I have been an advocate for a while for the church getting out of the wedding business and really focusing on the marriage business. By that I mean no longer serving as a useful patsy for Caesar to administer weddings and instead make marriages within the church something done without the approval or permission of Caesar. See my post Is this the start of a separation of marriage and the state? Let's hope so. as a primer.
More and more we are seeing the church and other religious groups moving away from state sanctioned marriage. I would rather see Christian churches and groups like mormons, Roman Catholics, etc. administering marriage within the confines of their own faith traditions and leave the secular civil and legal aspects of marital-like relationships to the government. They can call it whatever they want but it really wouldn't matter to us because we would not be beholden or dependent on Caesar. I just find it baffling that two Christians who want to be married in the church have to come to the official ecclesiastical event with a permission slip from Caesar.
It is in light of this I was interested to see this post from Rod Dreher, A Separation of Church and State. Rod writes about an email notification from "Father" Patrick Reardon, pastor of All Saints Antiochian Orthodox Church in Chicago. Patrick wrote:
Because the State of Illinois, through its legislature and governor’s office, have now re-defined marriage, marriage licenses issued by agencies of the State of Illinois will no longer be required (or signed) for weddings here at All Saints in Chicago.
Those seeking marriage in this parish will be counseled on the point.
Father PatI think that is a good start. If I read this correctly it means that this particular religious group will perform an Orthodox wedding without the need for a license from the state of Illinois and also that they will not counter-sign wedding licenses. You can get married there but you can't get married there, if you see my meaning.
I really contend that the marriage process for Christians should be two part. Getting married in the church is the first and only required step. Our definition done our way. No one who is not a believer should be married by the church. The second step is optional, getting a state sanctioned recognition of marriage to confer legal and tax benefits. If you don't care about those you don't have to get Caesar's blessing. This is a pretty radical step but given the direction of marriage in our society it is really a necessary one. I hope that churches and other religious groups continue to move in this direction.