Marriage, And Ministerial Responsibility

Time and again I have been com­pelled by this instruction to decline to perform the marriage ceremony between members of our church and those of other communions, or of no religious faith at all.


Marriage of believers with unbelievers is expressly forbidden by both Old and New Testament counsel, and by the "Testimonies." [Vol. V, pp. 361-368; Vol. IV, pp. 504-508; Vol, III, p. 262.], It ought to be perfectly clear that what God has forbidden cannot with His ap­proval be performed by a Seventh-day Advent­ist minister. Time and again I have been com­pelled by this instruction to decline to perform the marriage ceremony between members of our church and those of other communions, or of no religious faith at all. This can be done in a kindly way, and no ill feelings need result.

On one occasion, when urged to perform such a ceremony, I set before the prospective groom the claims of God upon him to obey His law, pointing out the danger of setting out in mar­ried life with a home divided on the highly important question of religious faith. He told me he was fully convinced that we had the truth, and hoped some time to obey. I pressed home on his conscience the importance of heed­ing the call of God "today," and he finally yielded before the close of the interview. The next Sabbath he was a worshiper in our church, and later I united him and his fiancée in mar­riage. Had I let down the bars in this case, it is doubtful if the man would ever have taken his stand. He has now been a faithful Sabbath keeper for twenty-six years.

On the other hand, I recall one instance when I did perform a marriage ceremony between a believer and an unbeliever, and felt very clear in doing so. Two cousins had been close associ­ates for years, and finally entered into illicit intimacy. The young man went out west to take up a claim, where he heard the message preached and accepted it, being baptized and received into church membership. Shortly aft­erward he had word from his cousin that she was in a delicate state resulting from their relationships. He immediately returned east to marry her. Members of the church in that place told him he could not marry her now, because he was a believer and she was not.

I was called to settle a division in the church over the matter. I settled it by sending the young man after a marriage license as soon as I arrived. In a sense they had already effected a common law marriage by their previous re­lations, and both law and gospel required that it be made legal. The attitude of some of the members had frightened the girl into real ill­ness, but my prompt action changed the situa­tion, and she soon took her stand for the truth. However, this or other extraordinary emer­gencies do not in any sense alter the stern in­junction against marriage with unbelievers.

Ornate Weddings Improper

Another tendency fraught with peril is to spend considerable money in connection with weddings, by way of costly church decorations, elaborate dresses, and other unnecessary ex­penditures. If ever such things were legiti­mate, they can be considered so no longer. For such displays to take place in a time of stress, such as obtains, is altogether out of place, and awakens justifiable criticism on the part of thoughtful onlookers. The faith of some has been shaken in the religious experience of old church members who have indulged in such needless waste of money on weddings, when the cause of God is in dire need. Preachers should give such extravagances their unqualified dis­approval.

The use of the wedding ring in countries where long usage has not made it well-nigh imperative, should not be followed. Even in British countries, where the use of the wedding ring is considered allowable among our people, our ministers do not need to use the ring cere­mony in performing marriage ceremonies. This is an idolatrous formula, and utterly incom­patible with the principles of this movement.

These principles here iterated are in harmony with recent, and former, Autumn Council ac­tions. In fact, at the Council last October, there was earnest and united conviction con­cerning these two points that was crystallized into the actions here reprinted, and which should be honored by every worker in this cause.

"Whereas, Our experience has taught us that dis­regard of the plain counsel of the word of God re­specting the marriage of our people with unbelievers or those not of our faith, often leads to sorrow, dis­appointment, and shipwreck of faith ; therefore,

"Resolved, That we urge our workers of experience to give counsel and instruction on the subject of mar­riage to our young people at appropriate times and places, emphasizing the sacredness of the marriage covenant, and the need of divine guidance in taking any step vitally affecting their future happiness and usefulness, as well as warning against the danger of marriage with unbelievers or those of a different faith ; and, further,

 "Resolved, That in the marriage ceremony, simplic­ity be observed, and that some simple form, as that in the 'Manual for Ministers,' be used ; also that we look with disfavor upon the ring ceremony, and upon our ministers' officiating at marriages of believers with unbelievers or those not of our faith."—Actions of 1925 General Conference Autumn Council, pp. 12, 15.

"Whereas, There is appearing in the church an unwholesome trend toward elaborate and costly weddings, patterned after the extravagance of the world, and often creating a spirit of emulation or rivalry, all of which is decidedly at variance with that sim­plicity which should characterize the practices of the remnant church and the performance of its rites and ceremonies ; and,

"Whereas, The ministry of, our church has a sol­emn and inescapable duty in relation to this trend, which should be exercised in public admonition and private counsel; • therefore,

"Resolved, That this Council hereby register its dis­approval of elaborate or costly marriage ceremonies in our churches or in the homes of our people, as con­trary to the spirit of the gospel, particularly in these remnant hours of time ; and by this action asks our ministers to exert their influence against this un­wholesome trend by personal counsel and public ad­monition."—Autumn Council Action, 1933.

The tendency of the age is away from the fundamentals of the Scripture. Unless we are watchful, we shall find ourselves affected by this spirit, and weakening on principles con­cerning which God has given very clear instruc­tion. In a matter which affects the future wel­fare of our youth so vitally as does marriage, we, as ministers, should stand very firmly for the right.

Winnipeg, Manitoba.

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March 1934

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