Tuesday, June 30, 2015
First, I will not conduct a same sex marriage if a couple doesn't ask me. So far, that's been the primary reason I've not officiated for a gay or lesbian couple. The opportunity has not presented itself, as I would not expect it to in the small communities I serve. Nor do I go out seeking it. As a pastor, I'm not out there drumming up marriage business. It's not my thing. Because my primary job is not to marry people.
I teach the Way of Jesus, guiding whoever wants to listen along that path as best I can. That involves a laser-like focus on what is fundamental to the Christian journey, which is no more and no less than this: doing what Jesus tells us to do. It's not about abstracted theological constructs, sociopolitical posturing, or convoluted defenses of textual or ecclesiastical inerrancy. It's about manifesting, in your life and in all your relationships, the manner of being that Jesus manifested and taught.
Teaching that is my task, and how we live that out in marriage is a part of that Way. So sure, I'll marry you. But again, I will only do this if asked.
Second, I will not conduct a same sex marriage if the couple wants a ceremony that has no Christian content. Over my years of pastoring, I've gotten calls from people wanting me to marry 'em, but wanting that event to, you know, not have any of that faith stuff in it. "We're just not comfortable with any talk about God or Jesus," I've heard. To those heterosexuals, I've said, no, that's not what I do. I have said so politely, keeping my incredulous facepalming to a minimum.
I've sent them on their way, to chapels, and to justices of the peace. Or to friends who've gotten that endearingly ersatz "Church of the Universal Hupdeehoo" ordination online. Not that you have to even do that, honestly. Many states allow you to have a friend or family member conduct the ceremony, no ordination required. Do that, if that is what you want.
But if you want me to officiate, there's gonna be some Jesus happening, in the same way that a Buddhist would reference their tradition, or a Muslim theirs, or a Hindu theirs. Or a Unitarian all of the above. Or a puppeteer with puppets.
Third, I will not proceed with your marriage if it seems inadvisable. Here, again, I'm not a business. My job is not just to pump out the "I dos" for three-to-five-hundred a pop. I'm trying to guide you into a covenant.
I expect front end conversations, in which we explore the dynamics of your relationship. What are your expectations? How do you handle conflict? Have you had open conversations about family, faith, and finances? I'll walk you through your relational systems, exploring both formative and prior relationships. I will get to know you as both persons and a couple, if I do not already.
And if at any point it looks, to me, like there are critically unresolved issues, I may slow things down. If it looks like a couple is woefully mismatched, or manifesting abusive/controlling dynamics, or unserious in ways that have a high probability of devolving into dysfunction, I may remove myself, and recommend that they do some more work before barging ahead.
What right do I have to tell two people they don't love each other enough to get married, you might say. Love! It's about love!
But marriage isn't just about being in love, right now. It's about the reality of how that love manifests itself over time. You are marrying another person, but you are also connecting yourself, through that love, to every other relationship in their lives. That's complex, and it evolves and changes, and that...not the rings, not the dress, not the reception, not your big feely feels...is what shapes a lifelong covenant between two persons. Or breaks it.
That is true in every marriage, and you need to take that seriously.
I will not tell you otherwise, because while I'm a fool in many ways, that ain't one of 'em.