Magazine article Anglican Journal

Church Should Do More to Support Marriage

Magazine article Anglican Journal

Church Should Do More to Support Marriage

Article excerpt

IN THE CURRENT debate over extending marriage to gay couples, you will hear some Anglican clergy say that the church should get out of the "marriage business" altogether. "We should give up our roles as agents of the state. Let everyone have a civil marriage and those who want it can come get blessed in church," the thinking goes.

While weddings do bring in some revenue for churches--and their quirky excesses can cause migraines among clergy--it seems remarkably cynical to regard marriage as a "business." Linking marriage partners to the Christian faith can certainly be accomplished in a blessing ceremony, but going through the actual legal process at the same time as the church service lends an extra weight to the occasion.

Weddings are also one of those times, like baptisms and funerals, when "strangers" come to church. The betrothed couple may not have been to a Sunday service in years, but when it comes time to marry, they look for a church. It may or may not be the denomination of their childhood, but the church they choose should celebrate and welcome them, not inform them they need to go to city hall first.

A wedding may be the first time a couple and their guests have set foot in an Anglican church. Author and analyst Reginald Bibby, in his book Restless Churches, notes that churches faced with shrinking membership paradoxically often fail to seize the opportunity when new people come for life-passage ceremonies such as baptisms, weddings and funerals.

A couple on the verge of a new life chapter, possibly thinking of having children, ready to engage with the deeper values of existence - what fertile possibilities for church membership. But churches should not just see couples as potential new members. In preparing for marriage, the couple may have taken a marriage preparation course in or out of the church, or sat down with the rector for a talk. But once they take those vows and swirl out of the sanctuary in a haze of tulle, corsages and smiles, how does the church support them?

While we're taking a look at whether marriage should be gay or straight, let's take a look at marriage. The vows are timeless, although women usually don't promise to "obey." To love, to honour, to protect, "till death do us part"--this is serious business. There aren't many times that we stand up in public and promise to commit to something for the rest of our lives. …

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