Is the Supreme Court really redefining marriage for the Church? Many of us think the short answer is “no.” Christians in the USA will need to clarify our language (like Christians already do in much of the world). We currently talk generically about “marriage.” So we say, “The Supreme Court has redefined marriage.” I think we need to introduce adjectives into our discussion of “marriage.” We need to distinguish between Christian marriage and legal marriage or civil marriage. Civil marriage in America will end up being whatever combination of men, women and animals that the American government chooses to acknowledge. As citizens of a country, we must acknowledge a legal marriage. We do not have to recognize it as Christian. As citizens, we must also allow all the civil rights of civil marriage to apply to all forms of civil marriage.
I am always better off if I can quote C. S. Lewis, who asked,
“My own view is that the Churches should frankly recognize that the majority of the British people are not Christians and, therefore, cannot be expected to live Christian lives. There ought to be two distinct kinds of marriage: one governed by the State with rules enforced on all citizens, the other governed by the church with rules enforced by her on her own members. The distinction ought to be quite sharp, so that a man knows which couples are married in a Christian sense and which are not.“(from Mere Christianity in The Complete C. S. Lewis Signature Classics, repr. ed., [HarperCollins, 2009], p. 95).
In Indonesia (the most populous Muslim nation), churches do “Blessing Services” on marriages. The government issues marriage licenses. Couples who wish to have a Christian marriage ask the Church to bless their civil marriage. (In Indonesia, the wedding gown, etc., is used in the blessing service.) In Indonesia, Christian ministers did not legally endorse or officiate the marriage licenses. Rather, they bless Christian marriages.
If we stay in the business of being agents of the American government in officially signing government marriage licenses, then we may well be required to officiate all civil marriages. I might suggest our role is to recognize which civil marriages are Christian marriages and to pray God’s blessing upon those.