A few weeks ago I had the privilege of presiding over a wedding of two good friends. It was a night I will never forget, and I just have to share some of it with you.
What I said (in part):
As you are well aware, I’m not your pastor. In fact, I’m not even ‘a’ pastor, and yet, I keep finding myself standing in front of two soon-to-be married people. And yet, I have never stood here between two Christians. I have never had the privilege of leading two Jesus-loving people through this sacred ceremony, where they commit themselves to each other in a lifelong covenant. I’ve also never officiated a same-sex wedding before. The irony is palpable – my first Christian wedding is also my first same-sex wedding.
And I’m sure there are a lot of people here that are also witnessing their first same-sex wedding or maybe even their first Christian wedding.
And I can almost guarantee there is no one that has ever been to a same-sex, Christian wedding of two Baptist pastors! But God is good – isn’t he? There is no place we would rather be.
This got me thinking, this whole Christian wedding thing. What makes it different? Lots of things make this wedding unique (and awesome!) but what makes it Christian?
The same thing that makes everything Christian: Jesus.
We are here because of you two and we are here because of Jesus. He called you both to Himself in your youth, to seminary in Vancouver; He called you into ministry, and now he is calling you into the sacred covenant of marriage.
You will now be walking together, as a married couple, with Jesus.
One thing I was really looking forward to about a wedding with two people who love Jesus is that the main reading would not be a cheesy, anonymous poem — but something from scripture, and when you told me your wedding text, I jotted it down and thought, “Hmm, Romans 12:9-21…Paul…interesting choice.” But as soon as I read it, I could not help but weep. I did, however, promise you I wouldn’t cry through your wedding. So on with it!
As I read that passage and the words began to pop out at me:
Love — honor — joy — patience in affliction — faithful in prayer — practice hospitality — bless those who persecute you, I wanted to just turn you both around (again) and read the passage (again) and let everyone out there look at you, because you both exemplify this passage more than any other couple I know.
But I figured Danice would probably kill me if I made her be even more of the center of attention than she already is…
Danice, Beth has discovered a real freedom to be who she is because of how well you love her. You light her up AND lighten her up. You’ve freed her up to dance (once she makes sure everyone is feeling welcome)! Beth can now be herself without having to worrying about what others think. Although you are also passionate about your work, you have good boundaries and have helped Beth say “no” to things. You have helped her remember who God has created her to be. There is a quiet strength that is very tangible. I think Beth’s sister Rachel summed it up pretty well: “Danice is just the coolest person you could ever hope to fall in love with your sister. She’s whip-smart, passionate, and she knows how to party.”
Beth, I have truly admired watching you love Danice over the years. Even though I have spent so much more time with you without Danice around, I am still very aware of how you love and care for her. Beth, you draw Danice out. Your empathy and compassion helps Danice stay hopeful amidst some trying times. Beth, you bring joy to Danice like no one else. Someone even mentioned you can make her laugh BEFORE she’s had her coffee. You have a gentleness and wisdom that will be an amazing contribution to your marriage.
I want you to out-love one another.
And as another one of your siblings said, “They’ve been so strong and steadfast in their love for each other and their love of God, it seems that nothing can shake them.”
I have spent a lot of time reflecting on this wedding, mainly because it was so memorable for me – my first Christian wedding, my first same-sex wedding, a wedding of two good friends, etc. Yet, as I think about it, my emotions are all over the place. There was such a deep paradox in the whole event — how and where it happened, who was and wasn’t there, who did and didn’t do the officiating, what I focused on and avoided in the ceremony. I felt the tug-of-war – it was so amazing, and yet, there were so many things that bothered me.
Here is what I didn’t say:
The fact that I am marrying you is, in one sense, wonderful and a true sense of movement within culture and within the church. Same-sex weddings are legal in Canada and becoming legal in more and more states in the US! You both felt enough love from your friends and family to come out. You have a room full of mainly evangelical Christians here to witness your marriage. Some of them fully support your decision and others are trying to love you within their own conscience. Showing up to this wedding was a big step for some people, and it shows that we are moving in the right direction.
Yet in other ways, the movement feels painfully slow. I wasn’t your first choice to officiate; in fact, I probably wasn’t your first, second or third choice. I understand that. I’m not offended by it because none of your first choices are allowed to officiate same-sex weddings. Those people are here cheering for you, loving you, agreeing with you, but they would be risking their jobs, their pensions as pastors, etc., if they helped you make a lifelong commitment. If they helped two Jesus-loving people commit to lifelong monogamy within the sacred bounds of marriage, they could potentially lose their jobs. (I think I would have repeated that line.)
There is good movement here, movement toward full inclusion of the LGBTQ community within the walls of the church because I see so many people here who have never been to a same-sex wedding. There are many people here who five or ten years ago probably would never have come to one. There are people here who flew in from the very conservative Southern US because they love you. Witnessing this type of event changes people. The relationships we have with our gay cousins change us. You can’t say, “Oh, I’m fine with gay people, I’m an ally” just because you have a gay cousin. But, our gay friends, siblings, cousins, co-workers are changing the rest of us. What was once a theological argument to be ‘won’ now has a face, a heart, and it is changing us. Please, those who are here, those who are coming out slowly, those who are changing their views, make yourselves known. Your voice is critical.
We are witnessing something so beautiful and brave. You both sacrificed so much to be married to each other. You sacrificed harmonious relationships, and you were not allowed to continue in your role as pastors. You took a huge risk and came out to your Baptist families not only as gay, but as gay people who want to pursue a relationship. (I might have said something cheeky like “You not only came out as being gay, but also as acting gay!”)
Your wedding is an extraordinary example of love, and it is also so ordinary and simple. Your wedding is unique and lovely because you are wonderful people who love each other deeply. Yet in a lot of ways, it was just another wedding – white dress, music, tears, cupcakes, vows, etc.
I’m sure there are people here that are thinking, “Hmm, seemed pretty ‘typical’ to me” or “Hmm, they really do love each other, why do people care so much that they are both women? Why did I care so much?” We are left changed because of you.
(And lastly, I want to share with you a highlight for many at the wedding. I will leave you with this light-hearted segment, created by the brides, following very deep, personal and tear-filled vows.)
Jane: Beth and Danice have chosen rings as a symbol of their vows. Rings are an outward sign of an inward commitment. My hope and prayer for you two is that these rings will be a constant reminder of the commitment you made to each other today. Now, Alberto, our maid of honor with pockets, has the rings! Ok, Danice, I want you to take Beth’s left hand and repeat after me.
Jane: Danice, do you like it?
Danice: I do.
Jane: Then, in the words of Beyoncé, you should put a ring on it.
Jane: Beth, do you like it?
Beth: I do.
Jane: Then, in the words of Beyoncé, you should put a ring on it.
Jane: It is with excitement and delight that I now pronounce you married and blessed!
What better way to mark that than with a kiss? You may kiss your bride!
This was followed by the best dance party ever.
(photos courtesy of Chanelle Tye)