In talking about how church and State work together in creating marriages, I observed that a wedding is a unique moment, when the Christian minister becomes an agent of the State. It seems to me that we need to think long and hard about the implications of that.
Because what the minister is doing is not only a church function but a public function as well, the minister is open to State control in a new way. This is currently seen when governments (sometimes state, sometimes county) determine who can and can’t perform a marriage ceremony. Many places require that the minister have a certificate of ordination. Most ministers within churches of Christ don’t have such a certificate unless they’ve had one created specifically for this purpose. In other words, while not normally practicing ordination, they will do so (or pretend to have done so) to meet governmental requirements.
This is a small thing, I guess, but it seems to me that the subject could become quite complicated. To some degree, government decides now who can and cannot marry. If the minister is an agent of the State, could he not be compelled to marry whomever the government decides may be married? Couldn’t restrictions be placed on this public affair as to what can and cannot be said? Couldn’t the State decide many details about this public ceremony?
I’m not much into slippery slopes, so I don’t want to make this overly dramatic. Still, it bears some consideration. Once you agree to perform a legal function, a governmental function if you will, it seems to me that you’ve opened Pandora’s box.
I should state the obvious: I’m neither a lawyer nor did I get to play one in 12th grade English class when we had the mock trial based on “Enemy of the People.” Still, I’m beginning to have concerns about the wisdom of performing “official” weddings. What am I opening myself up to when I sign that wedding license?