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Q&R: Should a Pastor Marry a Non-Religious Couple?

Q&R: Should a Pastor Marry a Non-Religious Couple? February 29, 2016

shutterstock_371684425Here’s the Question:

Should a Christian pastor conduct a secular wedding? The bride was an active youth in our progressive ELCA Lutheran congregation and her family is still active. She is now getting married and her groom has requested no scripture, no mention of God, no prayers or blessings. This isn’t the first time one member of the couple is not a believer, but it is the first time one has had such anger and open animosity to God and religion in general.

Here’s the Response:

Many pastors struggle with questions like these. I wouldn’t want to make a rule because I think situations like these demand pastoral sensitivity and practical wisdom, not to mention situational guidance from the Spirit! As I imagine being in your situation, here is what I notice.

If the groom wants a wedding that reflects his convictions but is insensitive to the concerns of his bride and her family, I would see this as an occasion for some premarital counseling … just as I would if the situation were reversed. So I would enter into a premarital counseling relationship with the couple and be sure this issue is addressed. I might also ask to meet with the groom privately to make his animosity a topic of conversation. In other words, if he wants me to perform the ceremony, maybe he would trust me enough to talk about unprocessed spiritual pain.

I also notice that the bride doesn’t seem to be making herself heard in this. Again, that is a subject for premarital counseling.

All this presumes a general commitment I made when I was a pastor, that I wouldn’t perform a wedding without premarital counseling. I can see situations were exceptions might be made, but it was a good commitment that I don’t regret making.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.com


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