I don’t know if those posts had anything to do with it, but a few weeks ago I was asked to be a part of our annual conference’s Pastor Licensing School to teach on what folks need to think about in regards to doing weddings. Yesterday I headed up the mountain to Beersheba Springs and spent a couple of hours talking about the pastor’s role in the whole experience of Christian marriage.
Certainly, there were many logistical details that we talked about, but I began the session unpacking the theology of Christian marriage and how the pastor understands his or her role in the American expressions of marriage. I noted that the American experience places pastors in a muddled roll, with one roll as a representative of societal expectations, another as a flack for the state, and the third (and I think the most important) as the mediator of God’s grace in this experience.
After much conversation, I shared with them my unofficial and personal guideposts for understanding Christian marriage and the pastor’s roll in this:
- Christian Marriage is a religious ceremony of worship through which husband and wife covenant celebrate God’s gift of one another, and make a covenant with each other, with God, and with the community of faith to form a relationship of mutual support, love, and fidelity.
- Christian Marriage is a means of grace, through which the Holy Spirit reveals something of the divine to all involved in the service – couple, participants, and ministers alike. While not an official sacrament under our teaching, it has a sacramental function by which God’s grace is given.
- As a means of grace, Christian Marriage is open to all persons who are seeking after God’s presence at some level in their lives. Understanding Christian Marriage as a means of grace suggests that pastors are given the opportunity to witness to the radical love of Jesus Christ to persons who may not be able to fully affirm their faith in Christ yet.
- Likewise, as a means of grace, Christian Marriage offers an opportunity to witness to the love of Jesus Christ to other participants in the service as well, including attendants and the congregation.
- The role of the pastor in Christian Marriage is to:
- Mediate the grace of God to all involved;
- Represent the valid concerns of the church regarding propriety and property;
- Represent the tradition of faith which has solemnized the establishing of covenant between marital partners for centuries.
- When desired by the couple, the pastor is able to serve as the representative of the state. However, Christian Marriage is predominantly a religious function, not a legal one.
So, what do you think? What you you add or subtract in your own understanding of Christian Marriage?
Click here to download a copy of that hand-out we used last night.