19 June 2010

A Question for the Blackbirds

With apologies for not passing this on sooner:

With respect to pastoral care of couples engaged to be married, should both the bride and groom be communicate memembers before the pastor marries them, or may a pastor appropriately marry them if only one is a communicate member? In the latter case, is it necessary that the other person at least agree or promise to attend the next new member catechesis class?


Rev. Eric J Brown said...

Should - sure.
Must - no.

Marriage has two major angles - a civil angle (pastors act as agents of the state) and a religious angle. While it is ideal that both be members, it is not the pastor's job or place to attempt to prevent or coerce anyone concerning marriage. If a member is going to be joined by God to one who isn't Lutheran, does not that person need the prayers of the Church all the more?

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

Let me add - conversely, *must* you marry in the Church when one of the spouses isn't a member. Not necessarily. If one of the spouses is rude or belligerent, you needn't have the service there. If they are not willing to let the service be a worship service with all the appropriate dignity, it doesn't need to happen. But many of these issues would apply even to members.

Erich Heidenreich, DDS said...

I'm not a blackbird, but I am a father. As a father, I would most certainly NOT allow any of my children to become one flesh with someone who is not already one with us in his or her confession of faith. And let me add that this confession of faith must not be new, but must be tested by at least some length of time (perhaps a year at least?) to see if the fruits of faith follow from this confession.

I realize this is a pastoral care question with the presupposition that the mixed couple has already become engaged prior to coming to the pastor to request that he marry them. However, in such a case I would also add that they have likely gotten the cart before the horse by becoming engaged prior to seeking their spiritual father's counsel.

I pray that all the pastors on this blog would counsel parents and individuals that two people should already be verifiably one in faith before ever even thinking about making a commitment to become one in flesh.

Erich Heidenreich, DDS said...

Reference Walter Maier in For Better Not For Worse on Mixed Marriages.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

Erich makes an excellent point here - but quite often when a pastor hears head or hide of this, it is the student coming back from college with person X already set up. Some of this needs to be the fact that we should bring up the importance of faith, and sharing faith.

But alas, the difference is that while Erich has the duty as a parent to perhaps tell his child "it ain't going to happen", I don't think spiritual fathers have quite the same authority there.

Father Hollywood said...

I don't know if our practice here in the Southern Biretta Belt is "normal" or not, but I will officiate over a member's wedding to a non-member so long as the spouse is a Christian and agrees to take our adult catechesis class (normally before the wedding, if time permits).

The ideal would be for LCMS Lutherans to only marry other LCMS Lutherans - but in my neck of the woods, that's just not the norm. Dr. H. is correct that we need to teach about the importance of marrying within the faith, while at the same time knowing that this isn't always going to happen.

Sometimes, as a result of the catechesis, the non-Lutheran will join our church - either before or after the wedding (and sometimes even years later).

The disadvantage of being too rigid on this is the risk of turning off not only the non-Lutheran spouse, but perhaps even the Lutheran one (and his entire family) as well - especially if his faith is that of a "bruised reed" variety.

Pastoral sensitivity is important.

On the other hand, I have seen some LCMS pastors who basically offer Yellow-Pages style wedding services to anyone and everyone, and essentially turn the church into a Las Vegas wedding chapel (with or without the Elvis impersonator).

I think both extremes probably ought to be avoided, and each situation has to be considered based on its merits.

Pastor Foy said...

I think one must answer the question of being unevenly yoked. Certainly it becomes a very sticky wicket when the prospective couple shows up and desires to be married in a few weeks. Yet this catechesis begins years earlier in confirmation class if not sooner. Children should be told about the great difficulties of marriage even when both spouses are of the same confession.

I will not marry a believer with a non-believer. I require all those who are to be married to go through a seven week pre-marriage course and if one is not a Lutheran, then I spend time working to convert them or at least plant the seeds deep and if necessary raise the questions in the Lutheran's mind as to whether they should marry this non-Lutheran.

Parents don't like this approach because it causes them to have to examine themselves and deal with their children's struggles. Too bad. We are to be serious about these things and we as the Shepherd of the flock are to look after the sheep. (Acts 20:28)

We must remember that what we fail to do before the marriage begins will most likely entail more and painful work as the marriage progresses or dies.

Norman Teigen said...

I am not ordained. I am a life-long Lutheran with opinions.

I have been married for 37 years.

It appears to me, and this is tentative, that pre-marital counseling is, generally speaking, more carefully practiced by clergy of the more liberal persuasion.

This perception, and I admit that I may be wrong, is that the more conservative clergy look at the compatibility of the couple in terms of religious expression. Is one of the parties non-Lutheran? Convert him/her as a condition of assent.

Pre-marital counseling includes more, I would think, than religious preference alone. What about attitudes toward: family, friends, money, alcohol, work, financial management etc. etc.

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