A Call to Clergy: Stop Performing (Legal) Marriages!

In 2008, after the passage of Proposition 8 in California, I blogged about my support for gay and lesbian persons and their right to be married.  If there’s one thing I’ve noticed in the time since, it’s been how few people paid attention to the nuances of my position.  So I thought I’d take the opportunity to write a bit more about it now.

It is very odd to me that in the U.S., clergy act as agents of the government at weddings.  In my state, for instance, the bride and groom apply for the marriage license at the county court house, but they don’t actually sign the license.  Instead, it’s signed by a member of the clergy and by two witnesses.  And, of course, without the clergy signature, it is invalid.

When I talk to pastors and priests about this, almost all of them express extreme discomfort at this situation, for it actually requires the clergyperson to act as an extension of the state.  And that conflicts with the theology held by many pastors, Calvinist and Arminian, Protestant and Catholic.

The reason for their discomfort, of course, is that in both the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures, those in the roles of priests and prophets have used their position to challenge the governing bodies.  But once you are an agent of that body — which you are when you legally marry two people — you lose some integrity in that prophetic role.

Further, the clergyperson is potentially at the beck and call of the government in this role.

And most problematic, from my perspective, is that the clergyperson, with the stroke of a pen, makes legal a contract that s/he has no ability or potential to end.  And, having gone through a divorce, I can tell you that extricating oneself from the legal contract that is marriage in our society is no mean feat.  And the clergyman who married us was, understandably, not around to help unravel what he had helped establish.

I say all this to underscore what a strange thing it is in our culture that pastors, priests, and rabbis, who would otherwise proudly proclaim their independence from the government, regularly act as agents of the government at wedding ceremonies.

Were we to separate legal and sacramental marriage, it would solve all sorts of problems, not the least of which is the growing discomfort that many of us have that legal marriage is available only to some responsible adults who are in monogamous relationships.  To recapitulate in short what I’ve written in the past:

  • There is no “historic” institution of marriage; it has been a fluid concept for thousands of years, changing with time and across cultures
  • Our society has determined that monogamy is good, so we incentivize it in various ways
  • It’s a plain reality that gay and lesbian couples are among us, and they’re not going away
  • So let’s afford them similar incentives toward monogamy by allowing them to enter the binding contract that we call “legal marriage”
  • This will not implicate what any congregation or denomination considers a “sacramental marriage”

Here’s an analogy: As Christians, we don’t agree with the production of pornography, for it generally degrades women and debases the beauty of human sexuality.  But we don’t continually protest against it, and we surely don’t legislatively fight to have it banned.  Why?  Because we consider the First Amendment right to free speech to be more important.  When we put it in the scales, we believe so strongly in the First Amendment that we are willing to live with pornography.

I say the same goes for same sex marriage.  Many Christians may not like it, but our desire for people to live chaste, monogamous lives should outweigh our distaste for homosexual sex (which, quite honestly, is what most Christians disagree with).  In other words, I’m asking Christians more conservative than I on this issue to consider living with legal same sex marriage in order to encourage monogamy among gay and lesbian persons.

And, to reiterate, this will not implicate any church’s position on whom they sacramentally marry, if clergy stop performing legal marriages.

So, what do you say pastors (and priests and rabbis)?  Will you join me and refuse to legally marry people?

  • http://www.thesnuffy.com Todd Porter

    This is a very interesting idea. I blogged about a year and a half ago that I believe that we need to separate marriage and civil union for the sake of allowing homosexual couples to marry. (http://www.thesnuffy.com/2008/08/06/gay-marriage/) I highly doubt that the government would step up and do anything about it, so maybe your proposal is the way to go about it.

  • http://matthewgallion.wordpress.com Matthew Gallion

    I wholeheartedly agree. If I were in an official, ordained clergy position (which I will most certainly never be), I would gladly pick up your rallying call. Until then, I guess I’ll just try to promote this idea. I think it’s brilliant. What most amazes me about it is that some of my more conservative friends love this idea. They believe it protects the sanctity of marriage in their own traditions. A fellow student in my current Master’s program presented this idea to his “Religion and Politics” class. He told me that it was received with incredible enthusiasm. I’m hoping to see something like this legislated in the near future.

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  • http://treehousemonastic.com Steven Burleson

    Absolutely. I commit to not performing any marriages under the arm of the State.

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  • http://www.freechurchradical.net Andrew

    So let’s get started on making this legal. I’m not authorized by my church to perform marriages but I will do what I can to make sure that marriage and state control are separated asap!

  • Bradm

    Tony,

    Do you believe other Christians (non-clergy) should “act as agents of the government?” Can they be judges, police officers, mail men, etc.? If yes, I’m curious why you think different rules apply to clergy. If no, are you willing to ask all Christians who are agents of the government to stop?

    • http://tonyj.net tony

      Bradm (5),

      I’m not saying that Christians should not be peace officers, politicians, or in the military. In fact, I was a police chaplain for ten years. But the difference here is that clergy, in their role as clergy, are acting as agents of the state. That’s very different than a Christian — clergy or lay — voluntarily entering into service of the state.

  • Bobby Gilbert

    It will create more bureaucracy. In Germany, marraige is legal in the town hall. Done it in Germany and still living in Germany. Germans have bee known to flew to Las Vegas to avoid the mess in the townhall. The marriage means two separate occasions and often on different days. It can be twice as expensive. For those saving it for “marraige”, they may get really confused on when they can give it up. These couples may have fight over the sack before the “real marraige”. Which one is the real marraige? Town hall is closed on Saturdays and Sundays so the planned “sacred” marraige probably will not fall during the week. For all theological reasons, maybe the church one should be done first to consumate the marraige and the townhall afterwards for the legal marraige. Does that mean if I don’t like the person in bed before the “legal” marraige; we were never married? Some people will wonder on this. It is a weak argument to think a 9 to 5 bureaucrat would make a divorce simpler. In Germany, a couple working towards a divorce has to stay married for one year and lived separated for that year before they can get divorced. The bureaucrat in the townhall who marries you may get switched to another job in the city. It is weak to argue the person downtown will make it any better in sorting differences in divorce than the local preacher who did the service. The preacher would probably be of more help than a bureaucrat in the town hall. It is a pain in the behind. There is always a long waiting list to get married in the townhall.

  • http://theophiliacs.com adhunt

    I knew you had a little Hauerwas left in you!

  • JMochaCat

    @Bradm

    It’s the context. I have a friend who’s both a rabbi and a public librarian (i.e., civil servant). Her religious training/certification is not central to her librarian job. Her religious training/certification _is_ central to her government function when she signs off on a couple’s marriage certificate.

    J, who had to go see Mrs Judge with a letter from her Teacher to get registered to do weddings in NYC.

  • Bobby Gilbert

    As far as gays and monogamous relationships, the gays have to work that one out for themselves. Being married does not guarantee monogamy . . .

    One of two of the biggest problems in the gay community. stability in relationships and two, dealing with identity. If gays could put that on the table and deal with it in a way for more heterosexuals to understand, I think there may be more sympathy for the gay position on marraige. These are not my words. It is a ex-gay German psychologist who deals in this context. He is not against gays. He deals with them understanding their “identity” and mainly, same sex relationships and stability. He was television in the same program that I will mention.

    There was a special on television. One German conservative who I think was not very conservative (not in USA terms) against a gay perspective on marraige. He ask one question in relationship to the gays desire to be accepted in community, “Why do you have gay clubs?” You want to be part of community, but in the same breath, you separate yourselves from community.

    • lectorel

      fyi, the phrase ‘ex-gay…psychologist’ is synonymous with ‘hateful bigot’ among QUILTBAGs and their allies. Don’t use it positively if you want to be taken seriously.

      Also- It is not our responsibility to be perfectly coiffed and well-spoken when asking for our rights. The fact that we have to ask at all means that the majority (i.e. you and other straight-identified people opposing gay marriage) has failed on such a important and fundamental level, that the issues of our community are miniscule in comparison to the moral and ethical travesty to be lain at your feet.

      Or in other words: They’re called rights for a reason. They’re something everyone gets, not just those who are ‘good enough’ in the opinion of the powerful.

      And we have gay clubs because often the community does not want us, and a people besieged on all sides need a place to fall back on, where they are among friends. Like Christians have churches, immigrants have ethnic enclaves, fandoms have conventions, tradespeople have unions, hobbyists have meet-ups… Do I need to continue, or has the obvious stupidity of your position hit you between the eyes yet?

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  • Bobby Gilbert

    Going back to marriage, I know a Muslim German guy who has married several women in “Muslim” type service, but not in the “town hall”. When it comes to legal, he is clean free unless the ladies go after him for child support which becomes a “social service and welfare” problem.

  • http://www.supermetz.blogspot.com Adam Metz

    Interesting thought . . . I’ve never considered the Hauerwasian and Yoderan implications on civil unions. I’ve never said “by the power vested in me by God and the state of Ohio” and all that . . . tried to lead a ceremony that is completely Godward . . . but in the end we sign the state-initiated contract. Hmm I’ll have to wrestle more with that inconsistency in my pacifist bend.

  • Zack

    I think your point is rather trite in parallel to why Christians are against Same Sex marriage.

    I, as a pastor against Same Sex marriage, am against it to keep same sex couples from sin. Not even to uphold the Law as much as to keep them from the reason why the law is there: to help them experience the love of God.

    I feel the same way about gay and lesbian sex as I do about sex outside of the marriage covenant. Both are sinful distractions that hinder people from receiving the good news of the cross.

    Therefore I want to see people free from sin not create ways to enable more sin. Sin, since the fall, is the problem humanity has been trying to fix.

    Granted we are talking about people who haven’t except the cross, and have no way to be free from sin until they do. But as long as I carry the revelation of the Holy Spirit within me, as long as God allows me to tarry on this planet, I will fight for righteousness and freedom from sin- not figure out ways to rationalize it so people like me.

    I’m not trying to bait you into a debate. I’m sure you don’t care about “fundys” like me anyway. I’m just tired of reading this moral relativistic muck that you perpetrate as Christian ideals.

    Jesus Christ is real, desires to see His creation turn from the things that keep them from bearing the image they were created in, and experiencing His love. It’s bigger than Gay and Lesbian marriage, it’s about those broken people who I was once like, knowing there is hope for their life in Christ.

    Bless you Tony- I pray for you often.

    P.S. I do agree acting as an arm of the government for legal marriage is dumb. But let’s be honest, that isn’t really the point you care about. ;)

    • Angel

      I find it humorous when people say “I pray for you often” as some sort of veiled insult. Trying to hide the fact that they believe you are doing something bad and therfore need prayer.

    • Marti

      Do you at all understand God loves me. Me. A lesbian. He as shone me His love in so many ways …many times. His love was shown deepest when I finally admitted to Him who I was and quit running from Him. He loves me so much. I wish you could really know Him like I do

  • http://sanctifusion.wordpress.com Robert Easter

    I think generally we hold to the ideal of the State as an extension of the Church, which in fact it might be (in the better sense) if the Church took its role seriously as a redemptive agent within society. For clergy to take their/our role seriously re marriage as serving Christians within our cures rather than renting out services would be a step, in itself. To take the time to rethink Marriage is a task long overdue.

  • Bradm

    JMochaCat,

    Tony’s reasoning was that priests and prophets are called to challenge the governing bodies, but once you become an agent of that governing body, you lose the ability to challenge it. Unless Tony is willing to say that only the clergy are able to be prophets and priests (and I doubt he is) , then I think (based on the argument above) that he has to say Christians should be government agents of any sort (including librarians).

    • http://tonyj.net tony

      Bradm (14),

      It’s very different to serve as a librarian or even a police chaplain as a Christian (clergy or lay), than it is to use your role as an ordained person to initiate legally binding, governmental contracts. When else does someone use their religious role and belief to initiate a legal contract?

  • billy v

    “those in the roles of priests and prophets have used their position to challenge the governing bodies. But once you are an agent of that body…you lose some integrity in that prophetic role.” How so? You don’t think that priests and some prophets of the Hebrew Scriptures weren’t a part of the “governing” bodies? You know there was no separation of church and state in those cases. But, on the whole, I agree with alot of what you are saying.
    I also wish Christians would show the world their belief in the sanctity of heterosexual marriage by actually valuing it. When the church folk get divorced at rates similar to non church folk, they virtually forfeit any position on the sanctity of marriage.

  • Bradm

    Sorry. That should be “… Christians should _not_ be government agents of any sort.”

  • Bradm

    Tony,

    I didn’t think you were saying Christians shouldn’t be those things. I’m just trying to follow your reasoning here because I’m sympathetic to your position that clergy not perform legal marriages.

    But I’m not seeing the difference between “acting as agents of the state” and “voluntarily entering into the service of the state.” Can you explain more about how they are “very different?”

  • http://www.freechurchradical.net Andrew

    Bradm, you wrote:

    “Unless Tony is willing to say that only the clergy are able to be prophets and priests (and I doubt he is) , then I think (based on the argument above) that he has to say Christians should _not_ be government agents of any sort (including librarians).”

    While there may not be any marked distinction as far as the ability to serve as prophets and priests, I (and maybe Tony, I don’t know) am perfectly willing to say that clergy should not serve as agents who speak for and are vocationally tied to the government. That is not to say that clergy are “above the law” but, rather, that their position as clergy should bar them from being “the voice of the law.” When churches are not free to perform a most basic ecclesiastical task without government permission, the lines of distinction between church community and state control are blurred. So I suppose I am defending a form of “clericalism” in which clergy – who are highly trained and vocationally devoted to the work of the church – cannot be agents of the state. This, of course, calls into question the vocation of the military chaplain or the prison chaplain who is paid by the government to perform ecclesiastical work (but that, I suppose, is for another post).

    Moreover, in states where gay marriage is illegal, the state effectively tells the church that it is not able to perform an ecclesiastical task even if that particular religious community may not see gay marriage as a moral issue. Certainly, the state has a responsibility to step in when abuse, violence or other forms of harm are perpetrated by churches and clergy. But marriage ceremonies for committed, monogamous couples do not fall into such categories so there is no good reason why the state should have a hand in either regulating, approving or otherwise deciding the nature of such ceremonies and relationships.

    Of course this line of reasoning has far-reaching consequences. I, for one, am also willing to say that Christian service in the military may in fact pose a significant barrier to obedient discipleship. In other words, while Christians may serve as librarians in public libraries (where they are only nominally “state agents”), I do not believe that Christians ought to serve in the military. This is, of course, not a new idea since most of the earliest Christians believed that a military vocation was wholly incompatible with Christian discipleship.

  • http://www.freechurchradical.net Andrew

    Tony,

    How is military / police / prison chaplaincy somehow plausible when clergy who serve in such roles are often paid from the government payroll and are, thus, ultimately answerable to the state (and, thus, do often act as agents of the state? My question applies particularly to paid military chaplaincy and prison chaplaincy. This is an honest question, not a provocation. I have been interested in prison chaplaincy for a long time but I am worried about what it might mean vocationally for my work to be funded by the government. A better scenario to my mind would be that military and prison chaplaincy be funded by the various denominational mission agencies as well as independent Christian mission / service groups rather than by government funds.

    • http://tonyj.net tony

      Andrew,

      I was a volunteer chaplain, so the issue wasn’t so pressing for me. And I found it to be a very rewarding ministry. I think your solution to paying military and prison chaplains from mission agencies is a good one, but one that I doubt will catch on.

  • Jim

    I tend to agree with you, Tony, but I think where you’ll lose most conservatives is in saying “It’s a plain reality that gay and lesbian couples are among us, and they’re not going away.” It may be ‘plain reality’ to you, but remember that conservatives believe homosexual relationships are sinful, and therefore an abomination to God. Homosexuality, according to them, is a perversion true sexuality. To casually accept that such couples are “not going away” is an abandonment of a hope of their sanctification.
    Could you ever imagine someone saying “It’s plain reality that thieves are not going away,” so let’s incentivize them to practice thievery more safely and productively. Of course not. Conservatives see homosexuality as something plainly sinful, like thievery, and to argue that it’s simply not going away is cowardice. This is where I think, Tony, you’ll lose the conservatives you speak with. Otherwise, I’m more or less with you.

    • http://tonyj.net tony

      Jim,

      That’s exactly why I used the (somewhat distasteful) analogy of pornography. Yes, I can see us saying that about thievery. We say that, for instance, about speeding: my local police do not ticket a driver for going 57 in a 55mph zone. But they will ticket you for going 83, and they’ll arrest you if you’re going over 100. The implication is that people will speed, regardless of the laws, but we enforce on a different scale when the speeding becomes dangerous.

  • Bradm

    Tony,

    I wrote post #19 before I saw your #18 response.

    I see the distinction you are making, but I guess I don’t see how it is relevant to your argument. Your argument is that it is difficult for priests and prophets to challenge the governing bodies (as the Scriptures call them to do) if they are agents of those bodies. Correct?

    Maybe an example would help me. Can you give me an example of how a minister who acts as a legal marriage officiant might have a more difficult time challenging the government than if he or she didn’t act as a marriage officiant? Might not police officers and judges and other government workers also have a more difficult time challenging the government than if they weren’t in their positions?

  • http://thewoundedbird.blogspot.com/ Grandmère Mimi

    Clergy should be out of the marriage business altogether. If the couple is religious, then a blessing ceremony may follow the wedding, but the couple will be married already. The presence/intrusion of clergy at the marriages of Christians came rather late in the history of Christianity, and it’s time that we returned to our beginnings on the issue.

    One of two of the biggest problems in the gay community. stability in relationships and two, dealing with identity. If gays could put that on the table and deal with it in a way for more heterosexuals to understand, I think there may be more sympathy for the gay position on marraige.

    Billy Gilbert, that comment made me laugh. You speak as though heterosexual couples give such sterling examples of fidelity. When you say, “Being married does not guarantee monogamy . . .,” you are surely correct.

    Do you know many gay folks? I know quite a few who have been in long-term faithful relationships.

  • courtney

    In response to Billy V saying:
    “I also wish Christians would show the world their belief in the sanctity of heterosexual marriage by actually valuing it. When the church folk get divorced at rates similar to non church folk, they virtually forfeit any position on the sanctity of marriage.”

    In my opinion, “sanctity of marriage” is determined by the human rights enjoyed and mutual respect, honor and love shown DURING a marriage rather than by mere divorce rate. Focusing on the end result is entirely too simplistic and misleading.

  • courtney

    Clarification: “sanctity” is something to be held in high regard for any relationship, not just marriage. To say that divorce lessens sanctity is incorrect, in my opinion. Many times divorce is what needs to happen for people to heal, grow and truly love. And it CAN be done healthily.

  • http://www.GodsEclectic.blogspot.com Colin Kerr

    Well said, Tony. I think the parallel to pornography and first amendment rights is important to lay hold of. Far too many people take the gay marriage issue out of its political and legal context. I might also add to your bullets:

    -Legal marriage and divorce laws, as they currently exist in this country, already do not reflect “Biblical” values. The “sanctity” of marriage has already been compromised.

  • John Z.

    In the Netherlands a priest cannot legally marry. couples must be married by the clerk (who does a full blown service/ceremony). afterward if the couple wishes they can go to their church for a religious ceremony.

    Now that’s separation of church & state.

  • Jason

    tony
    a wonderful post.

    As an American Christian living In Canada where most of my friends are gay clergy the question before these communities and clergy are much diferent than the one you are raising. In fact i would love to see comments on your idea by Gay and Lesbian Christians.

    How do we reclaim the prophetic role with out falling into a quietism, which i feel the Hauerwasian position takes us to. If we are to belive in deep engagement with the powers that be, and see the Christian community as embodied communities of resistance can we do so if we are somehow set aside from the world?

    I would suggest that clergy and others should retain their goverment roles so that their acts of CIVIL AND SPIRITUAL PROTEST will have more power.

    Jason

  • ariel

    Tony,
    I agree with your basic proposal, and have been making it for a while in my own church community. But I have both a question and a comment.
    About the following: “Our society has determined that monogamy is good, so we incentivize it in various ways”
    Do you believe that there is anything in the gospel of the Kingdom that privileges monogamy, or is this simply a social preference?
    And regarding the following comment: “Many Christians may not like it, but our desire for people to live chaste, monogamous lives should outweigh our distaste for homosexual sex (which, quite honestly, is what most Christians disagree with)” Sigh. Not a fair characterization of people who disagree with you. My difficulties with homosexuality have nothing to do with taste. I know a number of gay couples who are monogamous, faithful & happy. I don’t care what they do in the bedroom. I just want to honor scriptural teaching on sexuality – ALL of it, not just what relates to homosexuality. It’s easy to dismiss people if you decide their only problem with accepting homosexuality in the church is that they think it’s icky.

  • http://existentialpunk.com Existential Punk

    As a queer Christian woman, i agree the church should get out of the legal marriage business. If churches want to bless marriages after they occur, Queer or straight, then so be it.

    Marriage has been changed over the course of history. There used to be polygamy; Women used to just be the property of men with no rights whatsoever; Interracial marriage used to be illegal in this country until Loving v. Virginia.

    TRUE SEPARATION of Church and State dictates, imho, that the church/clergy be out of the marriage business on a legal level.

    Thanks, Tony!

    Warmest Regards,
    EP

  • http://thewoundedbird.blogspot.com/ Grandmère Mimi

    I just want to honor scriptural teaching on sexuality – ALL of it, not just what relates to homosexuality.

    Ariel, an excellent book which makes the case from Scripture and tradition for supporting same-sexuality is Reasonable and Holy by Fr Tobias Haller. You may not agree with Tobias’ conclusions, but his is a scholarly and well-documented argument in favor of same-sexuality within faithful, monogamous relationships. Although Tobias is a friend, I don’t get a commission on sales. ;-)

  • http://www.churchemerging.blogspot.com Jim Cendrowski

    Tony,
    I like the call, but doesn’t it present problems legally for those getting married? For example, if there is no lisence, there is no union. Won’t that mess up those who are, say, filing taxes jointly. Or how about the woman, say, that needfully desires a divorce, but has kids, won’t this call potentially affect the responsibility of child support?

  • Andrew

    For the church and christians to support gay marriage / civil union makes as much sense as us actively supporting people in a sinful lifestyle. To take your example of pornography: churches preach against it, and help members out of their addictions to it. They don’t celebrate it, and don’t have stands of penthouse available as a valid option by members. Arguing that monogamous gay relationships are preferable ignores the biblical prohibitions on gay relations in any form. It is akin to permitting theft of items costing less than $20 as a means of reducing the negative impact of theft. The laws of God have been breached just as much in the small sin as in the massive sin, and all must be called to repent no matter how “acceptable” the sin is seen.

    As a member of a civil society, people do have liberty to sin, but churches should never be party to encouraging sinful lifestyles.

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  • Dean

    Just a small legal hurdle for those of us who oppose any form of gay marriage. I’ve been warned by anti-Prop. 8 people about denying them rights of matrimony. We have a popular chapel used for weddings & I was warned before the vote on Prop. 8 that should it fail, we would have applications for weddings sent in by gay couples. We were told that if we denied them their wedding day we would have a suit filed against us for discrimination. Personally, I am not for any group of people who are not afraid to take me to court over a marriage vow location. Additionally, as Christian clergy I oppose the very act of sodomy & I know what God’s word says about it. To me it’s sad when Christian free lance theologians compromise conviction for the sake of popular societal woes. We have a legal system in place & that is where this should be won or lost. As clergy it is our honor to facilitate the union of heterosexual couples who choose marriage over shacking up. BTW, it’s not my job to keep them happy for life …that is where they assume full responsibility.

  • Jason

    I know some denominations have liturgies of divorce, the family/community gathering to pray the person or former-couple into a healthy new life.

    I think most of us Christians who fall in support of LGBT marriage/ordination need to stop debating the topic. Just as we don’t debate if women are fully human with full civil rights or if black people have human rights we should not debate the validity of LGBT people, but instead start living as if they are fully included members of humanity and faith.

  • Dan

    Everyone here is missing a larger issue – that what a society tolerates it condones. What we are seeing in the move toward pluralism is a loss of consensus as to what we collectively believe to be minimal standards. Christians are more and more tolerant of divorce in part because states have adopted no-fault easy divorce laws. Marriage has decreased in value because tax laws make shacking up an attractive option. Having clergy perform marriages does not, in my mind, entangle church and state. It did, in previous generations, suggest that as a society we generally believed marriage to be something more than a legal contract – we had a consensus that marriage was something sacred and that it was an institution necessary for a civilized society. Tony’s call to take the “legal” out of “marriage” is another step in the erosion of the common consensus that made a stable (though admittedly imperfect) society possible. The bewildering chaos of the present age is apparently something Tony likes.

  • Heather

    What bothered me about Tony’s full blog:

    1) “Christians are primarily against porn becuase of the degrading of women.” No! We are against porn becasue it is fornication. THAT is the sin.

    2) He states that “gays & lesbians will not go away.” Yeah? Ok, so I guess we should learn to cope with that by somehow legalizing it since it is here to stay? Hmmm……I guess we should talk about legalizing prostitution too, maybe taxing them as owning their own business so at least that sin is legalized (since it’s not going away.)

    3) I don’t freakin care if a pastor acts as an agent of the state. Legalize me! Tax break me! Who cares?! The reason government DIDN’T intervene in declaring whether a marriage was legal or not in past was because of how spiritual it was MEANT to be! Historic government didn’t see themselves “fit” to perform such a sacred act. I don’t get the big deal that “legalizing” marriage through clergy acting as governemnt agents is something to rally for.

    4) I will not make homosexual marriage more obtainable, and put it on the same level as the sanctified heterosexual marriage that Christ ordains. Maybe if the “church” abroad would’ve fought stronger, and spoke with more conviction on this topic & not turned a deaf ear, then perhaps we wouldn’t have spiritual division that would even suggest we go to the point of supporting gay unions.

    ***The purpose of Tony’s blog was to get us to not want clergy to be the factor that legalizes marriage SO THAT gays & lesbians would have recognized unions.***

    • Helen

      You think fornication is worse than the degradation / assault of women?

      And given that the Bible preaches both tolerance and forgiveness, and that every church / society has some form of marriage ceremony, i’m not really sure why this non issue is still being debated.

  • http://cabinoflove.com nathan

    I appreciate seeing some thoughtful discussion on this topic! I think that the Church/state entanglement is what is making the same-sex marriage battle so bloody.

    My idea for a solution is to remove marriage from the law completely. Let the state regulate LEGAL contracts between people- i.e. some type of schedule of domestic partnerships defining legal rights and responsibilities.

    Then let religious groups define and regulate marriage according to their convictions and tradition.

    I discuss this concept on my seldom-read blog: http://releaseofmarriageact.blogspot.com/

    PS- with regard to your objections to Christians as government agents, Tony, what do you think about a Christian acting as an agent of the government in the military? They receive coordinates for a “target” from their commander, then they are expected to kill the “target” without questioning the morality of the act.

  • http://thewoundedbird.blogspot.com/ Grandmère Mimi

    I’ve always been taught that the clergy person does not marry the couple. The two marry each other with the clergy officiating.

    What about the centuries up to the 12th when the clergy were not involved in the weddings of Christians? That part of our Christian tradition seems to be largely overlooked in the discussion?

  • http://www.freechurchradical.net Andrew

    Mimi,

    I haven’t ever heard that clergy weren’t involved in Christian weddings prior to the 12th century and I’ve doing some research on the history of Christian marriage so if you have source information about that, I’d love to know what it is! It would immensely helpful and quite interesting if what you say is true!

    Thanks,
    Andrew

  • http://thewoundedbird.blogspot.com/ Grandmère Mimi

    Andrew, here’s one source from a Roman Catholic priest, Fr Thomas Richstatter, at American Catholic.

    Marriage was around a long time before Jesus. His parents were married, and at least some of the apostles were married. For example, in all three of the Synoptic Gospels we hear of Peter’s mother-in-law (Matthew 8:14; Mark 1:30; Luke 4:38). In the early Church, Christians got married like anyone else in the cultures where they lived. Gradually, Christians began to see that the loving union of husband and wife spoke to them not only about family values but also about God’s values.

    Historically speaking, it was not until the 12th century that marriage took its place among the other ritual actions which we now name the seven sacraments. Throughout the Middle Ages there was no singular wedding rite for Christians. The Catholic wedding ceremony that you might witness today dates in large part from about the 16th century.

    If you’d like, I’ll search around for more references. In other words, Christians married according to the laws and customs of the place where they lived.

  • http://alternativeworship.org/paulsblog Paul Roberts

    Great to see discussion moving to Church History: the general picture is that whatever the local culture recognised as marriage, the Church accepted. So, for example, in pre-Christian Roman society, the Church blessed marriages which had already been solemnised by the State. It did not facilitate it itself. This fact illustrates the fallacy of the belief of some Christians that their marriage isn’t somehow “valid” spiritually if it has not taken place before a Minister. The converse is true: since marriage is a gift of God in creation, the Church blessed it. Christian ‘marriage services’ are, historically, an extension of these blessings after civil weddings.
    With the conversion of the Empire, two developments (and theologies) developed: in the Eastern Church, the Church was seen as the agent of marriage; in the Western Church, the original view, of nuptial blessing, persisted. Because of the more fragile state of the Christian state in the West, they did not have the luxury of the monopoly on marriage as existed in Byzantium.
    In modern terms, therefore, the American situation which Tony describes is, theologically, the minister/rabbi/etc. merely telling the state that the due process has taken place in the church context. However, Church history does not give much guidance, either way, to whether his suggestion of ministers boycotting their role is more or less consonant with Christian tradition, except, just perhaps, the earliest tradition. Andrew, a helpful book is _Nuptial Blessing_ by Kenneth W. Stevenson. I think it was published by Oxford University Press in 1983, but it’s probably now long out of print.

    OK, so I’m a liturgical history geek. Will someone tell me why I ended up planting emerging churches???? :-)

  • http://thewoundedbird.blogspot.com/ Grandmère Mimi

    I’d like to amend my my comment above with further information on the history of the Christian clergy’s involvement in marriages.

    A trusted friend sent me information from the Oxford History of the Christian Church. Clergy became involved in the 5th-6th century by way of offering blessings and prayers. In the Western Church, in the 11th century “the claim of the Church to exclusive jurisdiction over marriage cases was conceded” — by the state. (Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, page 873).

    In addition, according to the ODCC, “Matrimony is accounted peculiar among the sacraments in that the parties themselves are the ministers, the priest being only the appointed witness.”

    The Council of Trent (Session 24, 1563) required the clergy witness (and two other witnesses) for a marriage to be valid.

    I cannot access the ODCC online, but I trust my friend’s information.

  • Pingback: the emerging Joneses and my anarchist marriage… « Brambonius' blog in english

  • http://bramboniusinenglish.wordpress.com brambonius

    I tried to give a reply to the debate about marriage going on here and on tallskinnykiwi, but it became a blog post…: http://bramboniusinenglish.wordpress.com/2010/01/05/the-emerging-joneses-and-my-anarchist-marriage/

    shalom

    Bram

  • http://newcovenantbeliever.wordpress.com Barry

    I don’t have anything to add to the comments on any side, I just have a question.

    What makes a marriage in the eyes of God? Does it need to adhere to the culture in which it exists? Does some ‘set-apart’ priest need to perform some ritual? Or can a man and a woman [or same sexed - not getting into that debate] just decide to consummate themselves to each other?

    As the ‘un-churched’ Christianity continues to grow, with the emphasis on the equality and the priest hood of all believers, is there a possibility that this is being raised or will be raise?

    Just some thoughts that were raised as I read these blogs.

    Also to Heather,
    1) “Christians are primarily against porn becuase of the degrading of women.” No! We are against porn becasue it is fornication. THAT is the sin.

    So i) nude photographs that do not include fornication is not pornography? Videos of husbands and wives engaged in sexual acts is not pornography? Both these are acceptable for me as a Christian?

  • http://sanctifusion.wordpress.com Robert Easter

    History suggests the role of the Church, and of Clergy, in marriage is to keep the couple mindful of what they should already know- that the sexual union is an embodiment of a plan far beyond their emotions of an evening, but is a commitment of two lives forming one together. Basic terms, as date back at least 3500 years, apply yet today- mutual support, providence, intimacy, and fidelity are basic to maintain not only life of the union, but the lives of those who live in that union. Clergy stands to hold them to that vow, and the Church / community to keep them accountable. Today we have a minimum of Church or community involvement, and a hoard of “hireling” clergy, so the state of Marriage becomes another casualty to the rise of the glorified, addle-pated, stone-blind, Modern Individual.

  • Heather

    To Barry:

    What? Talk about taking an inch a running with it!!! Did you seriously not understand the point I was making?!

    The point that you somehow missed is; I felt Tony’s statement that the reason Christians do not like porn is because it is degrading to women (which actually it should be considered degrading to all involved) but I felt that was a bit off & shallow. Christians “disaprove” of porn becasue it’s fornication. How the heck did you take away from my comment that nude photos weren’t porn? Are you simply stuck on the verb “fornicate.” You completely missed it. ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?

    And marriage should adhere to God’s culture…….the Kingdom of Heaven, not the “culture in which it exists.” Traditions might change. Formats to ceremonies might change, but the purpose and substance of a “union” should adhere to Christ, which is why I don’t support gay marriage.

    I am baffled by how many actually believe homosexuality isn’t clearly outlined as being an abomination before the Lord. Be sure you know which sword you’re swinging, and the side you’re fighting on…….what a scary day it will be when He returns. For “your alls” sake I hope you are right, becasue at least my opinion on homosexuality doesn’t potentially condemn people to eternal separation from Christ if I am wrong. God’s Words really aren’t that vague.

    I guess to specifically keep on Tony’s topic of not having officiants acting as agents of governement for wedding ceremonies, my question is simply; WHY?

    • Helen

      The whole point of the new testament is that NO-ONE would be ‘condemned’ to eternal separation from Christ.

  • Heather

    P.S. I would love, as I am sure many would, to sit down with you Tony and truly understand where you are coming from. I am not a “know all” bratty Christian girl who grew up in a typical sub urban, “Leave it to Beaver”, believe whatever I am told about the Bible home. My background would be quite the surprise to most. I get the hermeneutics argument, but you lose me everywhere else. *sigh* Perhaps we’ll end up on the same plane one day. Bless you! :-D

  • http://beautifulbeacon.blogspot.com Rev. Elsa Peters

    I took this action with my colleague in March when things were charged in Maine with the No on 1 campaign. We found that most of our members (in our mostly but certainly not all progressive congregation) supported us even if they didn’t agree. We continue to talk about why we don’t sign state documents — even though my colleague and I share different reasons as to why we do this.

    I find more of a backlash among my clergy friends who think… well, I don’t know what they think. This is certainly an excellent point though. Thanks Tony.

  • http://thewoundedbird.blogspot.com/ Grandmère Mimi

    Good for you, Rev. Elsa.

    I find more of a backlash among my clergy friends who think… well, I don’t know what they think.

    Perhaps it’s because your very action is a challenge to your clergy friends, Elsa.

  • Zach

    Hey Heather,

    Are you cool with plural marriage? Because, you know, that was the vibe in “God’s culture” for a long time.

  • http://sanctifusion.wordpress.com Robert Easter

    Zach, surely you understand that the Bible is a record of God speaking into human life & society as it was, not prescribing it to be so. So there is a line of progress, a learning curve, to be seen from “Where is your brother?” to, “walk in love one toward another” as described in the Epistles. Yes, “Love your neighbor as yourself” appears in Deuteronomy, the how, the why, and even the who becomes more specific as time progresses.

    As to my earlier post, Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote from his prison cell to a young couple, “Just as it is the crown, and not merely the will to rule, that makes the king, so it is marriage, and not merely your love for each other, that joins you together in the sight of God and man. . . . It is not your love that sustains the marriage, but from now on, the marriage that sustains your love.”

  • Zach

    Yeah, I get that, Robert. Maybe you missed it when Paul, in the NT, doesn’t forbid plural marriage for non-elders/church leaders.

    But I digress. I do understand what you’re getting at. We shouldn’t take everything in scripture at face value. I’m thinking Heather would benefit from that insight as well.

  • http://sanctifusion.wordpress.com Robert Easter

    Zach, I personally have more of a problem justifying an intercultural ban on polygamy. In many cultures, that is the only “life insurance” a woman has in case she loses her husband, and often the only way for a family not to lose its farmland for the next generations. It could be that the “husband of one wife” stipulation for Church leadership was more concerned with whether the candidate would have sufficient time to tend to his duties rather than to use this as a subtle way to introduce a new mos into Greek culture.

    Taking the Bible at face value? Much better to enter into a conversation with it as with a much wiser friend: If something is said I don’t understand, it is the better choice to acknowledge my own limited understanding than to presume I “know better” before asking any questions. Too many times the Bible has been faulted for its “uninformed presumptions” only to have those presumptions proven true by closer looks into associated fields.

  • http://web.me.com/love101 A. Amos Love

    Tony

    Like the way you’re thinking…

    “A Call to Clergy: Stop Performing (Legal) Marriages!”

    Sounds good to me. After all…
    Any “Clergy” marrying folks in the Bible?
    No?

    Hmmm? Those pesky “Traditions of Men” at work again. ;-)

    If we can’t get the “Clergy” to stop performing marriages;

    Why not just get rid of “the Clergy?”

    Can’t seem to find “Clergy” in my trusty Bible anyway.

    And their divorce rate, of those they marry, is at 50% anyway,
    and the “Clergy” have no say in who gets the kids.
    All they are are glorified town clerks or justices of the peace.

    You ask…
    “So, what do you say pastors (and priests and rabbis)?
    Will you join me and refuse to legally marry people?”

    Now you’re addressing pastors. Why?

    Am I free to ask such questions? Am I being a Berean?
    Jesus loves me and forgives me all my sin.

    Can’t seem to find today’s “Pastor/Reverend” in my Bible either.
    Oy Vey!!! So many questions…

    In the Bible, How many people… have the title pastor?
    In the Bible, How many people are… referred to as pastor?
    In the Bible, How many people are… ordained as a pastor?
    In the Bible, How many congregations are… led by a pastor?

    When did pastor become a “paid position,” a profession,
    connected, as an arm, to the government?

    Oh, and when/where did God say the IRS has the right
    to determine what could be called “The Church of God.”

    Seems “The Church of God” is no longer “The Body of Christ.”
    The IRS says, “The Church” is now a 501 (c) 3, non profit,
    tax deductible, religious corporation. Huh?

    And who complains? Who cares? Do you just go along with it?
    We do love those tax deductions. $$$$$
    When it’s never about the money… It’s about the money.

    So what if we turn “the Bride of Christ” into a tax deductible corp?
    Where is that in the scriptures?

    Fire them all.

    Be blessed in your search for truth… Jesus

    And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold:
    them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice;
    and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.
    John 10:16

    One Fold – One Shepherd – One Voice.
    If Not Now, When?

  • http://sanctifusion.wordpress.com Robert Easter

    Amos, from your questions, I wonder what Bible version you’ve been reading. To avoid confusion, though, as you do seem to know your way around the Scriptures, look into your Greek NT. Byzantine or UBS, either one. Now, consider the way the words, επισκοπς, πρεσβυτερος, and διακονς are used, and tell me those are not clerical offices. Take a look at Acts 11, in which Peter, speaking for the Apostles (αποστολοι, messengers, in this case messengers of Christ), says, ‘we shall continue to devote ourselves to the word of God, and to prayer.’ Is he saying that’s what they hope to do in between fishing, marketing, and maintaining nets, boats, and hired help?

    FYI, the rhetoric you so proudly defend did not originate with the Apostles, or the early Church, but with a skirt-chasing humanist of the 16th century, named Ulrich Zwingli. The three key elements you will find if you research his life are lust, pride, and hatred for those with whom he chose to disagree. Hardly an “apostle” for us to follow! (I Corin 4:16)

  • http://beit-tefillah.com Messianic Rabbi Adam J. Bernay

    Tony:

    Other than your acceptance of gay and lesbian marriage, this is EXACTLY what I’ve been saying for a couple of years now. I stopped signing civil marriage licenses after Prop 8, because my feeling was that the Bible defines marriage (or at least the terms of marriage and that God’s elders/emissaries were to adjudicate), and I could not be a part of any system that could define and re-define marriage by a vote, either of a secular court or a populace. I perform religious wedding ceremonies (without charging a fee, BTW, if people want to donate to my ministry they can determine what to give me; I also require that they have pre-marital counseling with me and I determine if it’s a proper union under God), but I tell people if they REALLY want the State to be a covenantal authority over them, that’s what the County Clerk’s office is for.

  • http://web.me.com/love101 A. Amos Love

    Robert

    Still using my old, antiquated, KJV. ;-)
    Most of my study books are keyed to it.
    And some verses just don’t sound the same in the modern versions.

    Sorry, you have me on the Greek words.

    I used to know a little Greek…
    but he moved away. ;-)

    I’ll take your word for it that they mean clerical offices.
    What ever that means?

    You write about Acts 11…
    I like Acts 11:26
    …And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.

    You write…
    “Take a look at Acts 11, in which Peter, speaking for the Apostles
    (αποστολοι, messengers, in this case messengers of Christ), says,
    ‘we shall continue to devote ourselves to the word of God, and to prayer.’
    Is he saying that’s what they hope to do in between fishing, marketing,
    and maintaining nets, boats, and hired help?”

    But the verse I think you meant is found in…

    Acts 6:4
    But we will give ourselves continually
    to prayer, and to the ministry of the word.

    Gee, that’s what I do now,
    (and I’m not a “Clergy” or “Reverend” or “Pastor” or “paid.”)
    well maybe not continually. ;-)

    Wow – Are you saying that Peter was speaking for you, now?
    and you’re an Apostle? a messenger of Christ?
    and have forsaken all other earthly chores and pleasures?
    and you do that continually?
    giving your self continually to prayer?
    and to the ministry of the word?

    I just can’t find today’s “Clergy” or “Reverend” or “Pastor.” in the scriptures.
    Are those made up words? “Tradition of Men” Jesus warned about?
    “Titles” used to lord it over others? And exercise authority?

    The “Clergy” that I have known always
    dressed differently then us common folks
    and took “Titles” (not found in my old KJV.)
    that caused separation and division.

    In my experience…

    Titles become idols.
    Pastors become masters.

    Titles say,
    I am – You’re not.
    We are – They’re not.

    And cause separation and division.
    Jesus said, we are all brethren.
    We are all one in Christ.

    Pastor = Exercise Authority = Lord it over = abuse = always

  • http://sanctifusion.wordpress.com Robert Easter

    Yes, thanks for the address correction. However,

    Pastor = Exercise Authority = Lord it over = abuse = always
    in your experience, maybe. Not entirely uncommon.

    Pastor=Shepherd=Be among, give live to & for=protect=or else
    is God’s plan, as Peter makes plain.

    Pastor, Bishop, and Deacon are not in the NT, because it’s in Greek. The words we correctly translate into those English words are. Also for Minister, etc. Your argument that this modern English word was not used in a translation finished some 400 years ago is misleading at best, but to say that no offices should be used which are distinct from others goes against everything we read about the Body having many members with many different functions, etc., and apparently finds its own way to read Eph. 4:11, ff.

  • http://thewoundedbird.blogspot.com/ Grandmère Mimi

    What a long, spirited, and civil discussion! How often online discussions, which include disagreements, result in incivility and name-calling.

    Pastor = Exercise Authority = Lord it over = abuse = always

    A. Amos Love, I can’t say I agree with your statement. I’ve known a number of good pastors in my long life, along with others who fit your description.

    I used to know a little Greek…
    but he moved away. ;-)

    Love that, Amos Love.

  • http://web.me.com/love101 A. Amos Love

    Mimi

    How about if a definition of “Abuse” is given?

    1- treat (a person or an animal) with cruelty or violence.
    In this case, often, the “Abused” defends the “Abuser.” Yes?

    But many times “Abuse” is subtle, not noticed until pointed out.
    If the “Abuse” is subtle, is constant, over a long period of time,
    passed on from one generation to another,
    people don’t know it as “Abuse.” Yes?

    Abuse also means…
    2 – use (something) to bad effect, misuse.

    Hmmm? Bad effect? Misuse? Subtile? Generations?

    No one in the Bible had the “Title” Pastor. “Title” Reverend.
    What does that do to people
    after generations of thinking that’s okay?

    Oh yea, Jesus warned us about “The Traditions of Men.”
    Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition…
    Mr 7:13

    So by calling someone pastor when no one in the Bible
    had the “Title” pastor makes the word of God of none effect.

    Now that’s “Abuse” to me.

    In the Bible, there are no spectators watching
    Pastors in pulpits, preaching to people in pews.

    In the Bible everyone participates.
    Everyone has a living Christ within.
    Everyone can hear “the Voice” of the shepherd.

    1Co 14:26
    How is it then, brethren? when ye come together,
    every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine,
    hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation.
    Let all things be done unto edifying.

    By not allowing “The Body of Christ” to operate under
    the headship of Jesus whenever you come together…

    There is a “Bad Effect” and “Misuse” of the gifts
    that God wants to work through in every believer.

    All they do is sit in the pew.

    It’s like locking up a child in a closet.
    They get no exercise. (using spiritual gifts)
    They get no light. (revelation directly from Jesus.)

    Now that’s “Abuse” to me.

    People now think it’s the pastors job to teach.

    Jesus told “His Disciples” Not to be called Rabbi, teacher,
    for you have one master the Christ.

    Jesus taught “His disciples” then and He does so now.

    John 6:45
    It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God.

    Deuteronomy 4:36
    Out of heaven he made thee to hear his voice,
    that he might instruct thee:

    Psalms 32:8
    I will instruct thee and teach thee
    in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye.

    By not telling people that Jesus will teach you all truth,
    they look to man. How has that worked for 1700 years. Oy Vey! ;-)

    Now that’s “Abuse” to me.

    And He warned them about religious leaders. Yes?

    Matthew 23:6-8
    And love the uppermost rooms at feasts,
    and the chief seats in the synagogues,
    7 And greetings in the markets,
    and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi.
    8* But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ;
    and all ye are brethren.

    Pastor = Exercise Authority = Lord it over = abuse = always

    Jesus loves me and forgives me all my sins.

  • http://sanctifusion.wordpress.com Robert Easter

    Amos, I don’t know if you have some history of abuse that feeds such an anger as you seem to be expressing, or if some “liberating” teaching has you convinced that there is no other way of looking at things. Please, let me ask you,

    Does every pastor squelch the godly exercise of spiritual gifts? In my experience, some do, some don’t, and some advocate an ungodly use of them.

    Do we have records of the actual conversations in the early churches? If any, we have accounts of what was said in this or that case, but not the exact words. So how can we say that the Christians in Antioch, Corinth, or Thessalonica did not address the apostles or their own pastors with terms of respect? After all, the term, “Abba” before a pastor’s name in personal conversation is extremely old in that region. How can we be so certain that the leaders were not addressed as Abba Paul, Peter, or Philip?

    Also, you go on against “tradition:” Is every tradition, and every use of the word in the New Testament always only negative? If not, then it may be worthwhile to learn how it can be a positive thing, and make use of it as the Lord would have it. I would hate to see you wind up “wrong” before the Lord in your efforts to be “right” before men, and the anti-clergy (therefore anti spiritual gifts!) traditions you have received.

    If you want to refresh your perspective, what did the early teachers, those who learned at the Apostles’ feet, say about all this? What did Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Ireneus, Ignatius, Gregory the Theologian, Gregory of Nyssa, his brother Basil, Maximos, Macarius, and Efreem the Syrian have to say? If you want “Primitive Christianity,” those are the ones to ask. If, however, you prefer to hold to your own opinion because, after all, it’s yours and that makes it right, then you will be the object lesson for the Proverb that says (26:12) “Seest thou a man wise in his own conceit? there is more hope of a fool than of him.” and you will have discovered the root meaning of the word, “idiot.” Please, don’t go there!

  • Ray

    From a pastor in Russia:

    Here in Russia, an actual agent of the government (a judge) is required first to solemnize all legal marriages at a courthouse. The afterwards, we perform a church ceremony as a witness of the church of this marriage.

    In the U.S., couples or curches CAN do the exact same thing if they choose.

    The difference in the U.S. is the government allows the clergy to act as a judge or legal witness instead of a real govt. judge.

    That’s all. So this argument about clergy being forced to act as an agent of the State is mute.

  • http://web.me.com/love101 A. Amos Love

    Robert

    Thanks for the concern.
    And yes, I have suffered through “spiritual abuse.”
    And yes, I have been deceived and “wrong” before.

    Jer 17:9
    The heart is deceitful above all things,
    and desperately wicked: who can know it?

    And yes, I have been “liberated” by the Spirit of the Lord.
    …Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. :-)

    I have seen the dangers of “Titles,” of “Pastors,” and of “leaders.”
    “Spiritual abuse” for both the “leader” and those “being led.”
    The word “pastor/leader” is very, very dangerous for both.

    Along with the “Title” and “Position” of “Pastor/Leader”
    Comes something a little bit extra…
    Power, profit, prestige, recognition, reputation, etc…

    All those things that Jesus spoke against. Yes?
    Those things that are hard to walk away from. Yes?

    Jesus humbled Himself, made Himself of “no reputation,”
    and took on the form of a servant. Phil 2:7

    “Titles” give you a reputation whether you want it or not.

    In my experience…
    No matter how loving, eventually…
    No matter how humble, eventually…
    No matter how much of a servant, eventually…

    Pastor = Exercise Authority = Lord it over = Abuse = Always

    I’m not not new to “ministering healing” to those who
    have been “Spiritually abused” by “Pastor/Leaders.”

    Folks who’ve been *burnt,* * burnt out,* *kicked out,*
    or *crawled out* of “the religious system.”
    With it’s leaders, submission to authority, tithes and offerings,
    and other “heavy weights” put on folks shoulders.

    I also spend a fair amount of time with pastors,
    “so called leaders,” who can’t do it anymore.

    Trying to please the denominational leaders,
    the congregation, and it’s leaders, his family,
    and of course Jesus.
    Who is often relegated to last place. Hmmm?

    So many masters, that’s tough; Yes?

    Preaching every week… and it better be good, being the CEO,
    the team leader, counciling, marrying, burying, smiley face. etc. etc.

    If “pastors” (as we see them today) are of God?
    He’s not taking very good care of His shepherds; Is He?

    This is info from a website helping burned out Pastors.

    PastorCare offers support and encouragement
    for pastors and their families.
    At PastorCare we care about YOU and we want to help.

    http://www.pastorcare.org/PastorCare/About_Us.html

    According to the Francis A. Schaeffer
    Institute of Church Leadership (2007)
    • 77% say they do “not” have a good marriage.
    • 71% have felt burned out or depressed.
    • 70% do not have someone they consider a close friend.
    • 40% report a serious conflict with a parishioner once a month.
    • 38% are divorced or seriously considering divorce.

    According to the Ministering to Ministers Foundation…
    • Over 1600 pastors in the U.S.
    are forced out of their positions each month.
    • Nearly 1 in 4 pastors experience a forced termination
    at least once during their ministry.
    •Only 54% of pastors go back into full-time church related positions.

    Think we might have a problem here Robert?
    77% do NOT have a good marriage.
    70% of pastors are depressed or burnt out.
    Don’t have a close friend. Hmmm?

    That’s who is running the show. “Pastors” who have been “Abused.”
    That’s who is “Spiritually Abusing” God’s sheep.

    Hurt people Hurt people…
    Healed people Heal people…

    1600 pastors a month, that’s 19,000 a year, are pushed out. Wow!!!
    That’s a lot of broken hearts, disappointments, feelings of failure, pain, and abuse.

    Hmmm? Today’s “Pastor/leader,”
    is this a “Title” or “position” in the scriptures?

    Be blessed in your search for truth… Jesus.

  • http://sanctifusion.wordpress.com Robert Easter

    Amos, I’m aware of the problems you cited, though not the stats- thanks! Yes, pastoral ministry is hazardous, and often as not pastors, priests, rectors, teaching elders, whatever name we happen to use for them, learn first hand what it means to be slave to all, caught between the “board” and the bishop as they try to build the Body. Changes do need to happen, and these changes need to come not from one more political re-organisation but from revival of the hearts and lives. However, to springboard from a difficult situation in daily life to asserting the Bible does not say what we choose not to notice crosses some very dangerous lines. We can’t just toss Romans 12, 1st Corin. 12, Eph. 4, 1st Pet. 5, the Pastoral Epistles, and countless other sections of Holy Scripture in the bin to justify our personal preferences. By whatever term we choose to use for the office, the office of pastor and teacher is ordained by Christ from the beginning, and it is He who puts people into it. If we resist the gift, do we not in fact resist the Giver?

  • http://web.me.com/love101 A. Amos Love

    Robert

    “Changes do need to happen, and these changes need to come
    not from one more political re-organization
    but from revival of the hearts and lives.”

    Much agreement – need Jesus’ life and fire in peoples hearts.

    You write…
    “If we resist the gift, do we not in fact resist the Giver?”

    If the office of pastor/teacher is of God? (Debatable)
    Who said you have to use “God’s gift”
    in a “Man made” organization?

    Jesus didn’t reform “the religious system” of His day.

    He left it.

    And took a bunch with Him. Yes?
    Jesus taught “His disciples” in the streets.

    Jesus is doing the same today.

    I know pastors have an impossible, heart breaking job
    if they love Jesus (truth) and remain in “the religious system.”

    Too many compromises, too much fear of man,
    and the compromises get easier and easier as time goes by.
    Pastors are taught to play the game and not make waves.

    And the “Title” becomes an idol (Of the heart) with it’s
    Power, profit, prestige, recognition, and reputation.

    And God now talks to you according to your idols.

    Ezekiel 14:3
    Son of man, these men have set up their idols in their heart,
    and put the stumblingblock of their iniquity before their face:
    should I be enquired of at all by them?
    4* Therefore speak unto them, and say unto them,
    Thus saith the Lord GOD; Every man of the house of Israel
    that setteth up his idols in his heart,
    and putteth the stumblingblock of his iniquity before his face,
    and cometh to the prophet; “I the LORD will answer him
    that cometh according to the multitude of his idols; “
    5* That I may take the house of Israel in their own heart,
    because they are all estranged from me through their idols.
    6 Therefore say unto the house of Israel, Thus saith the Lord GOD;
    Repent, and turn yourselves from your idols;
    and turn away your faces from all your abominations.

    Doesn’t the Bible warn us about, and exhort us to,
    “hew down “the graven images” of their (our) gods.”

    Don’t we make the “Title“ Pastor a “graven image?”
    “Engraven” on dipomas, that are hung on office walls,
    “Engraven”on business cards, that are handed out,
    on the Sunday morning bulletin, on the street sign,
    and anyone who reads them knows who “the Pastor” is. Yes?

    Is that “self-honoring” and “seeking glory?”

    Seems Jesus warned “His disciples” about those things. Yes?

    Has the “Title Pastor” become a “graven image?”

    Micah 1:7
    And all the “graven images” shall be beaten to pieces…

    Isa 42:8
    I am the LORD: that is my name:
    and my glory will I not give to another,
    neither my praise to “graven images.”

    Jer 50:38
    A drought is upon her waters;
    and they shall be dried up:
    for it is the land of “graven images,”
    and they are mad upon their idols.

    A land of “Titles and idols” in the heart. Ezek 14:3-7
    Senior Pastors, Associate Pastors, Youth Pastors,
    Single Pastors, Reverands, Right Reverends,
    Most Right Reverands, Fathers, Priests, Clergy,
    and the list goes on…
    Are any of those Titles/idols in the Bible?

    Didn’t Jesus make Himself of no reputation,
    take on the form of a servant,
    and humble Himself? Phl 2:7”

    Titles become idols.
    Pastors become masters.

    What is popular is not always truth.

    What is truth is not always popular.

  • http://thewoundedbird.blogspot.com/ Grandmère Mimi

    Jesus didn’t reform “the religious system” of His day.

    He left it.

    Amos, that’s not at all what I see in the Scriptures. Jesus was born a Jew, and he died a Jew. Where does the Bible say that Jesus left his Jewish “religious system”? He castigated those within the system who followed the letter of the law. He rebuked hypocrites. His anger was directed to those who perverted the practice of Judaism, those who strayed from the path of what God asks of Jews and Christians, which is to “do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly before your God”. The split between Christianity and Judaism came after Jesus’ death.

  • http://sanctifusion.wordpress.com Robert Easter

    You write…
    “If we resist the gift, do we not in fact resist the Giver?”

    If the office of pastor/teacher is of God? (Debatable)

    I’m glad you’re open to the debate.

    Who said you have to use “God’s gift”
    in a “Man made” organization?

    I guess I could say God did. His word does say that Christ “gave gifts unto men, (including) pastors and teachers.” (Eph. 4)

    In a man-made organisation? Not entirely. Incarnation is not just an event at Christmas, but a principle which pervades all of Scripture, and all of Church history as well.

    Jesus didn’t reform “the religious system” of His day… He left it.

    Actually, He pointed out that elements of that system had left Him. But this is not grounds for assuming that He did not continue His plan through human community. The Disciples stayed within the Jewish religious system until the Romans destroyed it in AD 70, and the cultural split happened after AD 90 when certain surviving Pharisees co-opted Jewish religion through the “Council of Jamnia.”

    Very true, when the community becomes the more organised there is a risk; but refusing to organise is like if the human body were to grow without structure. Communication (nervous systems, etc), ministry within the body (blood flow, endocrines, filtration, digestion…) would cease, the bones would have no particular place to connect, etc.

    In my reading of history, the Church took a bad detour when the Roman bishop was allowed to set up his jurisdiction over his brother bishops outside his own field of ministry, and establish a military “chain of command” with himself as Christ’s sole representative. This is either traceable to or parallels Augustine’s departure from certain foundational truths universally recognised before him, but generally communicated in the common Greek language which Augustine did not read. At the risk of over-simplify it, Aug. built his theology on human guilt and inadequacy toward, while the Church before him had focused more on God’s grace and abundant generosity toward us.

    Amos, take a break- Get back into that Book, asking God anew to show you whatever in the world He has to show you there (setting pre-existing opinions on the shelf), and read what you can of early Church history, Eastern as well as Western, and see if there might be some details there to answer some questions, soothe some hurts, and enable more effectual ministry to others.

  • http://sanctifusion.wordpress.com Robert Easter

    Et, merci, Grandmére!

  • http://web.me.com/love101 A. Amos Love

    Hi again Mimi. Nice to hear from you. ;-)

    “Jesus was born a Jew, and he died a Jew.”
    Yes. You’re correct.

    “Where does the Bible say that Jesus left his Jewish “religious system”?”

    Didn’t the “Religious System” of Jesus’ day have
    Priests, High Priests, Rabbi’s and animal sacrifice?

    Did Jesus have that in His band of followers? Or was He different?
    Did He sacrifice animals? Wasn’t He a high priest? Any Rabbi’s?

    Jesus taught “His Disciples” NOT to be called Rabbi/teacher.
    For there is one master the Christ. And you are all bretren.
    Call NO man father, for you have one father in heaven.
    Be NOT called master/leader for you have one master, the Christ.
    Mt 23:8-10

    “Disciple of Christ” simply means, a learner, a student of Christ.
    Someone who learns directly from Jesus for himself.

    So, no more “Rabbi’s/teachers” as in “The Religious system.” Yes?
    No more “hierarchy” as in “The Religious system.”
    All are brethren, all are equal, all can go directly to God. Yes?

    I’ll try to explain what I’m seeing.

    I’m not talking about the split between Christianity and Judaism.
    “The Religious System” was full of rules and regulations.
    I’m talking about how Jesus lived His life.

    Jesus, as man, totally dependent on the Father.

    NOT dependant on “The Religious System” of the day.
    Not dependant on Priests, Rabbi’s and animal sacrifice. Yes?

    Jesus told people, Come unto me all that labor…
    Not come to a “Religious System” with animal sacrifice.

    Jesus said, “If I be lifted up I will draw all men unto me.” Yes?

    I’m seeing the relationship that Jesus had with the Father.
    And how “His disciples” learned about that relationship
    by watching Jesus doing “nothing of Himself,” and only doing
    what He saw the Father doing.

    It does take a step of faith to believe and trust
    that Jesus “can speak to you” and teach you “all truth.”
    Isn’t Jesus the best teacher?
    Why get things second hand from man?

    And we do have some examples; Jesus, Peter, Paul.

    Jesus, as man, delclared, “He” could do nothing of Himself.
    Jesus, as God, delared, apart from Him “we” can do nothing.

    John 8:28
    …I do nothing of myself; but as my Father hath taught me,
    I speak these things.

    John 5:30
    I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge:
    and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will,
    but the will of the Father which hath sent me.

    John 5:19
    …The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do:
    for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise.

    Jesus declared that Peter was blessed because;
    1 – Flesh and blood “didn’t” reveal it to him.
    2 – God, who dwelled with in him, “did” reveal it.

    Mt 16:17
    Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona:
    for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee,
    but my Father which is in heaven.

    Paul declared that “his gospel” was not of man
    and he received it from God.
    Paul conferred NOT with flesh and blood.

    Ga 1:11-16
    …the gospel which was preached of me is not after man.
    For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it,
    but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.

    16-To reveal his Son in me,
    that I might preach him among the heathen;
    immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood:

    Just a thought.
    Do you really want a book, or a teacher, with words about God?
    Or, do you want Jesus to teach you,
    “The Word of God,” who wrote “The Book?”

    John 6:45
    It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God.

    Deuteronomy 4:36
    Out of heaven he made thee to hear his voice,
    that he might instruct thee:

    Isn’t this leaving “The Religious System” of the day
    and depending directly on Jesus to teach us and lead us.

    Rom 8:14
    As many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.
    NOT “led” by man.

    Jesus, My Lord and My God.

  • http://thewoundedbird.blogspot.com/ Grandmère Mimi

    It does take a step of faith to believe and trust that Jesus “can speak to you”….

    Amos, I believe that Jesus speaks to me often. You know, I truly do read the Bible. I’ve read it all through, more than once, and I’m aware of all quotes that you mention. I don’t speak from total ignorance. It’s in the interpretation of the quotes that we differ. “Aye, there’s the rub.”

  • http://sanctifusion.wordpress.com Robert Easter

    So, Amos, if you hear Jesus speaking to you, but you denigrate the testimony of the Bible which exists as a testimony to Him (implying that it is of merely human origin), then why is this “Jesus” of yours denying the very basis upon which we can know him, and how can you say, really, who if anyone is speaking to you?

  • http://web.me.com/love101 A. Amos Love

    Robert

    You lost me.

    “denigrate the testimony of the Bible” Help me here.

    “(implying that it is of merely human origin),” Huh?

    “why is this “Jesus” of yours denying
    the very basis upon which we can know him,” What does that mean?

  • http://web.me.com/love101 A. Amos Love

    Mimi

    “It’s in the interpretation of the quotes that we differ.”

    “Aye, there’s the rub.”

    Yes, and a big rub it is.

    I do wish God would have done it differently.
    Many things are hard to be understood.

  • http://sanctifusion.wordpress.com Robert Easter

    As you said (below*), implying we should be “taught of God” apart from the His Word, as if there were some kind of dichotomy between the two, or that God really didn’t like the Bible too awful much to start with.

    You seem to be harboring an anger, or grudge, against the “System” to the point that you can’t see the Body. How the Church, the “Mission of God,” is supposed to succeed if has no teaching or leadership functions whatever is beyond me. Who can take the time to learn, much less to teach? Do we presume that we already know everything, and have no need to learn? No, you can’t answer from 1 John 2, because the “‘you” there is plural, speaking to the Church and not to any presumptuous individual. In fact, as Paul wrote, “..if any man think that he knoweth any thing, he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know.” The Church does exist, as Christ’s Body here on Earth. As a Body, it must have structure to define its existence, purpose, and life. And, the Body has different members, gifted to serve different functions. One of the most prominent, and often most demeaning, functions is that of the pastor and teacher, as best pointed out in such passages as Eph. 4, and others I have already cited.

    If you wish to continue this conversation, please take the time to read the passages I have mentioned above, and respond accordingly. This present business of general accusations and, sorry, rants, on your part is not rational discussion but an unbecoming temper fit to which there is no better reply but closing the door.

    * Just a thought.
    Do you really want a book, or a teacher, with words about God?
    Or, do you want Jesus to teach you,
    “The Word of God,” who wrote “The Book?”

    John 6:45
    It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God.

    Deuteronomy 4:36
    Out of heaven he made thee to hear his voice,
    that he might instruct thee:

    Isn’t this leaving “The Religious System” of the day
    and depending directly on Jesus to teach us and lead us.

  • http://web.me.com/love101 A. Amos Love

    Robert

    Sorry, I guess I didn’t explain myself properly.

    You write…
    “As you said (below*), implying we should be
    “taught of God” apart from the His Word,
    as if there were some kind of
    dichotomy between the two,
    or that God really didn’t like the Bible
    too awful much to start with.”

    Being “”taught of God” apart from the His Word, “
    is certainly NOT my intention or understanding.

    The Bible is the “Word of God” and
    Jesus is the “Word of God.”

    When I wrote…

    Just a thought.
    Do you really want a book, or a teacher, with words about God?
    Or, do you want Jesus to teach you,
    “The Word of God,” who wrote “The Book?”

    I was trying to say that Jesus can interpret “His word”
    “The Bible” much better then us mere humans.

    Many folks turn to books written by man to learn about God.
    What I see the scriptures saying is we can go directly to Jesus
    and Jesus will teach us what the Bible says.

    Jesus Himself taught “His disciples,” All would be taught of God.

    John 6:45
    It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God.

    John 14:26
    But the Comforter, [which is] the Holy Ghost,
    whom the Father will send in my name,
    he shall teach you all things…

    John 16:13
    Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come,
    he will guide you into all truth…

    Matthew 23:8
    But be not ye called *Rabbi: for one is your *Master, [even] Christ;
    *Rabbi – Dictionary – an ordained teacher.
    *Rabbi – Strongs #4461 rhabbi {hrab-bee’}
    Rabbi, a “title” used by the Jews to address their teachers.
    *Master – Strongs – a guide, teacher, master.

    Seems Jesus would like to be our guide and teacher.

    The Apostle John taught “we” need “NOT man” teach us…
    The “ye” might be plural but is “man” plural? Man is the object.
    The body of Christ (The Ekklesia, The called out one’s) The Church,
    ministers to the Body from what the Lord has taught them.

    Hath a revelation…

    1Co 14:26*
    How is it then, brethren? when ye come together,
    every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine,
    hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation.
    Let all things be done unto edifying.

    1 John 2:26-27
    These [things] have I written unto you
    concerning them that seduce you.
    But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you,
    and ye need NOT that any man teach you:
    but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things…

    1 John 2:20
    Ye have an *unction from the Holy One, and ye *know all things.
    *unction = anointing. *know = perceive, discern, discover.

    Paul says we have been taught by Him, Jesus.
    Just the way Paul learned the Gospel.
    He conferred NOT with flesh and blood. Yes?

    Ephesians 4:20-21
    But ye have not so learned Christ;
    If so be that ye have heard him,
    and have been taught by him,
    as the truth is in Jesus:

    1Thessalonians 4:9
    But as touching brotherly love
    ye need not that I write unto you:
    for ye yourselves are taught of God
    to love one another.

    “please take the time to read the passages I have mentioned above, and respond accordingly.”

    Can you be more specific please. Which passages?

    Peace…

  • Recorder

    You might like to see Winter views of Churches from Newbridge, County Kildare, Ireland:

    http://catholicheritage.blogspot.com/2010/01/sixteenth-monthly-mass-in-diocese-of.html

  • http://khanya.wordpress.com Steve Hayes

    Since our president has just married his fifth wife, I can’t agree with you about polygamy, but I do agree with you that clergy should not be state marriage officers. I got out of that more than 30 years ago. Notes from underground: The State should get out of the marriage business. See also The theology of Christian marriage: Khanya.

  • EarBucket

    “legal marriage is available only to some responsible adults who are in monogamous relationships. ”

    Say what? Neither responsibility nor monogamy is currently a legal requirement for marriage in this country. In fact, we tend to be rather bad at both. The only three things that are required to get married are a penis, a vagina, and fifty bucks for the registrar.

  • http://jintoku.blogspot.com Tobias Haller

    Heather, I realize I’m late to this discussion, but according to Jesus, there is no marriage in the kingdom of heaven. This is actually one of the few things he is explicit about concerning marriage — that and his prohibition on divorce. See Matthew 22:30, Mark 12:25, Luke 2o:35.

    Thanks be to God you are correct in one thing: that your views are of no effect as to the eternal state of anyone’s soul — except perhaps your own. If you are wrong, and are guilty of placing a stumbling block in the way of those who accept Christ, well, as you say, a scary day may await… Take your own advice, and stop “swinging swords” and “fighting.” Love your neighbor as yourself, for this fulfills the Law.

  • http://psalmsinexile.blogspot.com Eric

    Sir, I do not often agree with you on many things, but on this I fully agree and commend someone to put into words what many evangelicals have been thinking for a while.

  • Karen

    Amen!

    And if we quit doing these weddings, or simply say, “I’d be happy to do your wedding here at the church — just so you know, I won’t be able to sign your license. You can have that done at the courthouse in a brief ceremony. I will do the religious ceremony” then we would likely see fewere of those awkward requests for a religious ceremony that pleases mom but doesn’t mean a thing to the couple. People could quit pretending they want what I have to offer, just because they need my signature on a piece of paper.

    This is how they do it in Europe. Makes sense to me!

  • John Daniel

    Anyone,

    What countries do not recognize priests as legal representatives of the state to perform marriages. What countries, have seperated state recongized marriages from church marriages, where only a state official, not clergy can sign marriage license. You can then have a church marriage if you want but the priest won’t be the legal representative of the state.

    John

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  • Seth

    Tony, even though I don’t agree with a lot of your theological distinctions, this one I’m quite agreed with. I always figured that even if the US were to legalize same-sex marriage, this would have no bearing on the sacrament of marriage in the church itself, hence why I’m not opposed to the legalization of it (though I do still see it as a sin).

    I think, for the sake of showing love, moving in that direction would be better for the Church to do it. I guess we’ll see in the coming years how this turns out for the state and the church.

  • http://www.thesonofjeremiah.com Larry

    I came across your blog while researching the idea that clergy have for a long time in western culture been agents of the State suffering from an inherent conflict of interest. However I think your post brings up a deeper conflict of interest, the one that exists between an honest interpretation of the Bible and the Bill of Rights. Freedom of speech cannot be construed by a christian as a right for anyone to sin, or a right of the church to ignore sin. Christians are told plainly not to associate with anyone who would claim to be a believer and yet practice anything the Bible would consider sinful, and there is a pattern of confrontation that should be followed in dealing with sin and apostasy. Therefore, even a cursory study of the American churches would cause a person of good conscience to label most of them ‘anathema’ for accepting heresy and promoting transgression.

    As for gay ‘marriage’, if in fact we had not established an institution of marriage that the Bible does not, (neither does it give authority to anyone in the matter save the couple and the parent’s giving their blessing to their children within the context of Biblical expectations, standards, and christian community), we would not now have gays and lesbians fighting to be ‘legally married.’ The issue would simply not exist.

    The problem is not a moral dilemna existing separate from its context, it is an unbiblical paradigm. The warping of the issue goes back hundreds of years.

    Note however that there is property involved in marriage and so unless the church is given authority in divorce proceedings, the civil courts naturally have some say. And then finally is the whole issue of drawing the line between christian liberty and responsibility and the Biblical passages calling us to live at peace with the laws of men.

    If gays and lesbians can marry, am I guilty before God because I am part of this country that now approves of that which the Bible condemns? If I oppose it in the right spirit, no matter the cost, then God does not find me guilty.

    So I would vote against, and have voted against resolutions in support of gay marriage. If it becomes law in my State I will not have voted for it. If it becomes law in my State, I’ll still preach to homsexuals about repentance in love, respecting their right to say they don’t want to hear it.

    I do believe that there is greater jeopardy for the US in rejecting God’s standards because we have claimed to be a christian nation. The Bible is not one book in a pantheon, and the gospel does not serve the Constitution. Therefore the rejection of the gospel by America will have consequences, even though in the midst of it all the true church will continue to walk in love and call people to repent and believe.

    God bless.

  • http://www.terrisalynncoobs.com Terrisa

    I would argue that one of the real reasons evangelicals aren’t more vocal about pornography is because they are both afraid of it and more addicted to it.

    THAT IS NOT A BLANKET STATEMENT. In GENERAL, however, I believe it to be the case.

  • John Carter

    I respect (and share) your sense of injustice around this issue, but I think your conclusion is completely off. Signing a marriage certificate doesn’t make you an agent of the government in any sense more than signing a birth certificate makes a physician an agent of the government or signing a check (which will be backed up by the police and courts) makes the account holder an agent of the government.

    I’m not sure what you might have been referring to when you wrote “the clergyperson is potentially at the beck and call of the government in this role,” but I simply cannot imagine a scenario where would be the case.

    Instead of your solution of not performing any “legal” ceremonies but keep doing “sacramental” ones, I think your distinction is pedantic and semantic, I would recommend this one: go one and perform the marriage you want to, and sign the marriage certificate (including in same-sex cases). Then, if the local clerk refuses to record the marriage, that’s none of your affair. You’ve treated the two cases identically as per your beliefs. See, the clerk is the government functionary in this case, charged with carrying out the laws, not you. And if you are in a state where (I’m speaking hypothetically here – I don’t know if such states exist) completely a same-sex marriage certificate is illegal, well, isn’t that a scenario just begging for civil disobedience? The headline could be: “Local pastor goes to jail for signing marriage certificate for same-sex couple”

    • http://tonyj.net Tony Jones

      John, I like that solution. Have you heard of anyone who’s tried it?

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  • Paul Price

    I just recently came upon your blog and this particular posting. Full disclosure, I am a gay man, a lawyer and I do not believe the Bible (Hebrew and Christian) is the inerrant word of God.

    A person licensed by the state to sign a marriage certificate is an agent of the state. In Minnesota, a heterosexual couple needs to obtain a license to marry and I presume presents that license to the the licensed person in order to have the marriage certificate signed. That a later signed marriage certificate would be ineffective for a same-sex couple would be in part because the state granted agency powers of the licensed person were misapplied (beyond the scope of the agency and in contradiction to statute) and had no power in that regard. If a minister-the licensed agent-were prosecuted for “civil disobedience” it would only be because the state had jurisdiction to prosecute due to the fraudulent application or misrepresentation of the agency power it granted to the licensed person. In properly executing the marriage certificate, the licensed agent is granting a bevy of cultural, legal and economic rights, privileges and obligations which is a clear demonstration of that agency power.

    Tony, as a gay man, I applaud you for the call to action by the clergy, but your analogy of accepting same-sex marriage to tolerating pornography because of our high regard for First Amendment rights and principles, verges into being a back-handed compliment. I am a human being and not a mistake created by God. My inherent capacity to love, cherish, care for all the generations around me and those that I may bring into my family, is no less than yours.

    I am glad that you admit that a lot, if not most of heterosexual rejection of same-sex marriage is based in a sexual revulsion. We need to consider that at the core of most, perhaps all bigotries in the West (and I hazard to guess the targets shift depending on the global position), is a program of enculturating biological revulsion to the targeted group, be they for us, black, Jewish, women, glbt people, American Indians, the list is long. The literature and often accompanying visuals,from the purely academic to the theological and the “popular” press, are vast, ugly and usually hidden away, though not fully, from polite society. I remember briefly researching nineteenth century, English depictions of the Irish as a biologically degraded “race,” justifying the latter’s suffering and exploitation.

  • http://tiny.cc/bostonreaders ounbbl

    Wonderful idea. Actually there is nothing in the Scripture says pastors to perform such duty.

    One correction needed in this writing: differentiation is to be between ‘civic vs. sacramental’, not ‘legal vs. sacramental’.

    The one who declares they are now husband and wife is in fact the very persons getting married. Someone just retell it out. Anything needed is to register on the civic record. Many don’t bother with all these. They just ‘cohabit’ – happily ever, thanks to the example of British philosopher Bertrand Russell.

    For those who want for gay marriage , I don’t know whom we should call ‘husband’ or ‘wife’ ;-)
    For them, if they insist, they may be referred to a gay church, a gay pastor, or a gay bishop. Why don’t create a job of itinerant gay pastors ;-<

  • yuoyuo

    This is such a twisted line of thinking, I honestly don’t know where to start——–anyway,, have a nice, disease-infected life. Good day.

  • 2 Timothy 4:2

    What a load of rubbish and not very good arguments. Where is the scriptures on this. Don’t preach your experience Tony, preach the Word of God because you will be judged by that

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