The Presbyterian Wedding

Posted by on Mar 21, 2013 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

The Presbyterian Wedding

Cove Presbyterian Church, Covesville, Virginia

Dear Engaged Couple–
 I have been working with a Christian couple who wants me to perform a “traditional” Presbyterian Service.  I specify Christian couple, because I also officiate at non-Christian and/or secular weddings.  I was elated when I first heard their request.  I am a Presbyterian pastor, after all, and even though I love officiating at all weddings— I appreciate the familiar words used in a Presbyterian service.  EXCEPT.  Except, I do not like the Statement on the Gift of Marriage, which is part of that service. It is found in the Book of Common Worship, which is a very important volume indeed, if you are a Presbyterian pastor.  No, it’s not the Bible, and it’s nowhere near as authoritative as the Episcopalian Book of Common Prayer.  Still, it carries weight.  Some of the words in the Presbyterian Wedding Ceremony sound like a polemic for heterosexual unions. “God gave us marriage for the full expression of the love between a man and a woman,” reads one line among many that seem to intentionally reject the notion of love between two people of the same sex.  I know, I know, at the time it was written, same sex unions were considered strange, anathema even to the faith. 
The Book of Common Prayer
Today though, things they are a changin.’  States and churches both are wrestling with where to draw the line.  Should marriage be restricted to heterosexuals?  Should gays and lesbians be allowed to marry? I won’t predict that there will be a dramatic shift in church policies regarding this issue—because there’s nothing to predict.  It is happening as I type this.  The Presbyterian Church has made great strides in the area of gay and lesbian rights.  In five years gay and lesbian marriages will be permitted in our tradition.  In five years gay and lesbian marriages will be permitted in all fifty states. It is my guess that the states will act first and US churches will follow suit. 
Until then, I am at a loss. The couples want a traditional Presbyterian wedding, yet they don’t want to offend their guests.  And frankly, I don’t want to use offending terminology either.  The couple and I are considering borrowing language from the Episcopalian tradition.  It is much more friendly and open in this regard. However, I can’t help feeling that our Presbyterian tradition has let us down. 
Martin Luther
 As I have considered and reconsidered this issue the last several days, I am reminded that Martin Luther himself, the instigator of the Reformation, claimed that “Ecclesia Reformata, Semper Reformanda,” which is Latin for reformed and always reforming.   Or was it John Calvin who coined that phrase?   I forget.  Anyway, it’s a cool statement and one that we should remember as we move ever forward in the challenging world we live in. 
Happy wedding planning. 
Yours, Gay Lee Your wedding Preacher

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