Is it Time For Pastors To Step Away from Civil Marriages?

With the recent news that Coeur d’Alene, Idaho city officials ruling that pastors either perform gay marriages or face jail time, it’s time for pastors to remove themselves from the civil function of marriage. Here is the following from the Washington Times:

Coeur d‘Alene, Idaho, city officials have laid down the law to Christian pastors within their community, telling them bluntly via an ordinance that if they refuse to marry homosexuals, they will face jail time and fines.

My suggestion might not avert the jail time, but I think it is time that pastors got out of the wedding business when it comes to the civil side of the institution. I’m not saying that we should quit performing marriages, but we should only do so for Christians before a Holy Triune God. This would mean that the couple would still have to go before the local justice of the peace to complete the marriage for governmental purposes.

I saw this process when I was living in Italy and it worked fine. By taking this approach, we would not be bound by civil authorities to perform that which we find abhorrent. I know this post does not address all the issues, but perhaps it will help us think through the entire relationship between the church and state, given that the state is turning on the church more and more.


4 thoughts on “Is it Time For Pastors To Step Away from Civil Marriages?

  1. We should be careful to not report falsely. While I do believe that this is the first step, the fact is that the Idaho couple did not perform weddings as part of a ministry, but as part of a business.

    Yes, I believe that businesses should be able to choose whether or not they perform gay ceremonies.

    But there is not hint (yet) that pastors of churches will be required to perform these services.

    On the topic of pastors stepping away from the state end of things…here’s a wrinkle: in the state that I was recently married in, it is a misdemeanor for a pastor to act as an officiant in a wedding where there is no state license granting permission for the couple to marry.

    The pastor who married us last October was willing to step up to the “civil disobedience” step (depending on whether or not the state decided for gay “~~~” or not.)

    Which brings us to the question of whether or not Christians need to state’s permission to marry. 😉


    • That is a very good question. I think there are biblical grounds for having the state involved but not brushed up on the role of the civil magistrate enough to say anything at this point.

      The other direction we might go is to do away with marriage all together on a civil level. But not sure of all the unintended consequences that might result from that either.


  2. It’s important to not report falsely and make sure we make it known that the couple involved are not involved in a ministry, but rather a business. Yes, I believe it’s the first step, but there is (yet) no hint that pastors of churches are being required to perform gay ceremonies.

    Yes, I do believe that people of faith should have the religious liberty to turn down business that violates their consciences, and that is what we’re talking about here.

    That said, here are a couple of thoughts…

    If they are stepping away from the state marriage business, should pastors be willing to marry a couple, whether or not the state has granted them permission to marry?

    I was married in Michigan, and there, it’s a misdemeanor to perform a wedding where there is no state license granting permission to marry. Should pastors be willing to step up to the “Civil Disobedience” level? (we had a pastor who would have done that for us, had we been required to sign a license that would make our state marriage identical to a gay license.)


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