be hesitant to marry two unbelievers as well. My reason would be because unbelievers would have no concept of what marriage symbolizes, exhibits, etc. Also, perhaps I am not giving much credit here, but I am going to assume that unless this couple comes to Christ later in their marriage, it's most likely going to end in divorce. I agree with some of the others and I am curious as to why this heathen couple is interested in getting married by a minister in the first place. Why don't they just go to the JP?
  9. Edward

    Edward Puritan Board Doctor

    While your points have merit, the cohabitation that keys the question is not relevant to your analysis. These points would apply to any non-believers, even if their pre-marital conduct was exemplary.
  10. Andres

    Andres Puritan Board Doctor

    I agree and this is partially my point. I don't really see the relevance of the cohabitation issue when they are unbelievers. I expect unbelievers to shack up together before marriage. But I also expect unbelievers not to desire being married by a minister of the gospel.
  11. Jack K

    Jack K Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    I take it the OP presumes the couple are professing believers. Cohabitation among professing believers happens with some frequency, either because they are immature or ill-instructed believers or because they were living together first, then got converted. There's a couple in my church who were at best nominal believers a few months ago, but have had an awakening and started attending services and now want to get married.

    What's the pastor to do? Tell the man he first must move out on the woman he's been living with (and in the case in my church, also move out on the kids they 're raising together)? That could be a worse sin. It seems to me they're already married in a sense, and the problem is they haven't made it legal. They should do so as quickly as is feasible, and the pastor should be eager to support this.

    In other cases, the fact that the couple is living together may be a sign of clearly flaunting what they know is God's law. Then you do want to see some repentance first. This is why elders are instructed to carefully tend their flock like a shepherd. People need individual care, and pastoral counsel may vary based on the person.
  12. Andres

    Andres Puritan Board Doctor

    He says they're an "unsaved couple".

  13. loomster2000

    loomster2000 Puritan Board Freshman

    Thanks for all the responses so far. They are thought-provoking. First, some of you mentioned that the desire to marry is a sign of repentance. That may not necessarily be the case. People get married for all sorts of reasons. Therefore, this couple may be desiring marriage without even considering the sin of cohabitation they have been committing.

    The issue I had was this couple who are living in open, unrepentant (as far as I know) sin coming to a church and a pastor for a church/minister wedding ceremony. There has been no acknowledgement of God in their lives, and yet now they desire for the minister and church to facilitate and officiate over their wedding. The issue is not forbidding the marriage (seeing that the state could put them together), the issue is my part as a minister of the gospel in the marriage.
  14. Jack K

    Jack K Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    You're right. I missed that. Oh well, I got to chime in on another topic. :)

    As for a wedding of two non-Christians... isn't it better that the church just not get involved, whether or not they're cohabitating? There's nothing going on in that relationship to make it a Christian wedding. To make the Christian pronouncements typical of a church wedding would be taking God's name in vain, would it not?
  15. Philip

    Philip Puritan Board Graduate

    Under common law, actually, if you cohabit for long enough, you are legally married (most states have legislated this into legal history, however). Might just be a good cause to support if we want to get rid of cohabitation.
  16. Theoretical

    Theoretical Puritan Board Professor

    Actually that's a common myth, and may have been the case in the past. But relatively few states have common law marriage at all, and even Texas, which has the easiest requirements still has three components: (a) agreeing to be married, (b) holding yourselves out as a married couple, and (c) cohabiting for any length of time (even as little as one day). Most other states with common law marriage have even stricter requirements and none have a "married after X years of cohabitation" provision alone. Agreement to be married and living as a married couple are essential components.

    That said, I would strongly support such a provision in the law for both the moral reasons of encouraging marriage and for the social reason of protecting the weaker party in the cohabitation, along with any children born of the relationship.
  17. jogri17

    jogri17 Puritan Board Junior

    If I were a pastor, I would not do marriages for any body who were not members of my local church... that would solves so many of these issues.
  18. Andres

    Andres Puritan Board Doctor

  19. Scott1

    Scott1 Puritan Board Doctor

    The Westminster Confession affirms the doctrine of Scripture to say it is lawful for two believers or two unbelievers to marry.

    Marriage would not, per se, being conditioned upon "repentance."

    It would be the great opportunity and duty of the minister to minster the Word, speak the truth and put the two in the far better position of the God given institution of marriage, rather than that born of idolatry and rebellion, a lifestyle of sexual immorality.
  20. Edward

    Edward Puritan Board Doctor

    Of course, that raises the risk that one makes a profession of faith as a result of pre-marital counseling - then the wedding can't take place. (This problem was pointed out to me by a pastor that I respect, who was willing to conduct off campus ceremonies for non-believers (his church had a policy against non-Christians being married in the facility).)
  21. Scott1

    Scott1 Puritan Board Doctor

    Part of the job of premarital counseling by a Christian minister is to try, as best as possible, to determine the spiritual condition of the couple. The minister tells the couples up front of any policies (e.g. will not officiate marriage for a believer to a nonbeliever).

    It's not risk of a "problem" so much as an opportunity to minister God's truth into a very important situation.

    No Minister ought be automatic in officiating marriage for any two people- that's part of what the counseling process is for.
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