February 1982

?You Know What?

Robert F. Turner

Bro. Turner:

Good sincere brethren differ on the use of the church building for weddings. Will you please comment? EH


This was discussed at length in P.T., V. 11, N.3, P.4-5; also in V.8 N.7 P.7. The building is justified only as an expedient for assembling and carrying out God-assigned work of the local church. The command to assemble necessitates a place of assembly, and in the absence of specific instructions for obtaining that place, we assume with good reason the right to build, buy or rent a place of assembly. We cannot, with like good reason, use church resources to obtain a basketball gymnasium, for no such activity is authorized for the church. Nor can we use church resources to build and equip a banquet kitchen and hall, or a wedding chapel. This is not to say basketball, banquets, and wedding ceremonies are immoral or forbidden to the Christian; they simply are not authorized functions of the organized church. Funds pooled by members of a local church for the support of God assigned church work, would be misappropriated if put to such use.

But does this principle forbid the incidental use of a church-built place of assembly for something other than its intended purpose? It is practically impossible to avoid some such use. The place of assembly is not sacred, so as to be "desecrated" by common use. In some communities this is the only available place to shelter large gatherings for a funeral, wedding, or perhaps an emergency shelter following a disaster. I do not believe such uses change or violate the principle stated above, but since human judgment is involved, each church should independently determine these uses, with regard for the conscience of its members. More needs to be said on this incidental use of property, for wide divergences of opinion occurs here — but we must deal with yet another facet of the subject.

Beyond abuses, often excused as incidental uses, there are some who regard a "church wedding" almost in the R. Catholic sense of "sacrament," "administered" by the church. Marriage is ordained of God, as is civil government (Gen. 2:24, Rom. 13:), but this does not put the organized churches in the business of validating either marriage or civil government. It is well, though not essential, that the wedding ceremony or its preliminaries include a reference to and teaching upon the divine concept of marriage — and to some this is reason enough for the use of church property. But we must avoid relating marriage to the church in any direct sense and to some this is reason enough to deny the use of church property. On the "flip" side, there are those who regard marriage as "social" in the lightest sense, who would turn the ceremony into a party or festival. The use of church property for such as this seems most inappropriate, and unjustified as "incidental" use.

Do you see why I sometimes answer questions about "church weddings"..."Yes, No, and Maybe"? Circumstances, influence, perceived consequences, or the like greatly affect such matters. Pray for wisdom, and work for peace!