This wedding cake tastes a bit too sugary

To promote the institution of marriage, a California megachurch staged a series of mass weddings and vow renewals over the weekend.

Sound newsworthy?

It does to me, so I was glad to see the Orange County Register cover the story:

ANAHEIM – Lisa Slaughter and Wayne Bergman got married Sunday. Just the two of them and 37 people onstage, and about 1,200 more watching in the auditorium inside the huge Eastside Christian Church.

To them, it couldn’t have felt cozier. “She was the only one I noticed,” Bergman said.

Eight couples got hitched, and 55 more renewed their marriage vows during three weekend ceremonies. They were the culmination of a weekslong series of events, seminars and positive messaging by the church, designed to emphasize marriage as a covenant – between its participants as well as between the couples and God.

“Of course, we live in a culture that’s tried to devalue the significance of this relationship. Often you’ll hear people say, ‘Well, marriage is nothing more than a piece of paper,’” pastor Gene Appel told the congregation … But marriage is much more than a piece of paper. … It is the preserver of true love; it is the foundation of the home. It is a stunning blend of law and love, with God at the center of it.”

Keep reading, and there’s more of the same: sugary sweet descriptions of the ceremonies and the happy couples.

But there’s not a whole lot of meat as far as what prompted this special emphasis. This is about as deep as the story delves:

The couples attended several church seminars, which covered subjects ranging from communication and conflict resolution to “keeping the romance alive in marriage,” Appel said. The programming, which the pastor dubbed “Married-ish,” included free baby-sitting on three straight Saturday nights so couples could carve out time to reconnect.

“We did a message titled, ‘Where do we put those candles?’”

Here’s what I want to know: Why did the church decide to do this?

The question of whether Christians who attend church are as likely to divorce as those who don’t has made headlines in recent years. The nation’s largest Protestant denomination has tackled the “scandal of Southern Baptist divorce.”

I can’t help but think that something — perhaps marital problems or divorces in its midst — triggered this California church’s big brouhaha.

I just wish the Register had thought to provide a few more facts to put the ceremonies in context. For example, how common is divorce in this congregation? How many couples live together before marrying? How many husbands and wives struggle to stay together?

Give me a little meat to chew on, please, while I enjoy the pretty wedding pictures.

Image via Shutterstock

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About Bobby Ross Jr.

Bobby Ross Jr. is an award-winning reporter and editor with a quarter-century of professional experience. A former religion editor for The Oklahoman and religion writer for The Associated Press, Ross serves as chief correspondent for the The Christian Chronicle. He has reported from 47 states and 11 countries and was honored as the Religion Newswriters Association's 2013 Magazine Reporter of the Year.

  • Charles

    Great post! It’s encouraging even in the midst of so much of culture saying the contrary to have a church stepping into that gap and saying marriage is important.

    There was a follow up to the initial post from the OC Register with a video interview with a few more tidbits of why this was a focus for the church.

    http://www.ocregister.com/video/v/2234182387001/news-cities-features

    Thanks for the post! Keep it up!

  • James Stagg

    They might be picking up on two long-exiting marriage programs and adding their own twist, such as combining new marriages with renewal of marriage vows.
    For the “old” married folk, there is Worldwide Marriage Encounter: http://www.wwme.org/
    For thoise about to be married, there is FOCCUS and REFOCCUS, developed at Creighton University: http://www.foccusinc.com/
    Those could be items completely unknown to the “young and restless” news reporters.


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