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Thread: Concerning Non-State Church Weddings

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    Senior Member Wilson Deaton's Avatar

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    Concerning Non-State Church Weddings

    Supposing that all other variables are such that you would be willing to officiate a particular couple's wedding....

    Suppose they said they didn't believe the state should be involved in weddings and they didn't care about the state recognizing their wedding; they just want to be married in the eyes of God and the Church. Therefore, they choose to not apply for a marriage license. Would you still officiate their wedding and proclaim them husband and wife? (Even though the state will not recognize them as husband and wife...)

    (If some of you non-pastors want to get in on this go ahead and pretend you are a pastor for the purposes of this thread! However, please remind us that you are not a pastor: "I'm not a pastor, but...")

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    Senior Member Paul DeBaufer's Avatar

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    Re: Concerning Non-State Church Weddings

    Yes! Yes, I would. I am not a pastor but if I were my answer would remain the same.
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    Senior Member Steve Malcolm's Avatar

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    Re: Concerning Non-State Church Weddings

    Not usually, but I would consider it in the case of extenuating circumstances. I have been told that for some people with disabilities a state marriage changes their benefits such that they could not afford to live. I would need details, but I would consider it. Normally I would not because it gives the woman fewer protections if the man leaves her alone with a child.
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    Host Photography Forum Dana Grant's Avatar

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    Re: Concerning Non-State Church Weddings

    I'm not a pastor, but, wow, that is a good question. Will be interested to see the answers.....carry on.....
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    Host CE and Gen. Disc. forums David Parker's Avatar

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    Re: Concerning Non-State Church Weddings

    "I am not a pastor, but..." I wouldn't hesitate. For me, marriage is a spiritual covenant. Allowing the government to define "marriage" ultimately degrades it, just as we see happening right now. Let government focus on civil unions, partnerships, contracts, and such and let the Church define marriage. Obviously different churches would define it differently, but that is between them and God.

    But on a practical level, is this permissible under current law? Can a pastor run into trouble doing this?
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    Re: Concerning Non-State Church Weddings

    It is an issue some older people have faced for a while. The woman would loose her dead husband's benefits upon remarriage. So the couple chooses to have only a ceremony and not an actual certificate.
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    Senior Member Mike Schutz's Avatar

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    Re: Concerning Non-State Church Weddings

    Yes I would.
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    Senior Member Cam Pence's Avatar

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    Re: Concerning Non-State Church Weddings

    I would
    "Love without holiness disintegrates into sentimentality. Personal integrity is lost. But holiness without love is not holiness at all. In spite of its label, it displays harshness, judgmentalism, a critical spirit, and all its capacity for discrimination end in nit-picking and divisiveness."-Mildred Bangs Wynkoop
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    Senior Member Jim Chabot's Avatar

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    Re: Concerning Non-State Church Weddings

    I'm not a pastor, but yes I would. I'm cognizant that a pastor is an agent of the state when performing a wedding with State licensure. There is a divided responsibility.

    I agree with that which John Reilly writes here from time time where he laments our loss of the Sacrament of Marriage. Although I had a pretty long conversation on my way home from Maine yesterday regarding how Catholics are dealing with this sacred union and how annulments are easily obtained by the faithful. So I'm becoming more and more jaded regarding the legitimacy of the church regarding marriage in todays culture.
    -Jim

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    Senior Member Hans Deventer's Avatar

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    Re: Concerning Non-State Church Weddings

    It would be illegal in the Netherlands and actually punishable by law. Which I think is strange, but that's what it is. So the answer would have to be no. Of course there is no law against praying for people and blessing them.
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    Assistant Site Administrator/Forum Host Jon Twitchell's Avatar

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    Re: Concerning Non-State Church Weddings

    Quote Originally Posted by Hans Deventer View Post
    It would be illegal in the Netherlands and actually punishable by law. Which I think is strange, but that's what it is. So the answer would have to be no. Of course there is no law against praying for people and blessing them.
    I'm confused... I thought your country was the place where the civic and religious ceremonies were entirely separate, and one could get one, the other, or both.
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    Senior Member Hans Deventer's Avatar

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    Re: Concerning Non-State Church Weddings

    Quote Originally Posted by Jon Twitchell View Post
    I'm confused... I thought your country was the place where the civic and religious ceremonies were entirely separate, and one could get one, the other, or both.
    Well, I'm confused too. It makes no sense. The ceremonies are indeed entirely separate, but it is still law that a pastor is not allowed to conduct a religious wedding ceremony for people who are not legally married, as crazy as it sounds.

    BW 1:68 says: "Geen godsdienstige plechtigheden zullen mogen plaats hebben, voordat de partijen aan de bedienaar van de eredienst zullen hebben doen blijken, dat het huwelijk ten overstaan van de ambtenaar van de burgerlijke stand is voltrokken. " (BW= Burgerlijk Wetboek = Code of Civil Law)

    Roughly translated:

    "No religious ceremony is alowed to take place before the parties involved have shown to the minister that their marriage has been officially performed by a civil servant".

    So you must get married at the city hall, and you CAN get your marriage confirmed and blessed in a church in addition to that, but you cannot just go to church for a wedding.
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    Senior Member Steve Malcolm's Avatar

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    Re: Concerning Non-State Church Weddings

    Quote Originally Posted by David Parker View Post
    "I am not a pastor, but..." I wouldn't hesitate. For me, marriage is a spiritual covenant. Allowing the government to define "marriage" ultimately degrades it, just as we see happening right now. Let government focus on civil unions, partnerships, contracts, and such and let the Church define marriage. Obviously different churches would define it differently, but that is between them and God.

    But on a practical level, is this permissible under current law? Can a pastor run into trouble doing this?
    I don't think you could get in legal trouble. What would that case look like?

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    Senior Member Steve Malcolm's Avatar

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    Re: Concerning Non-State Church Weddings

    Quote Originally Posted by Hans Deventer View Post
    Well, I'm confused too. It makes no sense. The ceremonies are indeed entirely separate, but it is still law that a pastor is not allowed to conduct a religious wedding ceremony for people who are not legally married, as crazy as it sounds.

    BW 1:68 says: "Geen godsdienstige plechtigheden zullen mogen plaats hebben, voordat de partijen aan de bedienaar van de eredienst zullen hebben doen blijken, dat het huwelijk ten overstaan van de ambtenaar van de burgerlijke stand is voltrokken. "

    Roughly translated:

    "No religious ceremony is alowed to take place before the parties involved have shown to the minister that their marriage has been officially performed by a civil servant".

    So you must get married at the city hall, and you CAN get your marriage confirmed and blessed ina church in addition to that, but you cannot just go to church for a wedding.
    That is a crazy system.
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    Assistant Site Administrator/Forum Host Jon Twitchell's Avatar

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    Re: Concerning Non-State Church Weddings

    Quote Originally Posted by Hans Deventer View Post
    Well, I'm confused too. It makes no sense. The ceremonies are indeed entirely separate, but it is still law that a pastor is not allowed to conduct a religious wedding ceremony for people who are not legally married, as crazy as it sounds.

    BW 1:68 says: "Geen godsdienstige plechtigheden zullen mogen plaats hebben, voordat de partijen aan de bedienaar van de eredienst zullen hebben doen blijken, dat het huwelijk ten overstaan van de ambtenaar van de burgerlijke stand is voltrokken. "

    Roughly translated:

    "No religious ceremony is alowed to take place before the parties involved have shown to the minister that their marriage has been officially performed by a civil servant".

    So you must get married at the city hall, and you CAN get your marriage confirmed and blessed ina church in addition to that, but you cannot just go to church for a wedding.
    Thanks. I had, apparently, misunderstood (and misrepresented) your system. Thanks for clarifying.
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    Senior Member Jim Chabot's Avatar

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    Re: Concerning Non-State Church Weddings

    Quote Originally Posted by Hans Deventer View Post
    Well, I'm confused too. It makes no sense. The ceremonies are indeed entirely separate, but it is still law that a pastor is not allowed to conduct a religious wedding ceremony for people who are not legally married, as crazy as it sounds.

    BW 1:68 says: "Geen godsdienstige plechtigheden zullen mogen plaats hebben, voordat de partijen aan de bedienaar van de eredienst zullen hebben doen blijken, dat het huwelijk ten overstaan van de ambtenaar van de burgerlijke stand is voltrokken. "

    Roughly translated:

    "No religious ceremony is alowed to take place before the parties involved have shown to the minister that their marriage has been officially performed by a civil servant".

    So you must get married at the city hall, and you CAN get your marriage confirmed and blessed ina church in addition to that, but you cannot just go to church for a wedding.
    It makes sense to me, which shouldn't be surprising or of any great consequence I suppose. When you speak of your marriage, you date it from your engagement, the date of your promise to each other. I've been captivated by this thought and I see it as a far superior view to our view whereby we date back from the ceremony. Your promise to each other is your union in the sight of God, I've begun to think in these terms regarding my marriage as well. So first thank you so much for sharing this with us over the years, it's meaningful.

    Given this thought, the church's function and responsibility is to bless this marriage, as opposed to officiate it. The church is to recognize a marriage so long as it is not sinful and the church's responsibility is to support honor and uphold. The decision by two people to commit themselves to each other in the sight of God is theirs alone, the church should not be interfering beforehand and of course it would be reprehensible for them to interfere afterward. Thus should the church's function be properly applied as blessing and support, it would make sense to me that they would of necessity be married before said blessing.

    I think we get a little messed up when we have to consider that the State and the Church are separated authorities, both in your country and in mine. Still I think that your secular government has properly assessed the church's role in marriage, as they require marriage before the ceremony. Perhaps such an arrangement could aid us here? Given today's rapid moral decline, it may be high time that clergy is relieved of duty concerning the legal aspects of marriage?
    -Jim

    To know and to serve God, of course, is why we're here, a clear truth, that, like the nose on your face, is near at hand and easily discernible but can make you dizzy if you try to focus on it hard. But a little faith will see you through.

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    Senior Member Hans Deventer's Avatar

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    Re: Concerning Non-State Church Weddings

    Delved into the issue somewhat deeper. Untill 1810, marrying people was something the church did. Their registration was also the only kind of registration of births (baptism), weddings and funerals. During the French time, this all changed because Napoleon introduced the civil registry. This meant people had to submit their first and last names and were registered. (BTW, some considerd this a joke and hence we still have folks who are called "Naaktgeboren" (= naked born) and similar names that aren't so funny anymore). So in those days, the separation between state and church resulted in this rule regarding church and state weddings.

    This issue has been discussed several times through the years, most recently in 2001. At that time, the ministry of Justice argued that this rule would saveguard the value of civil marriage and avoid confusion as to who was and who was not married. Personally, I'm not impressed by this argument, the state can always require a civil marriage in order to qualify as wedded for all legal purposes.

    All the same, I read that there indeed never have been convictions (up to a € 3700 fine or 2 months of custody, for the minister only).

    BTW, this rule also exists in Belgium where it is even part of the Constitution. This is one of those days when you learn a lot
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    Senior Member Mike Schutz's Avatar

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    Re: Concerning Non-State Church Weddings

    As I referenced in another thread, this "agent of the state" description seems to be comparable to that of a Notary Public, who can serve as an authorized witness of a contract. As a minister, I am authorized by the state to be a legal witness to a specific kind of contract - the marriage of two people. However, the state does not require me to report - only to serve as an authorized witness whenever requested by the parties involved.
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    Senior Member Glenn Messer's Avatar

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    Re: Concerning Non-State Church Weddings

    I would have to be sure that they understood that their 'marriage' had no legal standing with the state.

    The problem we face is that so many government regulations (including taxes) are marriage related. The issues with gay marriage could be solved with tax code changes. Take marriage status completely out of the tax codes. Go to a Fair Tax and completely eliminate the inheritance tax. Doing so levels the field for everyone.
    Medical power of attorney solves the caregiver issue. Instead, we want to redefine marriage when the definition of marriage is not the problem.

    Would I do the wedding? Maybe, but before I would even consider it they would have to understand that, at least from a legal perspective, it might still be considered "sex without the benefit of marriage" or what used to be called 'shacking up'.

    [One of the questions I would ask them is, "Do you still expect the benefits and protections of the laws of the state and federal government? If so, why would you want to disregard the state sanctions on marriage?"
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    Re: Concerning Non-State Church Weddings

    I'd want to know the rationale behind it. If it were a case of a widow(er) trying to maintain death benefits or some other legal maneuver, then I don't think I'd support it. If it were simply trying to keep removed from the workings of the State, then I'd be all for it, assuming the couple were aware of and prepared for possible complications to come.

    I tried to persuade my wife to do just that - to no real effect.
    ...just my $.02.
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    Senior Member Jon Bemis's Avatar

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    Re: Concerning Non-State Church Weddings

    I am a minister and I don't think I would. As soon as I read this question this passage came to mind:
    Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God's servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God's wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God's wrath but also for the sake of conscience. Romans 13:1-7
    And so I would probably follow this instruction:
    Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work . . . Titus 3:1
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    Senior Member Craig Laughlin's Avatar

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    Re: Concerning Non-State Church Weddings

    Would depend (of course). Would not do it to deceive anyone including the state about their status. I would also probably not do it for a younger couple that has the potential for children. The legal marriage provides protections for the weaker party and the children. If you are not "all in" enough to invoke the legal binding with legal consequence you are not in enough. (Same reason I would never sign a "pre-nup" Christian marriage is all in, no plan b) Both of these represent using Christian marriage as a way of dodging something so no.

    If they are not dodging something, then absolutely yes. The "real" marriage is the God ordained covenant binding the three together for life. (man, women and God)
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    Host Book, Movie & CE forums Ryan Scott's Avatar

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    Re: Concerning Non-State Church Weddings

    Quote Originally Posted by Hans Deventer View Post
    Delved into the issue somewhat deeper. Untill 1810, marrying people was something the church did. Their registration was also the only kind of registration of births (baptism), weddings and funerals. During the French time, this all changed because Napoleon introduced the civil registry. This meant people had to submit their first and last names and were registered. (BTW, some considerd this a joke and hence we still have folks who are called "Naaktgeboren" (= naked born) and similar names that aren't so funny anymore). So in those days, the separation between state and church resulted in this rule regarding church and state weddings.

    This issue has been discussed several times through the years, most recently in 2001. At that time, the ministry of Justice argued that this rule would saveguard the value of civil marriage and avoid confusion as to who was and who was not married. Personally, I'm not impressed by this argument, the state can always require a civil marriage in order to qualify as wedded for all legal purposes.

    All the same, I read that there indeed never have been convictions (up to a € 3700 fine or 2 months of custody, for the minister only).

    BTW, this rule also exists in Belgium where it is even part of the Constitution. This is one of those days when you learn a lot.
    I realized today that this system would keep fringe religious groups from approving "marriages" that are outside the bounds of what society would approve - the way we have fundamentalist mormon groups in the US practicing polygamy and child marriage, etc. I could see the rationale from this angle, although you'd think they would just say it that way - don't marry anyone who can't legally be married - then again, that might be seen as discriminating against such fringe groups. Who know.
    ...just my $.02.

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    Senior Member Steve Malcolm's Avatar

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    Re: Concerning Non-State Church Weddings

    Quote Originally Posted by Craig Laughlin View Post
    Would depend (of course). Would not do it to deceive anyone including the state about their status. I would also probably not do it for a younger couple that has the potential for children. The legal marriage provides protections for the weaker party and the children. If you are not "all in" enough to invoke the legal binding with legal consequence you are not in enough. (Same reason I would never sign a "pre-nup" Christian marriage is all in, no plan b) Both of these represent using Christian marriage as a way of dodging something so no.

    If they are not dodging something, then absolutely yes. The "real" marriage is the God ordained covenant binding the three together for life. (man, women and God)
    I'm torn on one point here. And, this might warrant its own thread. I don't think (I'm still working this through) that I have a problem with deceiving the state or corporations (especially if I'm not breaking the law) on behalf of the weak. For example, if a widow will lose her house or if a genuinely disabled person will lose their benefits if they get married by the state I would consider doing that wedding without making it legal.

    There is a chunk of the tradition that tends to get ignored in western Christian ethical discourse that I think deserves our attention here. Tamar (the one in Genesis), Acsah (the wife of Othniel in Judges), Ehud and Jael are all tricksters who engage in behavior we would regard as morally questionable at best and outright evil at worst but the Bible regards them as unambiguous heroes because they defended the weak. I think when considering how best to proceed these texts need to be held in tension with Paul's thoughts.

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    Senior Member Bob Carabbio's Avatar

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    Re: Concerning Non-State Church Weddings

    I'm not a pastor, BUT - I'd simply inform them that if they've joined flesh, then they ARE married Biblically, but if they want to have a party, and say some pretty things to each other and take pictures, that would be O.K.

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    Senior Member Benjamin Burch's Avatar

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    Re: Concerning Non-State Church Weddings

    Quote Originally Posted by Wilson Deaton View Post
    Supposing that all other variables are such that you would be willing to officiate a particular couple's wedding....

    Suppose they said they didn't believe the state should be involved in weddings and they didn't care about the state recognizing their wedding; they just want to be married in the eyes of God and the Church. Therefore, they choose to not apply for a marriage license. Would you still officiate their wedding and proclaim them husband and wife? (Even though the state will not recognize them as husband and wife...)

    (If some of you non-pastors want to get in on this go ahead and pretend you are a pastor for the purposes of this thread! However, please remind us that you are not a pastor: "I'm not a pastor, but...")

    Wilson
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    Senior Member Wilson Deaton's Avatar

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    Re: Concerning Non-State Church Weddings

    Quote Originally Posted by Benjamin Burch View Post
    (I agree completely with Craig's response... go see his.)
    Who do you think you are? Thinking you can send me on an errand...

    Wilson
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    Senior Member Pete Vecchi's Avatar

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    Re: Concerning Non-State Church Weddings

    Quote Originally Posted by Wilson Deaton View Post
    Supposing that all other variables are such that you would be willing to officiate a particular couple's wedding....

    Suppose they said they didn't believe the state should be involved in weddings and they didn't care about the state recognizing their wedding; they just want to be married in the eyes of God and the Church. Therefore, they choose to not apply for a marriage license. Would you still officiate their wedding and proclaim them husband and wife? (Even though the state will not recognize them as husband and wife...)

    (If some of you non-pastors want to get in on this go ahead and pretend you are a pastor for the purposes of this thread! However, please remind us that you are not a pastor: "I'm not a pastor, but...")

    Wilson
    This isn't far fetched; I actually had someone discuss this with me once, saying that his credit was lousy, and he didn't want his wife to end up being legally liable for that or affected by that.

    My knee-jerk reaction was that I didn't think that the church (denomination) wouldn't be keen on it, but I asked for some time to think about it. Not long thereafter the man said he had re-thought things and decided not to go that route--at least at that time. Honestly, I kind of let the issue go and didn't think much about it until I just read the original post in this thread a few minutes ago.
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    Re: Concerning Non-State Church Weddings

    Pete,
    Sometimes we need to step back and let time and the Lord work their ways with people. I had that happen some pre-marital counseling I was doing. I let an issue lay for a few days and the person ended up doing what I was going to suggest. But they did it by their own conviction. I felt much better about that than if I'd made the suggestion.

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    Senior Member Pete Vecchi's Avatar

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    Re: Concerning Non-State Church Weddings

    Quote Originally Posted by David Parker View Post
    "I am not a pastor, but..." I wouldn't hesitate. For me, marriage is a spiritual covenant. Allowing the government to define "marriage" ultimately degrades it, just as we see happening right now. Let government focus on civil unions, partnerships, contracts, and such and let the Church define marriage. Obviously different churches would define it differently, but that is between them and God.

    But on a practical level, is this permissible under current law? Can a pastor run into trouble doing this?
    Part of my concern when I was asked about this by someone loosely associated with a church was the legal ramifications. Part of the state's function in marriage is to ensure that two people are indeed eligible to be married to each other. What if one of the two is still legally married to someone else? I encountered a situation a number of years ago where a man and woman were living together, were being exclusive to each other, but said they couldn't get married because the man's divorce never finalized. The explanation (I didn't try to verify it all) was that when the man and his wife had lived in another state, they decided to get a divorce, amicably. They filed all the paperwork with the court, and when it came time for them to go to court, they said that the judge insisted that they go to an attorney to have the papers filed with the court. The couple had researched it and was convinced that an attorney was not legally needed for this and would in the end just cost them money in attorney's fees that they didn't have to spare. They also felt that the court (in a state notorious for shady dealings) was just trying to earn money for attorneys. In the end, the couple never filed the divorce papers, but separated, with the husband moving to one state and the wife to another state (and the two states were not geographically near each other). The wife started seeing someone, but wasn't as serious about the relationship as the husband was about his new relationship. The husband would have been happy to marry his new girlfriend, but the wife did not want to get the divorce legally taken care of because she said not being divorced yet gave her an excuse to keep her new boyfriend from bugging her to marry him. This was not the most "pure" situation, but nonetheless, it was a reason why someone was considering wanting to get married in the "eyes of God and of the church" without the marriage being recognized legally.
    Last edited by Pete Vecchi; March 31st, 2013 at 09:36 PM.
    Thanks Steve Malcolm - "thanks" for this post

  31. #31
    Senior Member Pete Vecchi's Avatar

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    Re: Concerning Non-State Church Weddings

    Quote Originally Posted by Hans Deventer View Post
    Well, I'm confused too. It makes no sense. The ceremonies are indeed entirely separate, but it is still law that a pastor is not allowed to conduct a religious wedding ceremony for people who are not legally married, as crazy as it sounds.

    BW 1:68 says: "Geen godsdienstige plechtigheden zullen mogen plaats hebben, voordat de partijen aan de bedienaar van de eredienst zullen hebben doen blijken, dat het huwelijk ten overstaan van de ambtenaar van de burgerlijke stand is voltrokken. " (BW= Burgerlijk Wetboek = Code of Civil Law)

    Roughly translated:

    "No religious ceremony is alowed to take place before the parties involved have shown to the minister that their marriage has been officially performed by a civil servant".

    So you must get married at the city hall, and you CAN get your marriage confirmed and blessed in a church in addition to that, but you cannot just go to church for a wedding.
    So in essence, the state does indeed mandate to the church in this instance? Is there a legal "separation of church and state" in the Netherlands such as is claimed by many in the U.S.A.?
    Last edited by Pete Vecchi; April 1st, 2013 at 10:22 AM.

  32. #32
    Senior Member Rich Schmidt's Avatar

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    Re: Concerning Non-State Church Weddings

    I'm a pastor, and I don't think I would.

    I can't come up with a good reason for two people to want to be married-but-not-legally-married. The only reasons I've heard, personally, have to do with deceiving the state. They want to be married (and may already be living as though married), but they want to keep telling the state they're not married so they can continue to receive benefits from the state. I'm not interested in defrauding the state.

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