Why Marry in Your Own Church?

When I talk about inter-church marriages (one of ollr members marrying someone from another church), then I am not talking about mere nominal church membership. Nominal church membership is useless, and I class that with the previous category of mixed marriage. I am talking now about marrying a genuine believer from some other church. If both are true believers, then it is not a mixed marriage in the sense we generally speak of it. So one cannot refuse to marry them on that basis.

However, the matter is not quite that simple. Those who know Dutch are familiar with the phrase: Twee geloven op cen kussen, daar slaapt de duivcl tussen. And there is more truth to that proverb than many realize. And not all churches are the same. Between some (e.g. Christian Reformed and Canadian Reformed) there is practically no difference, while between others (e.g. Christian Reformed and Roman Catholic) there is a huge chasm. I would not perform a wedding between the latter two, even though both parties be true believers. There would first have to be a genuine change of heart on the part of the Roman Catholic partner. But even in the case, say, of a Baptist or Pentecostal, the differences are not minor, and J would expect the partners to resolve their church differences before they get married, not after. You cannot continue going each to a different church, especially not when you have children later. Such an arrangement is out as far as I am concerned. You must decide to which church you are going to go together. and the time to decide that is well in advance of the wedding date.

Naturally, I would try to get them both to join the CRC. If, however, they hath decide to join the other church, then I’m not saying that I would refuse to marry them, but I think it would be more proper to ask the minister of the other church to do it. And remember, when I talk about hath joining our church, e.g., then I dont believe in that formalism. It has to be a genuine thing of the heart, and it will take some time for preparation. Consequently, don’t start six months before the wedding date, but at least 2 years before.

Best of all, don’t start with this business at all. Marry within your own church! Marriage today has enough problems without adding more. There are all kinds of pressures and tensions which threaten marriage today, and even under the best conditions it’s not easy. Marriage is no game for children. It takes mature adults who are of one mind and faith, and who can weather a lot of storms together. Today many leaders in the Christian community are promoting “marriage preparation” courses, because they realize that’s where many of the problems being inadequate preparation. Prevention is much better than cure! So, for this reason too, dont complicate matters still more by marrying someone of another faith (church). And if you do, settle the matter before, and not after marriage.

By the above I do not mean to say that when both partners arc Christian Reformed all is well. Sometimes they may not be ready for marriage either, and there could be cases in which I would refuse to perform the wedding too. Marriage is a big, responsible step, and you must know what you arc doing before you take it. And if one is mature enough to take that step, then surely he should be mature enough to decide which Lord he is going to serve too; in other words, mature enough to make profession of faith.

Now, a few questions which have come up now and then in personal conversations and/or family visits.

1. Do you believe in marriage counseling?

Indeed, I do, both before and after the wedding if necessary. But I am not a professional marriage counselor, and most of my “counseling” will come from the pulpit. Also, when it comes to pre-marital counseling, that must not and cannot take place a couple of weeks before the wedding date, but that must take place long before the wedding date is set.

2. Would or could you marry two unbelievers?

I could in the sense that I am licensed by the State to do so. And J dont think there is anything in the Church Order or ordination vows which would forbid it (it‘s not a mixed marriage). But whether I actually would depend on the circumstances: I would set down certain conditions: that I be free to call attention to what the Word of God says about marriage, and also that I would know the couple reasonably well. I doubt whether these conditions would be met in very many cases. It would not be their style of a wedding.

3. What about. the use of our church building for weddings where a non-Christian Reformed minister officiates?

In the first place, the building as such is not holy and is only a place of public meeting. In that sense the consistory cannot really refuse the use of the building when one of the parties is Christian Reformed. And we don‘t like to add insult to injury. At the same time, I personally feel that if the couple is going to he married by another minister, they should have the wedding in his church rather than in ours. I sometimes wonder why those who don‘t seem to care too much about the faith of the church, do nevertheless want the glamor of a “church wedding.” I find that a bit hypocritical. More importantly, when a minister of some other church advocates marriage as a “bridge” which could help to bring the two churches together, then I demur strongly. If there’s going to be any kind of bridge at all to bring churches together, it’s going to have to be a doctrinal one. And if that is lacking, no other “bridge” will do. And marriage surely is the last thing to use for such a “bridge.”

I hope these remarks will be helpful for our young people, and also for their parents. Meanwhile, for these contemplating marriage, dont rush into it, but be sure you are well prepared. The best guidance you can find is from the Lord Himself through prayer and study of His Word.