As a response to the recent Marriage Pledge, we are republishing Russell D. Moore’s contribution to the symposium The Church and Civil Marriage. Ed.
With the legal affirmation of same-sex marriage in some states, should churches, synagogues, and mosques stop performing civil marriages? No, not yet. Marriage is, of course, more than a matter of statecraft. That’s the reason we deny that the state can, for instance, call marriages into being without creational essentials such as sexual complementarity. Marriage is grounded in the natural order itself (Gen. 2:2123) and points beyond nature to the Gospel mystery that stands behind and makes sense of the cosmos (Eph. 5:3132).
Instead, what we see are governments affirming both unions we do recognize as marriages and those that are something else. As citizens, we ought to oppose the redefinition of marriage, but, should we lose across the board, what should we do as churches?
Churches should join together only those who meet the creational criteria for marriage. A church that accommodates itself to the sexual revolution is no longer a church of Jesus Christ.
Moreover, churches should only marry those who are accountable to the Church and to the gathered witnesses, and who are held to their vows. The marrying parson who stands where the wedding coordinator tells him to, reads his script, and signs the paperwork for whatever couple shows up is a disgraceful hireling and ought to do an honest day’s work as a justice of the peace rather than as a steward of the mysteries of God.
When a congregation certifies a biblically married couple to be also civilly married, the congregation is not affirming the state’s definition of marriage. Instead, the Church is witnessing to the state’s role in recognizing marriage as something that stands before and is foundational to society. We are bearing witness to the fact that these unions are the business of the larger society in ways other unions aren’t.