Note to puzzled readers:

On the Teaching page, the broken

link from here to here has been

discovered and fixed.


You answered the Lutheran minister’s question about how to explain to his flock what is going on, but you didn’t answer an important related question.  Some Christians propose that the Church “divorce” itself from civil marriage – that ministers stop signing civil marriage certificates – because marriage as the Church understands it and “marriage” as the state defines it no longer have anything to do with each other.  What do you think of this?


As I explained in my previous post, civil marriage has traditionally meant recognition by the state that a natural marriage exists.  The advantage of such recognition is that the law can then enforce the duties of the spouses to their children and to each other.

This was a good thing.  Although it had nothing to do with religion per se – for the state was not interested in the sacrament – the state did accommodate the Church by allowing her ministers to file marriage certificates.  This too was a good thing.  Notice that it was a one-way relationship.  In effect, the state said “If the Church says there is a natural marriage, we believe it.”  But if the state said “There is no longer a marriage,” the Church was not required to believe it, and if the state said “The parties are qualified to marry,” the Church was not required to agree.

Logically, one might think that would not have to change.  In the past, the Church could say “Steve and Sally are not qualified to marry, so they may not participate in the marriage rites of the Church, and we will not certify to the state that a marriage exists.”  Now, the Church can say “Steve and Ernest are not qualified to marry, so they may not marry in the Church, and we will not certify to the state that a marriage exists.”

But I think it will change.  Just because the state has abandoned the natural law, civil “marriage” now means nothing more than that state declares a certain sexual arrangement deserving of “esteem.”  I think, therefore, that pressure will be applied the Church to either accept the state’s definition of the arrangements deserving of such "esteem" (which of course it cannot do), or lose its privilege of certifying to the state that a marriage exists.  So the “divorce” you ask about will be forced upon the Church.

At that point, the Church might or might not advise parties who become sacramentally married to have a civil marriage too.  I expect that this decision would turn upon whether by that time civil marriage has any remaining connection with the legal enforcement of parental duties to the children.  The way things are going, it probably won’t, since already the state’s definition of “marriage” has lost all connection with procreation.  But we will see.