Day 17: Why Should the Church Care About Marriage for Everyone?

“Marriage is an ongoing lesson in how God loves us.” –
Jenny Hicks, member of Karl Road Christian church.

In my 25 plus years of ministry I performed many, many, weddings as a Christian minister. Sometimes for family members, often for church members and occasionally for strangers who came to me through friends.

I have this joke about how – like many ministers I know – I prefer doing funerals to weddings – because the people know that they need God at a funeral and they stay dead. (funny, huh?)

Anyway, part of my context in officiating weddings is that I am a minister who has been through marriage and divorce and remarriage. I know the challenge of marriage and have been with people as they decided to marry and also as they decided to divorce.

And so, of course, the church needs to care about marriage. We need to be a support and guide for every part of our lives – as we continue to grow and learn about the mystery and challenge of a life committed to another person. We need wisdom and maturity to learn about ourselves and we need God’s grace to give and receive forgiveness. There are so many ways in which the church needs to care about marriage. In a world in which people are more and more deciding to delay and delete marriage – the church should care.

But I think the question by the GLAD Alliance is – why should the church care about marriage for everyone? Why should the church care that marriage is available to all people in the congregation – not just to heterosexual people?

I posed this question to the diversity team of the congregation I serve in Columbus, Ohio. In answering, we learned how very easy it is for people who can get married to dismiss the importance of marriage for those who cannot get married. We take for granted the privilege of filing joint taxes , adopting children and rights in medical emergencies. But there is more.

Heterosexual couples have the opportunity and the privilege of making a lifetime commitment to one another publicly, spiritually and legally. There has been an enormous change culturally over the last 25 years as people routinely co-habit before marriage. They live together, buy homes, and enjoy most of what we used to call the “benefits” of marriage. In many ways, eradicating these “benefits” make the commitment of marriage more meaningful. My observation is that the moment when people are declared “husband and wife” is highly emotional. The couple is now pledging before God and friends and according to the laws of the state that they are committed to each other and responsible for each other in a whole new way. Often we say words like “through sickness and through health, through success and failure….” The marriage vows are powerful promises.

There is something very different about being married than living together. The escape hatch is closed and we are stuck working it out. I still remember hearing M. Scott Peck say that the most important part of marriage is “the friction.” Part of what keeps us together through the friction is the binding contract that is marriage.

One person on our team called marriage a “commitment and promise to work together toward a common future.” In most weddings I will say, “Marriage is created by God and is symbolic of the relationship between Christ and his church.” Maybe this is also a glimpse of the commitment that God has toward each of us that we call “faith” and maybe this is the most important part of why the church cares about marriage. It is one way in which we live out the intimate relationship that we have with God. I agree with a member of my church diversity team, Jenny Hicks, who said, “Marriage is an ongoing lesson in how God loves us.”

And as we sat around the table talking about this, I could not see how we could deny the opportunity to marry to the LGBT community. I wonder if there was a time that churches had positions on whether or not interracial marriage was acceptable and whether or not divorced people could remarry in the church. How easy it must have been to ignore those issues because they didn’t affect us personally.

So now in 2014, the church needs to care about all people of God.

We cannot pretend that it doesn’t matter.

Why do YOU think the church should care about marriage?