As the Attorney General appears to have failed, priests, ministers, and pastors in South Carolina face the prospect of being presented with a slip of paper from City Hall claiming that two people are "married" in the eyes of the State, and those persons may be asking for a blessing, a marriage service, or just the minister's signature.
What will our clergy persons do in this new era?
This past week saw the publication of "The Marriage Pledge" over at First Things. It reads,
"In many jurisdictions, including many of the United States, civil authorities have adopted a definition of marriage that explicitly rejects the age-old requirement of male-female pairing. In a few short years or even months, it is very likely that this new definition will become the law of the land, and in all jurisdictions the rights, privileges, and duties of marriage will be granted to men in partnership with men, and women with women.
As Christian ministers we must bear clear witness. This is a perilous time. Divorce and co-habitation have weakened marriage. We have been too complacent in our responses to these trends. Now marriage is being fundamentally redefined, and we are being tested yet again. If we fail to take clear action, we risk falsifying God’s Word.
The new definition of marriage no longer coincides with the Christian understanding of marriage between a man and woman. Our biblical faith is committed to upholding, celebrating, and furthering this understanding, which is stated many times within the Scriptures and has been repeatedly restated in our wedding ceremonies, church laws, and doctrinal standards for centuries. To continue with church practices that intertwine government marriage with Christian marriage will implicate the Church in a false definition of marriage.
Therefore, in our roles as Christian ministers, we, the undersigned, commit ourselves to disengaging civil and Christian marriage in the performance of our pastoral duties. We will no longer serve as agents of the state in marriage. We will no longer sign government-provided marriage certificates. We will ask couples to seek civil marriage separately from their church-related vows and blessings. We will preside only at those weddings that seek to establish a Christian marriage in accord with the principles articulated and lived out from the beginning of the Church’s life.
Please join us in this pledge to separate civil marriage from Christian marriage by adding your name."
The Reverend Ephraim Radner
The Reverend Christopher Seitz
That is one way to handle it.
Here is another,
"My old manThe churches and the State have been cooperating in the marriage business for a long time, but only since 1911 have people even needed a government license to be married in South Carolina.
He's a singer in the park
He's a walker in the rain
He's a dancer in the dark
We don't need no piece of paper
From the city hall
Keeping us tied and true
No, my old man
Keeping away my blues"
-Joni Mitchell from her album, "Blue"
Our state makes about 1.8 million dollars a year from marriage license fees, and will be reluctant to get out of the business.
Maybe now is the time for clergy to follow the advice of Bishop Gene Robinson who in 2009 suggested the churches get out of the civil marriage business altogether.
Sarah Hey, a fellow Upper South Carolinian, has encouraged us to spread the pledge and to pass it along to conservative clergy members.
Since there aren't that many of those left, I think we should send it to all of our non-conservative clergy as well.
So far, I do not see any Upper South Carolina clergy as cosignatories.
C'mon, there has to be one or two still left, or has the purge by our bishop been complete?