Friday, July 10, 2009

Refuse to Sign

I know several UCC ministers who have taken the action of not doing any wedding ceremonies until people who are LGBTQ are free to wed as well as straight people. The movement is called "Refuse to Sign."

In, there is an article on the movement. Click here for more.

In essence, this is the key argument for Refuse to Sign: separation of Church and State:

Headed by John Tamilio and Tricia Gilbert of Pilgrim Congregational United Church of Christ in Cleveland, the Refuse-to-Sign campaign seeks to make the division between church and state clearer, as it concerns the issue of marriage.

Supporters of the campaign argue that faith leaders have, by default, become agents of the state, signing off on marriage licenses -- whether or not they agree with the state's policy on marriage. By asking clergy to refuse to sign marriage certificates, they hope to make a distinction between the obligation of the state to afford equal rights to all and marriage as a religious sacrament.

In short, the Refuse-to-Sign campaign says, while churches have the right to choose whether to bless same-sex couples, states should not have such a choice, and have a duty to extend marriage certificates to all who seek them.

Here's the link to Refuse to Sign: click here.

I think they have a point: there are two weddings that occur when we clergypersons perform weddings. One of them is the state and county: When I perform a wedding, I also sign a "certificate of marriage," a piece of paper given by the state. It is a contract. In fact, I usually have the couple sign it before the wedding itself because it is hard to track down everyone after the wedding.

Let me state this again: the couple signs a certificate issued by the civil government. I am the officiant and witness, and the bride and groom sign it, as do two other people. Five all in all. We don't have to have a worship service to sign it. There are quite a few other people who can sign it as officiant, e.g., Justice of the Peace at a local prison (this happened in one wedding where I was tapped at the last minute). Again: a certificate of marriage is a matter of the state, and the state decides who all can sign it. I mail the certificate back to the county offices once signed. The couple is then registered with the county, state, and federal government.

We even acknowledge in the PCUSA that marriage is, on the one hand, a "civil contract" (W-4.900), while teasing out further in our description of marriage that "for Christians (on the other hand, my addition) marriage is a covenant" (W-4.900).

This covenantal service is central to my understanding of what is a Christian wedding that I may perform as a Minister of the Word and Sacrament, which is an action of the church. According to the PCUSA, in a Book of Order, a wedding is "a service of Christian worship, (and) the marriage service is under the direction of the minister and the supervision of the session (W0-1.4004-.4006)." I can choose to wed or not to wed a couple (W-4.9002b).

What the state does re: weddings and marriages, and what the Church does with weddings and marriages are different things. There is a separation of church and state in weddings.

What do you think?


Pace, B

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