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Wedding Officiant … How Should a Pastor Determine Whether to Perform a Wedding?

officiant or not for a wedding?

Being the officiant of a wedding is a serious consideration. I am consistently asked about the circumstances surrounding weddings. What makes it permissible or not to conduct a wedding in ”this or that” situation? I am very aware that there are strong opinions and lively disagreements about whether an evangelical pastor should marry Christians, non-Christians and everything in between. Certainly with recent decisions, the debate does not end there. Then you have to determine if it is wise to marry two Christians in “this particular circumstance” as opposed to “that particular circumstance.”

3 Considerations for Determining Whether to Be a Wedding Officiant

Here is my effort to serve in this discussion about being the officiant and try to answer the regular calls and emails I receive that have piled up on this matter. Determining whether to be an officiant comes in the form of these suggested boundaries I set within these three common templates:

1)  A Christian marrying a Non-Christian

Most are in agreement, as I am, that this is not permitted in Scripture, nor is it wise. Although, many of us know of examples of this where the other spouse is eventually converted, I would never encourage a Christian to marry an unbeliever, thus would never encourage a pastor to conduct a wedding where a Christian marries a Non-Christian.

Yet, if you find yourself shepherding a Christian spouse married to an unbeliever (as I do), 1 Peter 3:1-6 is a powerful word on that subject for them.

2)  A Christian marrying a Christian

The ideal scenario is for a pastor to marry two Christians within their church, those whom he knows well, is able to do adequate pre-marital counseling with, and can then shepherd through the first years of their marriage. Where it gets tricky and wisdom and discernment is required is when two Christians ask you to marry them, but they are not plugged into a local church, nor connected to a pastor who has taken responsibility for them.

Regardless the scenario, if you marry two Christians the ceremony needs to be seen as a worship service where the gospel is preached and you know the lives of this man and woman well enough that you can point to them in that public moment and exhort them to display Christ’s love for his church through the way they relate to one another (Eph. 5:22-33).

If a couple would be living in open, habitual and unrepentant sin (such as living together and being physically intimate), that would be one reason to prohibit doing the ceremony, for in that instance, I cannot stand and commend these public witnesses to watch their life as professing Christians.