Equal Rights /Rites

Over the years I have done a lot of weddings; not as many as most people in the ministry for 38 years (I’m particular about who I marry), but a lot. I have to admit that my experiences have been varied, and I think most clergy would admit to that. Most clergy I have talked to about officiating at weddings tell me that would much rather oversee a funeral than a wedding. There are a variety of reasons which I won’t go into here, but for me, the biggest reason is that so many couples seem to be phoning it in. Faith – God – Religious Values – often have very little to do with the “big show.” Too many are there because their parents told them to do it, or they like the pretty backdrop, or for some other innocuous reason. Proof of this, I think, is the dramatic movement away from weddings in religious buildings to parks, hotels, and island destinations. And the number of online marriage officiants seems to be growing; this is often represented on television shows and in movies (like Joey in “Friends”).

In fact, I have always been bothered by the fact that I am an unpaid tool of the state; for that moment in time, I become an official wedding broker for the state I serve a congregation. I sign the document in the same place a judge, mayor, or ship’s captain would; talk about crossing the line between church and state! I would much rather have couples become officially married when they sign the marriage application. This would allow them to have their celebration wherever and whenever they please; which is what they are already doing. It would also allow me to continue my picky process of choosing who I will or will not do marriages for without the pressure of having to be the one who makes it official.

When I was interviewing for my present congregation in 1999, one very angry member of the search committee asked me what I would do if I found out there were “hoe-moe-sexuals” in the church (that’s how she said it). I told her that I would embrace them in the same way I would embrace her, and when same-sex marriage became legal, I would perform those marriages (as long as the couple went through my process). She left the church after I was called to serve it. In all things, we in the church should promote equal rights and privileges to all people made in God’s image. Marriage is a human construct that the church decided to take control of, and in the Protestant tradition it isn’t a sacrament – it is a rite of the church. Any person who professes and lives as a follower of Jesus has the right to those rites, and my job is to protect those rites from those who would use them against people they disagreed with.

Unfortunately, the vast majority of churches are not concerned with equal rights. They manipulate the Scriptures and lean on false traditions to bolster their prerogative to treat people unequally. That is also their right; as a religious institution, we don’t have to agree with everything everyone does or is. We do, however, have to worry about how that sits with God. After all, if God made us all equal and in God’s image, to deny that seems unwise. We have the freedom to make our own choices, but that doesn’t mean God will approve. I choose to err on the side of acceptance rather than judgment. What you do is up to you; we will all have to account to God for how we treated others. 

Prayer – Show us Your image in each other, God of each and every person, and help us choose wisely. Amen.

Today’s art is a copy of a Pennsylvania Marriage Certificate.