ASHFORD COMMUNITY CHURCH

STATEMENT OF OUR POLICY FOR WEDDINGS AND MARRIAGE BLESSINGS

  1. PREFACE

Ashford Community Church delights in the marriage of one man to one woman in an estate ordained by God. We consider it an honour to be able to support such a union through the conducting of a wedding or a marriage blessing ceremony – according to the guidelines as laid out below.

  • OUR STATEMENT ON MARRIAGE

As with mainstream churches throughout the Christian centuries we affirm, according to our Lord’s teaching, that marriage is in its nature a union permanent and lifelong, for better for worse, till death parts, of one man with one woman, to the exclusion of all others on either side (as per The Canons of the Church of England, Canon B30).

It is a state which was ordained by God at creation, was adorned and beautified by our Lord with His presence in Cana of Galilee, and is distinctly recognised within the law of this country.

God designed marriage as a lifelong commitment between one man and one woman for their mutual joy, the good of society, and the procreation of children. Marriage ultimately displays the glory and grace of God by picturing the unbreakable relationship between Christ and his church.

We delight to carry out marriage ceremonies in our church for a man and a woman who wish to take their vows in the presence of God, calling upon Him to witness and bless their union.

As such, we subscribe to the legal ceremony – the taking of vows, giving of rings and signing of the register – to define the marriage of a man and a woman in the sight of God and all mankind.

  • THE BIBLICAL UNDER-PINNING

At the point of creation God made the following declaration:

‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.’ (Genesis 2:18)

Therefore, God created woman to be this permanent companion for man:

21 So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and then closed up the place with flesh. 22 Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. (Genesis 2:21-22)

After which God gave the definition for their union – which we call “marriage”:

That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh. (Genesis 2:24)

The traditional understanding of this is that:

  1. Marriage is about leaving your former family, where you were the child, and setting up in a totally new relationship where the man and the woman make up the nuclear family
  2. The two shall love each other deeply, with commitment to stand by each other, support each other, share with each other and live life together
  3. There shall be physical, sexual union, for mutual pleasure and the procreation of children

Our Lord Jesus supported this view of marriage by attending the marriage at Cana and by declaring:

‘But at the beginning of creation God “made them male and female”. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.’ (Mark 10:6-9)

  • WEDDING OR MARRIAGE BLESSING?

The law of the land decrees that a marriage ceremony must include legal contracts made before a registrar followed by the signing of a register of marriages.

These can be performed within the context of a religious ceremony within a registered church building or at a Registry Office (or other approved premises) in a civil ceremony.

Ashford Community Church is a building registered for the holding of wedding ceremonies.

Some choose, for whatever reason, to have a civil ceremony in a Registry Office and then wish to have their marriage blessed by a religious ceremony within the church afterwards.

By agreement with the elders of the church either function can be performed.

  • ARRANGING A MARRIAGE OR BLESSING IN THE CHURCH

Anyone wishing to be married, or have their marriage blessed, within the building of Ashford Community Church must make a formal request to the Elders.

This request will then be discussed by the Elders.

Advice and guidance will then be offered by the church to the couple seeking marriage.

It is expected that the betrothed couple will then take part in a marriage preparation course which will be led by one of the elders.

5a. TO THOSE SEEKING MARRIAGE BETWEEN A BELIEVER AND AN UNBELIEVER

The elders believe that the Biblical guidance is that marriage between a believer and an unbeliever is to be discouraged (see Appendix 1 for the Biblical underpinning). The reason for this is the difficulties often encountered when the believing partner then seeks to pursue their faith and the “pull” away from discipleship by the unbelieving partner.

The usual advice of the elders would be for the believer to go back to God in prayer on the matter. The usual decision of the elders would be to not agree to marry the believer to the unbeliever in the church.

An exception to this might be in the case where “common law” marriage(that is where the couple live together already) is already in place and/or children have already been born to the couple. Under these circumstances the elders might agree that the couple were already married in the sight of God.

Should the couple decide to proceed with marriage at a different venue despite the advice and decision of the elders, the church will fully support the couple, accept the marriage that has taken place elsewhere and not prohibit them from taking a full part and role in the life of the church.

In this policy the definition of a “believer” and an “unbeliever” is as follows:

  • A believer is one who has expressed a belief in God the Father and has put their trust in Jesus the Son as their Lord and Saviour
  • An unbeliever is someone who does not believe in God or the Christian faith – most usually an atheist, but they may be a follower of another religion.

5b. NON-ATTENDERS SEEKING MARRIAGE IN THE CHURCH

It may be that the church is approached to perform a wedding by a betrothed couple who have no connection with Ashford Community Church at all, or know of the church only through friends or relatives who do attend.

Such a request shall be discussed by the eldership team and a decision shall be made on the relevant circumstances.

If the betrothed couple can demonstrate that they are believers, though non-attenders, for whom marriage in the sight of God is very important, then their request shall be considered in that context. If the betrothed are non-believers who are simply wishing the tradition of a church wedding then the elders may consider that their being married in the sight of God is preferable.

5c. DIVORCED PERSONS SEEKING MARRIAGE IN THE CHURCH

Marriage is considered by Ashford Community Church to be a “holy estate” that is “not entered into lightly”. The church takes very seriously vows to “love and to cherish….for better or for worse…till death do us part”.

It recognises that God “hates divorce” (Malachi 2:16 NKJV) and understands that although the Bible does not prohibit divorce (or remarriage) it counsels that it is hurtful to those involved and should be avoided if at all possible.

However, the church also recognises that there are situations where a divorce has not been wanted. It recognises that one party may be innocent or may have been driven to divorce by the behaviour of the other party. Whatever the reason for the divorce, the church wishes to state that it does not wish to be judgmental on the individual (the reason for the divorce having taken place is between the individual and God) but has to be so on the situation.

Therefore, if the church is approached by a couple where one or both of them have been divorced, then the elders will consider the case on its own merit and shall make a decision as to whether the church will permit a wedding for this couple within the church.

As with other cases, however, even if the church shall refuse a wedding of a couple where one or both have been divorced, it shall honour the marriage made by this couple elsewhere and shall seek to love the couple, support their marriage and see them as a full and valued part of the church community.

APPENDIX 1

BIBLICAL GUIDANCE CONCERNING MARRIAGE BETWEEN A BELIEVER AND AN UNBELIEVER

  1. 2 Corinthians 6:14-17

14 Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? 15 What harmony is there between Christ and Belial[a]? Or what does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? 16 What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said:

‘I will live with them
    and walk among them,
and I will be their God,
    and they will be my people.’[
b]

17 Therefore,

‘Come out from them
    and be separate,
says the Lord.
Touch no unclean thing,
    and I will receive you.

Commentary: This passage is most often used to advise against the marriage of a believer with a non-believer – calling them “unequally yoked”. Certainly, most churches see it in this way and add that the advice goes further than marriage, and is talking about any form of intimate relationship with non-believers – in friendship or in business ventures. Thus, some take it to the extreme of not having contact with, or being in employment with, non-believers. However, some commentators suggest that Paul’s main thrust in this teaching was to avoid religious contact with non-believers – hence the inference in verse 16 that the Corinthian Christians should have no intimacy with the huge pagan temple that sat on the hill overlooking Corinth and to which all Corinthians tended to congregate.

Much clearer, however, is the following passage:

  • 1 Corinthians 7:39

39 A woman is bound to her husband as long as he lives. But if her husband dies, she is free to marry anyone she wishes, but he must belong to the Lord.

Commentary: Paul, speaking of widows, permits remarriage – but only to believing men. This seems very clear guidance. In fact it seems like a command. Some commentators say that it could be argued that this applies ONLY to widows – but this is not our stance on this matter.

  • Ezra 10:11

11 Now honour[a] the Lord, the God of your ancestors, and do his will. Separate yourselves from the peoples around you and from your foreign wives.’

Commentary: Now, this not only suggests that marrying unbelievers is wrong, but seems to suggest that if we are married to non-believers then we should put them away – no longer live with them – maybe even divorce them. Take care! This is carrying the Word too far. Paul helps us out again over this one. 1 Corinthians 7:10-17 says that a believer should stay with their unbelieving spouse as long as the non-believer is happy to remain married to them. No! We do not go divorcing our husband or wife because they are not a Christian!

  • 1 Kings 11:1-6

 King Solomon, however, loved many foreign women besides Pharaoh’s daughter – Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Sidonians and Hittites. They were from nations about which the Lord had told the Israelites, ‘You must not intermarry with them, because they will surely turn your hearts after their gods.’ Nevertheless, Solomon held fast to them in love. He had seven hundred wives of royal birth and three hundred concubines, and his wives led him astray. As Solomon grew old, his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted to the Lord his God, as the heart of David his father had been. He followed Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and Molek the detestable god of the Ammonites. So Solomon did evil in the eyes of the Lord; he did not follow the Lord completely, as David his father had done.

Commentary: This is a definitive passage that shows us why it is so unwise for a believer to marry an unbeliever. Solomon was the wisest man ever. Yet, “foreign” wives turned him away from total commitment to God. And if the mighty Solomon was vulnerable, then how much more are we!

APPENDIX 2

A NOTE ON TERMINOLOGY

A “gay” man is a man who is sexually attracted to other men.

A “lesbian” woman is a woman who is sexually attracted to other women.

A “transgender” person is a person whose physical attributes do not alight with their emotional or psychological attributes.

A “bi-sexual” person is a person who is sexually attracted to both men and women.

The KEY PHRASE in all of this is “sexually attracted”.

APPENDIX 3

LINK TO CITATION

SECTION 2: THE NATURE OF MARRIAGE – CHURCH OFENGLAND CANON B30

https://www.churchofengland.org/more/policy-and-thinking/canons-church-england/section-b