Wedding liturgies: having sown the wind...

Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female... (Matthew 19:4)

(Tim) Saturday, Mary Lee and I attended a wedding that wasn't much different from the weddings readers of Baylyblog attend each week. Which is to say the wedding was unisex in everything but appearance. The woman wore a dress and the man, pants. The maid of honor and bridesmaids were women; the best man and groomsmen were men. But the doctrine?

Preached through the liturgy, it was scrupulously androgynous. The bride wasn't commanded to obey her husband and the husband wasn't commanded to love his wife. Every word was addressed to persons; never man or woman, husband or wife.

Until about thirty years ago, pastors presided over wedding ceremonies drowning in the beauty of sexual diversity...

The clothing matched the liturgy matched the doctrine matched the difference--between Adam and Eve, that is. The pastor would read the account of God's wonderful creation of Eve from Adam's rib, to be his helper and lover. Then he'd read Ephesians 5 and expound on its sex-specific commands. He'd exhort the bride to submit to her husband as the Church submits to her Bridegroom, Jesus Christ. Then he'd turn to the bridegroom and exhort him to love his bride as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself up for her.

Trust me: it was inconceivable any preacher would get through his wedding homily without doing that beautifully boring thing Scripture does everywhere, which is to command wives to obey their husbands and husbands to love their wives.

But today in our world-weary corruption, we've worn sex out and it sits in our hands ragged and rotting. We say "sex" when we only mean copulation; all the rest is "gender," meaning social constructs and roles.

Fearing the world, pastors comply. We don't preside. We officiate at weddings, where we have no word for the wife-as-wife or the husband-as-husband. Only nostrums for androgynous persons.

In other words, Christian weddings today aren't Christian. Instead of bringing God's Word and blessing, pastors provide the party a certain gravitas otherwise lacking.

If you don't believe me, go to your next wedding and listen for anything that proclaims God's Order of Creation of Adam and Eve, man and woman, husband and wife. Listen for anything sex-specific; anything that honors this beautiful diversity placed at the center of His Creation by God our Father. Look for even a hint of man and woman.

But you remember I started by saying the wedding Mary Lee and I attended was "not much different" than a run-of-the-mill evangelical wedding? What's with the "not much different?"

Our wedding made explicit the androgyny evangelical weddings normally leave implicit: the Presbyterian pastor was a woman and one of the two scripture lessons was a reading from Goodridge v. Department of Public Health--the 2003 case of record legalizing same-sex marriage in the state of Massachusetts.

Really, evangelicals balk at androgyny only when it comes to the meshing of body parts. Which is to say that same-sex marriage isn't far off for us since we already practice same-sex liturgy.

Comments

"DEARLY beloved, we are gathered together here in the sight of God, and in the face of this congregation, to join together this Man and this Woman in holy Matrimony ..."

So begins the order of service for the solemnization of Matrimoney in the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, the "gold standard" by which subsequent Prayer Books throughout the British Empire were drafted. If you take a gander at this 17th Century service ...

http://www.eskimo.com/~lhowell/bcp1662/occasion/marriage.html

... you'll not only find many echoes of marriage services you've attended over the years, you'll also see an original that contains all the sorts of things Pr. Tim has mentioned.

For the record, I'm not pointing to this service as the only one that's "valid" for Christians who embrace Biblical teaching on sex (including marriage). I do point to it as a primary font of doctrinal and liturgical orthodoxy in the Western English-speaking world, a treasure from the English Reformation.

I validate my own freedom from liturgical nit-nordy-ness by revealing that I refuse to perform a wedding service with the bride's father present EXCEPT that he participate in an addition to this classic English-language wedding service, an addition which the rubrics of the Prayer Book give me license to make.

You note that the 1662 wedding service has the simplest form for "giving away the bride." If the bride's father is present, I insist that this element in the service take place in the following way:

1. The father escorts the bride down the aisle toward the groom and me who are already in place.

2. When the bride and father have arrived to stand before me, I say the following:

"Our LORD commanded in the Law of Moses that "... if a woman makes a vow to the LORD, and binds herself by some agreement while in her father’s house in her youth, and her father hears her vow and the agreement by which she has bound herself, and her father holds his peace, then all her vows shall stand, and every agreement with which she has bound herself shall stand." [Numbers 30:3-4]

Mr. [Father's Name], as [Bride's Name] father, do you affirm that the vows which she shall make this day to [Groom's Name] to become his wife shall stand?

[The father]: I do.

[The father then takes his daughter's right hand and the Groom's right hand and places the former into the latter. Then he takes his place in the congregation.]

This version of "giving away the bride" makes explicit that -- among other things happening in the wedding service -- there is a transfer of headship from the bride's father to the bride's husband.

All of this is done to push back at the Zeitgeist exactly at the point where it otherwise seeks to neuter a wedding ceremony. It is NOT done in order to lift a pipe wrench and to bang on the bars of those inhabiting feminist cages.

However, there are invariably a number of such caged creatures in attendance (often, the majority of those present), and the howls of outrage may be heard throughout the reception which follows.

Yup! True stuff. Mike Foster, my brother and I went to a wedding of a friend of ours and a similar thing happened. First, the best man of the wedding read a few passages of scripture talking about the roles and duties of the husband and wife, and read them strongly. That was good. But then, the pastor, when explaining the husband's and wife's roles and commands he would not say the word "submit". He just wouldn't say it. Instead he said, "the wife should be responsive to her husband". He kept using that word..."responsive". What does that mean?!

Later on at the reception, Mike Foster, expressed his unnerving...ness about the way the pastor put it. Mike said, "Why won't he say submit?....Just say it! Say it!" I thought that was pretty funny.

People quoted a judicial ruling at a wedding? Wow, talk about a way to kill the magic of one's special day.....you might as well read the tax code, for cryin' out loud!

I recently attended a wedding in a Christian church that had a reading from scripture followed by a reading from Khalil Gibran's "the Prophet." In fact, I have recently attended 2, now that I think about it. Perhaps I am just old-fashioned, but it seems to me the only scripture that needs reading from at a Christian wedding is the word of God!

Side issue. If any of you find a copy of Kehlog Albran's book, "The Profit," please buy it for me, if it is cheap. The book is a parody of Kahlil Gibran's, "The Prophet." I read part of a copy in a California used bookstore and have been wishing I bought it for the last fifteen years.

On the cover, it advertises that the book is "Illustrated by the author, with twelve mystical, hard-to-understand drawings."

Note that now the word "partner" is being used to refer to one's husband or wife. Years ago, "partner" referred to a business associate, then it was hi-jacked by the gay community, and now it's gone "mainstream" to where many news articles use it in place of the words husband or wife.

So how long before weddings quit mentioned those pesky words "husband" and "wife" and just have people marrying as "partners", complete with a business contract or whatever the latest version of marriage calls for?

Maybe the feminists would prefer to be called their husband's "helper" rather than his wife.....
Gen. 2:20

Nancy

Interestingly, Nancy, when I proposed to my former fiance, I asked her if she would be my "helper".

Oh, and by the way, I was proposing marriage, not a business contract.

"Oh, and by the way, I was proposing marriage, not a business contract."

Good for you! We need to practice using biblical language more. If nothing else, it's fun to see who it offends:)

Nancy

On the use of "partner", I think it isn't only homosexuals who have pushed it, but those living together without benefit of marriage -- it is common parlance in England to call the person with whom you are sharing a bed your partner, whether the two of you be husband and wife, man and man, boyfriend and girlfriend, etc.

I was reading Alice von Hildebrand tonight and a reference she made to a book brought me up short. I am more convinced than ever that we sin when we acquiesce to the label, "Egalitarian". Feminist, religious feminist and even radical feminist are entirely appropriate labels. Radical feminist in particular, because they are radicals in the true and original sense of the term - they strike at the root, at the foundation of the basic human institution, the family. They strike at the picture of Christ and his Bride given us in Christian marriage. There are no truer radicals than feminsts who cloak their agenda in religion.

Kamilla

At the recent wedding we went to, the pastor continually used the word "mate" instead of husband or wife. Seems like another step down from even saying "partner."

McDaniel, sorry to hear that your engagement apparently fell through--though I am sure (but don't want any details) that there were probably some good reasons not to marry, it's got to hurt.

(and my happy apologies if indeed your "former fiance" is now your wife/helpmeet)

Yes, Bubba, my "former fiance" is now my wife.

"At the recent wedding we went to, the pastor continually used the word "mate" instead of husband or wife. Seems like another step down from even saying "partner."

Maybe we should just call everyone "it". Isn't that the ultimate "gender neutral" term? Now we just need a gender neutral Bible version that will "minister" to the gender challenged. Oh wait.....

Nancy

"Radical feminist in particular, because they are radicals in the true and original sense of the term - they strike at the root, at the foundation of the basic human institution, the family. They strike at the picture of Christ and his Bride given us in Christian marriage. There are no truer radicals than feminsts who cloak their agenda in religion."

I recently reread the book Radical Womanhood, and the author (Carolyn McCulley) says that the end goal of feminism is no less than eliminating marriage altogether (pg. 55). And to tack the word "Christian" onto feminism, as some do, is an oxymoron.

Nancy

"Maybe we should just call everyone "it". Isn't that the ultimate "gender neutral" term?"

What about "thing 1" and "thing 2" ?

Happy apologies, then, Denver!

"What about "thing 1" and "thing 2" ?"

Modern "wedding" ceremnony-
"Do you, thing 1, take it, thing 2, to be your lawfully wedded partner, as long as the mood shall last? I now pronounce you mates."

"for that which is highly esteemed among men is detestable in the sight of God." Lk. 16:15.

Nancy

"And now, you the Party of the First Part, may kiss the Party of the Second Part."

If we're going to be truly egalitarian, who gets to be the Party of the First Part and the Party of the Second Part will be decided by a coin toss at the beginning of the ceremony (or should I say travesty).

Some of the suggestions for egalitarian weddings are sounding an awful lot like John Cleese and Eric Idle ought to be involved......which I guess is the point, eh?

Nancy,

I vote for Thing 1 and Thing 2.

It IS an oxymoron, which is why I use the term "religious feminist" instead.

Kamilla

Funny thought just occured to me - no one's yet mentioned the issue of names.

It seems to me that the trend in women keeping their maiden name after marriage tracks alongside this neutered wedding vows business. Which seems very odd to me - why would a woman object to taking her husband's name when she so seldom has objected to being saddled with her father's name?

Kamilla

"It seems to me that the trend in women keeping their maiden name after marriage tracks alongside this neutered wedding vows business. Which seems very odd to me - why would a woman object to taking her husband's name when she so seldom has objected to being saddled with her father's name?"

Good point. I read somewhere not long ago about a man taking his wife's name, and then whining about how hard it was to get his name legally changed for his driver license, etc. His wife evidently plans to "wear the pants" in the family, as my husband would say....

When my husband and I married, it would have been unthinkable for a woman not to take her husband's name. From looking around us, we aren't just on the slippery slope, we're actually over the cliff and just waiting to see where the bottom is.

May God be pleased to deliver us from this wicked and perverted generation.

1 Peter 4:17-19

Nancy

I had the pleasure of presiding over a wedding ceremony tonight. I also had the privilege of bringing God's Word from Genesis 2 and Ephesians 5 to those in attendance. My wife remarked at how many people were grateful for my message. I said, "I guess I should not be surprised if people find the Scriptures profound, beautiful and practical."

What a blessing to minister the Word of the living God, who alone is worthy of honor and praise.

God bless you with faithfulness to His Word, dear brother. What a blessing the bride and groom may never know they had.

Love,

I've got a bit of an oddball cousin, male, whose name is hyphenated. Both he and his wife use both names. ....

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