Christian marriage is a sacramental act. The Church sanctifies the bonding between two people who meet the standards of marriage according to the Word of God, not the State’s standards of who can be legally married. The legal component and the sacramental component of marriage must be separated.
The Church has acted as agent for the State in conducting marriages (weddings) and signing marriage licenses as long as marriage licenses have been required. In light of the recent Supreme Court decision on gay marriage, and to maintain our right not to perform them, the Church must now dissociate itself from serving the State as a marriage agent and take a different approach.
The vast majority of people in the world would say that marriage is a coming together of two genders, man and woman, to make a new human unit: husband and wife, joined in matrimony. It was ordained as such by God from the beginning, is clearly taught in the Scriptures, and has been so for thousands of years. But now the Supreme Court of the United States of America (SCOTUS) has declared that people of the same gender have a constitutional right to marry each other as they wish. The SCOTUS ruling now becomes a bigger problem for the traditional, orthodox-believing Christian Church, and the implications of the ruling will be far-reaching.
The First Amendment of the Constitution gives the Church the right to stand firm on its religious beliefs and refuse to perform same-sex marriages. However, there are now conflicting rights: those of the Church, and those of the same-sex couple. It is hard to say how soon the conflict of rights will rise to legal contests. But, if the church wants to continue doing marriages at all, it will certainly be forced to defend through legal battles its right to refuse to perform same-sex marriages. Those who don’t like the Church’s position could attack the Church by flooding same-sex couples to church doors, demanding the right to marry in the church.
Rather than subject itself to the prospect of discrimination lawsuits that enrich only the lawyers, the Church must stop being a legal representative for the State and refuse to perform the legal aspects of marriages. The Church can decide which marriages it will sanctify and which ones it will not, based on its theological standards. The sanctification of marriage is more important to God than the marriage license. By performing Christian marriage sanctifications, and not the legal aspects of marriages, God is then placed as central in the process, not the State. Responsible church leaders would encourage pre-marriage classes, plan the sanctification ceremony with the couple (that is, the solemnization of vows and the wedding celebration), have them legalize their relationship separately through the designated State office, and then conduct the sanctification ceremony.
This is not a great departure for the Church, since the Church has always decided who it would marry and who it would not. The Church would not decide who may and may not get married; the State or the individual would. But the Church would still decide which marriages it would sanctify and which it would not, which is clearly within the bounds of its First Amendment rights. Taking this approach would short-circuit a host of attacks against the Church and avoid the prospect of a negative media spotlight on the Church. The institution of Christian Marriage would be preserved; it could be certified in writing in the same way that Baptisms, Confirmations, and Ordinations are today. Christian marriage should be governed by God, not the State. “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s.” (Matthew 22:21, Mark 12:17 and, Luke 20:25)