Should clergy avoid gay marriage ceremonies?
In a recent article, the debate has surfaced in how clergy should participate in gay marriage civil ceremonies. The Christian community continues to contemplate the importance of clergy participating in marriage certification process outlined by American law. Clergy need only to look to the bible for instructions when it comes to how they should participate in the gay marriage civil ceremonies.
The controversy began when a Christian magazine published the marriage pledge that was authored by Christopher Seitz and Ephraim Radner. The Marriage Pledge reads as follows: We, the undersigned, commit ourselves to disengaging civil and Christian marriage in the performance of our pastoral duties. We will no longer serve as agents of the state in marriage. We will no longer sign government-provided marriage certificates. We will ask couples to seek civil marriage separately from their church-related vows and blessings. We will preside only at those weddings that seek to establish a Christian marriage in accord with the principles articulated and lived out from the beginning of the Church’s life.
The marriage pledge emphasizes the difference between a civil and a Christian marriage. A civil marriage is a marriage performed, recorded, and recognized by a government official. Every country maintains a population registry of its residents keeps track of marital status. All United Nations Member countries except Iran, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, and Tonga have signed or ratified either the United Nations Convention on Consent to Marriage, Minimum Age for Marriage, and Registration of Marriages(1962) or the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women(1979) which carry a responsibility to register marriages.
In the United States, marriage is regulated by state law. All states, including the District of Columbia, require a marriage license issued by local civil authorities. Ministers of different religions are authorized by law to perform marriages as well as various state or local officials, such as a mayor, judge, deputy marriage commissioner, or the justice of the peace. The type of ceremony whether religious or civil has no bearing on the legal validity of the marriage, and there is no requirement to precede a religious rite with a civil ceremony.
The primary problem with clergy conducting gay marriage ceremonies and signing the marriage certificate is that the state has infiltrated the duties and income of the clergy. Clergy is the body of all people ordained for religious duties, especially in the Christian Church. Ordination is the process by which individuals are consecrated, that is, set apart as clergy to perform various religious rites and ceremonies. The process and ceremonies of ordination varies by religion and denomination. However, in order for a clergy to have the authority to conduct a marriage ceremony they must be registered with the state government.
Even the United States government has enhanced their control over clergy. For example, The IRS has set forth regulations that define a minister for tax purposes. They define ministerial services, in general, are the services you perform in the exercise of your ministry, in the exercise of your duties as required by your religious order, or in the exercise of your profession as a Christian Science practitioner or reader. Income you receive for performing ministerial services is subject to SE tax unless you have an exemption as explained later. Even if you have an exemption, only the income you receive for performing ministerial services is exempt. The exemption does not apply to any other income.
The money that ministers receive from conducting marriage ceremonies is tax except.
- Greater than $300 – A generous gift
- $300 – A wedding with advance preparation and pre-marital counseling
- $150 – A wedding with some advance preparation but no pre-marital counseling
- $100 – A small wedding with little preparation
For minister or ministry that completes 100 marriage ceremonies over a year, it is the equivalent of $30,000 tax free dollars.
When it comes to gay marriage ceremonies, clergy must decided if they are going to serve God or if they are going to serve mammon.
According to Matthew 6:24, “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon”.
The real issue for clergy is not whether they are going to conduct gay marriages, the real issue is that are they going to serve God or are they going to serve man, the government, etc.
Dr. Derrick and Mrs. Sheila Campbell
PO Box 1668 Blackwood, NJ 08012
Published books – Leading Your Marriage into the Promised Land -Leading Your Marriage into the Promised Land (Workbook for husbands & Wives) – Advanced Marriage Training for Singles
“I was blessed by the love and sensitivity that you and your wife showed during the presentation”.
Bishop Joseph P. Ravenell
Samaritan Baptist Church
Trenton, NJ “I would highly recommend you to any church or organization desiring to provide their people with timely marital wisdom and practical application skills”.
Dr. James E. Woods, II
El Shaddia Christian Assembly