The whole Roman Catholic “Pre-Cana” scheme leaves me cold – especially since it includes the prohibition of contraception and (by implication at least) of pre-marital sex. The idea of celibate priests counseling couples about their married life is absurd.
I’m not sure I have ever married a virgin. If I have, I apologize here and now! But most couples I have married have lived together for months and often for years, and I am convinced that their marriages will be the stronger and more lasting for that. It is time that the Church abandoned the ancient ideas of marriage and recognized this fact.
When a couple asks me if I will marry them, I ask them to come and see me, so that we can talk the whole thing through. I ask if they have been baptized and why they would like to be married in St Clement’s. I tell them about the church fees and about what they have to do about the music. I ask them to come on a Sunday to talk with me and the organist about what music they would like at the wedding.
And then – that is that! And quite enough too.
So saith The Rev’d Canon W. Gordon Reid, Rector of St. Clement's Episcopal Church, Philadelphia. . .
There are many things that could be said but I will hold my tongue. Suffice it to say that with rectors like the good Canon Reid there is hardly any reason at all to seek out a church wedding except that you like the ambiance of the place. He apologizes for ever presiding at the wedding a virgin (or, God forbid, two). He finds no sense in restraining sex to marriage (or, we might wonder, extra marital sex). He applauds cohabitation as the real premarital preparation but, if it is so grand, why bother with the wedding at all.
Lutherans do not speak of marriage as a sacrament but we attach a sacramental understanding to the marriage of one man and one woman, God's creative design and the image of His Son's redemptive relationship to His Church. Roman Catholics, of course, go very much further as do the Orthodox. However, even many liberal Protestants attempt some manner of churchly ideal to the relationship between man and woman. Except, it seems, Fr. Reid.
So there is the picture of the Christian liberal view of marriage, optional, non-sacramental in any way, for niceness but not necessity, unrelated to sexual behavior, no mention of children, and, with some allowance, not prohibitive of consensual sex outside of marriage either. It would seem that having thoroughly capitulated to the power of unrestrained desire, such a Christianity would have little to offer husband or wife (or, for that matter, any other version of marriage).
What Fr. Reid has left us with is a Church that is merely a location, with nary a word to say about the character of the life together for those who enter into Holy Matrimony. It seems that he wants churches not only out of the marriage business (except to provide a venue for a fee) and to shut up about the subject as well. With such embarrassment or shame at what the Church has said up until modern times, Ft. Reid has his work cut out for him. We can only be encouraged by the fact that his quest to relieve marriage of ancient (Christian) ideas will be aided by the self-centered, godless, and pleasure seeking people who find that marriage is likewise too encumbered by responsibility, duty, sacrifice, self-denial, fidelity, and faithfulness. Lord, help us from those who would help the faith by such unfaithfulness!!
A little something to think about as the wedding month and wedding season hits full stride!