ACLU lawsuits filed recently challenge a judge’s decision in New York County, Pa., last year that marriages performed by ministers who aren’t part of a physical church or congregation are invalid.
What do you think? Should marriages performed by ministers such as those ordained online, by hospital chaplains or retired clergy be valid?
Part of me wants to agree with the judge. One of the few functions I perform in my ministry that is traditionally understood and recognized as pertaining to my vocation is the joining of two people in “holy” matrimony. The Bible condemns fornication but greatly blesses marriage because God’s desire is for men and women to join in lifelong commitment. Ultimately, God makes people husbands and wives, but as a minister, I have the privilege of God’s servant to facilitate their earthly unions.
However, I recognize that not everyone is religious, and for them, marrying within the context of a church would be hypocritical. Why say “I Do” before God’s preacher when you don’t regard God generally? There are justices of the peace that can marry people, and I believe captains of ships may as well, so it shouldn’t matter if the marrying person pastors a flock. I do believe minimal credentialing is in order, though, lest some wacky couple decide to have their dog marry them, but if someone is an ordained minister, they should retain their ministerial rights whether they serve a congregation, are unemployed between churches, act in denominational capacities or even retire. I am suspicious that the ACLU is involved, and I wonder if this lawsuit is not merely a means to further efface Christianity’s significance in society. I don’t think people ordained online should be afforded ministerial prerogatives unless they’ve been recognized by actual congregations, otherwise they’re simply buying and presenting certified baloney. Nobody accepts academic degrees that aren’t credible, so why ordinations?
If someone wants to marry secular people as a vocation, then grant them a marriage- agent certificate, and let them do ceremonies without the pretense of faith. It really doesn’t matter who does the marrying, but don’t confound the holy with the profane.