Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

From This Day Forward: Rethinking the Christian Wedding

Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

From This Day Forward: Rethinking the Christian Wedding

Article excerpt

From This Day Forward: Rethinking the Christian Wedding. By Kimberly Bracken Long. Louisville, Ky.: Westminster John Knox Press, 2016. xii + 185 pp. $20.00 (paper).

From This Day Forward: Rethinking the Christian Wedding is a book that evolved as an answer to the question, "Should the church get out of the wedding business?" (p. 15). Drawing on her experience as a pastor and a seminary professor, author Kimberly Bracken Long builds both a compelling and encouraging case for her conclusion that the church should indeed get out of the wedding business-but that the mission of the church will be well served by staying in the marriage business.

"One of the gifts of the public conversation around same-sex marriage," she writes, "is that it has spurred churches to ask deeper questions about marriage in general" (p. 12). Unapologetically grounded in the context of the "seismic shifts to the institution of marriage" (p. 2) characteristic of the early twenty-first century, Long artfully explores those deeper questions, weaving history, theology, liturgical studies, and sociological data into a rich exploration of marriage as institution, as relationship, and as sacrament.

The narrative begins with a sociological survey of the institution of marriage across a broad spectrum of experience. From the pastor counseling couples navigating the stress of the wedding industrial complex to those lining up outside Las Vegas wedding chapels, Longs research leads her to conclude that "the church should step back from the wedding business but stay wrapped up in the holy work of marriage. To do so, we need to seek clarity about what we are doing, why we are doing it, and how we might do it better" (p. 38).

Part of that clarity is gained by an informed study of the histoiy of marriage-provided in a concise yet thorough overview. Beginning in the ancient world, where marriage was both a means of acquiring property and securing legitimate heirs, through the "Christianization" of marriage by the early church to the present day, Longs historical survey charts the journey of an evolving institution. …

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