I admit it. I am a blog reader. My RSS feed is pretty long…and I actually read most of the blog posts of my friends, colleagues, acquaintances, and some strangers whose ideas I found either moving, thought-provoking, funny, or cool. One of these people is Tony Jones, whom I think fits in between a few of these categories. Tony is probed and attacked (but also lauded and supported) for several “controversial” beliefs. One of these beliefs is the support of same sex marriage. Tony’s beliefs are quite thoughtful, theologically sound (I would say), and well-reasoned–he doesn’t take matters of faith as lightly as some of my colleagues might think.
Today, Tony posted a blog entry regarding the performance of legal marriage by clergy. Please read it for yourself, but basically, Tony suggests that we should separate legal and sacramental marriage because our current system “requires that the clergyperson act as an extension of the state.” For the most part, I agree with Tony’s logic and theology here, and think his idea is very creative and smart. I do question, though, how reasonable it is that enough pastors would commit to this in order to make a real difference and force the state to see these two unions differently.
So, in processing Tony’s idea (or call), and the discussion surrounding it, I’ve been very much thinking about my own (future) ministry. Next year, I will be in the middle of internship at a Lutheran church. I don’t think I’ll be allowed to officiate during wedding ceremonies, but I will after ordination, in a few short years (hopefully). Would I be willing to refuse to perform a legal marriage for a couple in my congregation? I’m not sure. There are many things at play here, such as “what is meant by the ‘sanctity of marriage?’” and the biggie: “What relationship should there be (if any) between the church and state? And why?” These are huge questions. I want to commit to separate legal and sacramental marriage, but I think of the couple seeking marriage. Until something is changed, is it pastorally responsible to make a stand, but refuse a couple the right to be married by a pastor? I realize that they could find another pastor or be married in a courthouse. I also am aware of my lack of experience in performing and preparing to perform a wedding (although I am married and went through marriage preparation and whatnot with a pastor). Sometimes we need to put individual concerns behind the need to make a stand for justice. The tough thing, though, is discerning when it is right to do so. What do you think, is this one of those time? And is this the right way? I’m not sure, but I will certainly spend time thinking, conversing, and praying about it. Blessings and Peace to all of you.