Jump to content


Photo
- - - - -

Civil marriage before baptism / chrismation


  • Please log in to reply
19 replies to this topic

#1 Fr. Gregory (Hallam)

Fr. Gregory (Hallam)

    Regular Poster

  • Members
  • PipPip
  • 68 posts

Posted 21 January 2004 - 08:08 PM

I have not as yet had to deal with the situation of a couple with a civil marriage (only) later becoming Orthodox through baptism and / or chrismation. I know, of course, that civil marriage has grave consequences for those already Orthodox but what about the situation as described?

I know that one should strive to encourage the couple to have their marriage celebrated in Church but my question rather refers to any strictness in the matter .... from canon or conventional practice. Is it absolutely and invariably required that they have the marriage service or can their marriage (as their baptism if baptised) be "made good" by chrismation?

I would appreciate reflections from (hopefully) a wide background.


#2 Guest_Trudy Ellmore

Guest_Trudy Ellmore
  • Guests

Posted 21 January 2004 - 08:24 PM

Dear Fr. Gregory:

I am not Orthodox....yet. But this same exact discussion is occuring on another discussion board. One priest on that board said that the crowning took place right after his baptism and chrismation.

I got the general idea that, yes, chrismation "makes good" (as you put it) the marriage. I also got the idea that it may be encouraged but not "strictly" so. It appears to vary from parish to parish. It also appears it is done quietly, without much whoo-hoo, if you know what I mean.

But please remember...I'm NOT Orthodox. This is only what I've read. So I'm probably the LAST person you should take their word on! :-)

Sincerely in Christ, Trudy


#3 Fr. Gregory (Hallam)

Fr. Gregory (Hallam)

    Regular Poster

  • Members
  • PipPip
  • 68 posts

Posted 21 January 2004 - 08:49 PM

This was my reading of the matter Trudy ... so thank you. It will be intersting to hear what others have to contribute.


#4 Fr Raphael Vereshack

Fr Raphael Vereshack

    Moderator

  • Moderators
  • 4,420 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member
  • Verified Monastic Cleric

Posted 21 January 2004 - 09:33 PM

Dear Fr,
We meet again!

I am no expert on this matter either although this and many similiar situations have occured in this parish. I tend to towards the full Church marriage since it is a sacrament. Perhaps Fr Averky would know more here since they deal with so many people from so many situations.
In Christ- Fr R

#5 Guest_Janice Chadwick

Guest_Janice Chadwick
  • Guests

Posted 22 January 2004 - 01:44 AM

I remember my first priest saying that couples married in a civil ceremony had to go through the full Church marriage ceremony--not just a crowning. Is that one of those issues where the Bishop would decide how it is to be done?


#6 Guest_Donald Wescott

Guest_Donald Wescott
  • Guests

Posted 22 January 2004 - 03:47 AM

I guess my question is what about heterodox marriages, it (marriage) is certainly not viewed as a sacrament in any Protestant denomination that I am aware of. And aren't virtually all marriages, whether Orthodox or heterodox inextricably mixed up in civil procedure anyway as the priedt/pastor must be licensed and the official paperwork submitted to the local clerk of courts?
Please understand that this is not meant as an attack on Orthodox weddings, they are truly a beautiful portrait of the Kingdom, it's just that they too, not unlike civil or heterodox services are tied up with the government, at least here in the US, is it different elsewhere?


#7 Fr. Gregory (Hallam)

Fr. Gregory (Hallam)

    Regular Poster

  • Members
  • PipPip
  • 68 posts

Posted 22 January 2004 - 08:21 AM

Dear Janice

It is a matter for one's bishop. It's interesting though to review the different practices. They are more or less tied up in the practice of economia ... its scope and limitations.

Dear Donald

One may get married in an Orthodox Church according to the rites and understanding of our church but for that marriage to be legally valid in the west, it has, of course, to be registered. Such registration is frquently an "add-on" ... not an alternative. Practically speaking in the UK, this means (at the moment ... the law is about to change radically) the giving of 3 week's notice at the Registrars and the issue of a certificate without which the marriage cannot be legally recognised if enacted in any form at any place. All Church services have to include so called "contractual words" ... in western ecclesiastical terminology, the vows reflecting the western understanding that marriage is, essentially, a legal contract. Since the Orthodox marriage service does not contain such vows / contractual words it would not be a legally valid enactment of marriage on its own. Two possibilities now arise in the UK. The more common practice is for a couple to get "married" at a civil ceremony first and then go to Church for their sacramental marriage. Less commonly, but a practice we follow, is to get the priest registered as an Authorised Person; which means that he is able to deal with the legal side as well in Church, thus removing the need to have a civil ceremony first. For this to occur, the contractual words have to be said somewhere by the couple in the service. The practice first arose in Poland in the Orthodox Church of inserting these words in between the Betrothal and the Crowning ... with the signing of the Registers, (State and Church), at the end. Happily this works quite well liturgically but it's still a nuisance. However, I would rather have this solution than see the couple go to a Registry Office for a Civil Ceremony first.

To return to the plot and your other point ...

The significance of marriages in other heterodox churches depends on local episcopal policy within the parameters of each jurisdiction and societal context. The issues are similar, (but one step removed) from those of baptism. In the Antiochian Church in the US for example, Episcopal baptisms do not now fall within economia whereas in England, Anglican baptisms still do, (although for how much longer I don't know). A couple becoming Orthodox from the Roman Catholic Church are not in the same position, say, as one coming to us from Methodism. It's not a binary thing ... discernment needs to be exercised and I am well aware that episcopal directives vary from place to place. This is a good thing and gives uis the flexibility we need to respond to the situation on the ground.


#8 Fr Raphael Vereshack

Fr Raphael Vereshack

    Moderator

  • Moderators
  • 4,420 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member
  • Verified Monastic Cleric

Posted 22 January 2004 - 03:00 PM

Dear Fr Gregory,

Forgive me first for the 'slip' I made in addressing you in my last posting as if we had met before. I had read another priest's posting, changed pages, didn't look carefully enough at the name and thought I was speaking with the same priest!

Your last posting was very interesting. In Canada all 'ministers' of any registered religion
(easy to be registered) are given certain notary (legal)powers; any marriage they perform once registered with the provincial government has legal status. No special 'legal' words are needed; just the ceremony itself.Also a minister can legally vouch for the authenticity of passport IDs & photos to be submitted to the Federal government. All of this comes from British custom & law of the 18-19th centuries when we were still a British colony. Speaking with fellow priests in the US it seems Canada has some of the most favourable laws regarding religion in the Western world.

In Christ, Fr R

#9 Kenny Scott

Kenny Scott

    Junior Poster

  • Members
  • 4 posts

Posted 29 August 2012 - 04:36 AM

I'm a convert to the faith and have been what I thought was a "member in good standing" for a year and half. I will be married for ten years on October 19th. I was married by my father a Protestant Pastor. I have been receiving communion regularly. A month or so ago we received a new priest. This priest discovered that I was not married in the church and would like us to do so on our anniversary. The previous priest new that we had not been married in the church and made no such request. After talking to the current priest it seems like our first marriage "doesn't count." After looking at the GO website (http://www.goarch.or...on/instructions) it states, "A baptized Orthodox Christian whose wedding has not been blessed by the Orthodox Church is no longer in good standing with the Church." So... wow! this is a bit of a shocker to me. I knew that some convert couples in our church had had their marriages "blessed" by the previous priest, but the current priest feels that the idea of a "marriage blessing" is an unfortunate novelty and that the whole ceremony needs to be performed. This raises all sorts of questions for me and I would appreciate any clarity you may have to offer.

The questions:
1) Does my marriage count? If so, in what way?
2) Am I "living in sin"? Am I a fornicator?
3) Did my father "do" anything or is the equivalent of asking a stranger to witness our decision?
4) Was their any grace imparted to us in our civil marriage?
5) Was my civil marriage "before God"?
6) What obligation, if any, do I have to get married in the church, if I was never married in the first place?
7) If I am living in sin, will the marriage in the church remove those sins?

Thanks for help.

#10 Father David Moser

Father David Moser

    Moderator

  • Moderators
  • 3,581 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member
  • Verified Cleric

Posted 29 August 2012 - 05:25 AM

The questions:
1) Does my marriage count? If so, in what way?
2) Am I "living in sin"? Am I a fornicator?
3) Did my father "do" anything or is the equivalent of asking a stranger to witness our decision?
4) Was their any grace imparted to us in our civil marriage?
5) Was my civil marriage "before God"?
6) What obligation, if any, do I have to get married in the church, if I was never married in the first place?
7) If I am living in sin, will the marriage in the church remove those sins?


You have never received the sacrament of holy matrimony since that sacrament can exist only within the Church. While a certain latitude has been extended to new adult converts regarding previous marriages recently, it has always been the practice of the Church to require that the sacrament of marriage be given in the Church when a person converts and that stricter practice is seeing a renaissance in the Church. The non-Orthodox wedding ceremony is (without exception in my experience) essentially a legal a contract between two people. Even in the heterodox sacramental confessions (such as Roman Catholicism) the "sacrament" is administered not by the priest but by the couple and the priest merely is a witness to that contract on behalf of the Church and adds only the blessing of the Church on what the couple has accomplished on their own. The Orthodox wedding is much different - the couple does nothing, but the Holy Spirit, through the actions of the Church in the person of the priest (the priest, not the couple, is the "minister of the sacrament"), bestows grace upon the couple and makes and change in their nature so that the two are joined into one.

At best, from the Orthodox pov, what you accomplished in your protestant wedding ceremony is nothing more than a betrothal (a promise to wed) and an accompanying civil contract. Thus what is often the case is that a new convert that has a civil marriage is given the sacrament of holy matrimony by the administration of the crowning portion of the wedding ceremony (the exchange of rings and promise to marry that it signifies, i.e. the betrothal, having already been accomplished). In order to be married in the Orthodox Church you still need the "crowning" (which is the sacrament itself). And yes, if you continue to live with your wife without the benefit of marriage you are indeed "living in sin" according to the Orthodox tradition.

Now, if you converted but your spouse did not - then the usual rule is that the instruction of the Apostle Paul applies wherein the Orthodox spouse does not abandon the unbelieving spouse. However if both convert (or if one converts later) then the sacrament of Holy Matrimony should be administered.

I have had a situation in my parish where one spouse converted and the other did not right away. Later the other spouse converted but refused to have an Orthodox wedding (the marriage was already in trouble). When the original spouse visited Mt Athos, the Athonite monks refused to allow him to receive Holy Communion until he was married. Only after he explained that while he was still married on paper, that he and his then wife had lived as "brother and sister" (i.e. in chastity) during the past year or so and that no reconciliation was in the offing, was he allowed to receive Holy Communion. (that marriage later ended in divorce and while both parties are still in the Church, they now live separate lives).

A civil marriage (or even a heterodox marriage) is not the sacrament of Holy Matrimony and cannot pretend to be. If you are Orthodox and you want to get married, your only choice is to be married in the Church.

Fr David Moser

#11 Father David Moser

Father David Moser

    Moderator

  • Moderators
  • 3,581 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member
  • Verified Cleric

Posted 29 August 2012 - 10:30 PM

Someone just reminded me of another thread that directly touches this conversation. It is called "Are converts who are married outside the Orthodox Church committing adultery?" and can be found here.

Fr David

#12 Kenny Scott

Kenny Scott

    Junior Poster

  • Members
  • 4 posts

Posted 29 August 2012 - 10:55 PM

Thank you. I did read through that thread previously, which is part of why I asked my questions, in hopes of a direct answer.

I wish my entry into the church would have included this, as now I am going to have to insult my father, who apparently did not marry me or my two sisters. I will also have to explain to my non orthodox friends and family why I am getting married again for the first time which will ultimately lead to me acknowledging that my church considers none of them to be married. My friends that are in my church will realize that they too need to get married since they have had multiple children out of wedlock. It would seem that I should look at event that I participated in among many witnesses and believed to be sacramental was in fact not sacramental and had as much significance on my life as when I received my driver's licence.

This is further compounded when I realized that this seems to be treated differently in different churches. The Greek church says I am no longer a member in good standing. The OCA says converts should never be remarried. "Pastors at the same time are reminded that converts to Orthodoxy are not to be remarried when they enter the Orthodox Church." (http://oca.org/holy-...als/on-marriage). So, if I had converted in an OCA church, I wouldn't have to insult my family and friends and declare that God in fact had nothing to do with their marriage.

So, I have much to think about. I hope to follow a path of obedience, but this is truly very difficult.

Does God grant grace to Protestant marriages?
Did I enter into a covenant with God or only a license to shack up with a girl?

#13 Rdr Andreas

Rdr Andreas

    Very Frequent Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 5,027 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member

Posted 30 August 2012 - 12:50 AM

My first thought, for what it's worth, is to wonder why you would need to tell all and sundry that you are going to the sacrament of marriage. You don't announce that you are going to the sacrament of confession . . .

The OCA statement is baffling and would be considered by many to be wrong.

#14 Father David Moser

Father David Moser

    Moderator

  • Moderators
  • 3,581 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member
  • Verified Cleric

Posted 30 August 2012 - 02:07 AM

now I am going to have to insult my father, who apparently did not marry me or my two sisters. I will also have to explain to my non orthodox friends and family why I am getting married again for the first time which will ultimately lead to me acknowledging that my church considers none of them to be married.


Actually all you need to say is that your father did not bestow sacramental marriage upon you - which I'm sure he won't contest, unless his theology includes the idea of sacraments. Your father did oversee your civil marriage so in the secular sense you are and always have been (since your original wedding) "married" in the way that the world views marriage.

You quoted something from the OCA - let me remind you (if you did indeed read that other thread) that I was initially received in an OCA parish and immediately after our baptisms, my wife and I were crowned -in an OCA parish by an OCA priest. And the bishop who ordained me would have required me to receive the sacrament of marriage before my ordination if it had not been done. You have to read such official pronouncements in context and with an understanding of how they are implemented at the parish level by the priests who are guided by them.

Oh and God certainly did have something to do with your marriage - otherwise it would not have come to the crisis point in which you find yourself. Sounds to me like you are more worried about offending your family and friends than about offending the Church.

Does God grant grace to Protestant marriages?
Did I enter into a covenant with God or only a license to shack up with a girl?


If you read the other thread as you said you did, you would have found that there is a very strong correlation between heterodox/civil marriage and what we consider to be betrothal. And betrothal in the Orthodox Church is no small matter. If you are betrothed but not married to another person you cannot break that betrothal or marry a different person without a Church divorce - so its not like its meaningless or without any weight within the Church. What you have to face is the fact that you did not receive the sacrament of matrimony - what you did do was betroth yourself to your wife. The Orthodox marriage (which as absolutely no corresponding rite within heterodox Christianity) is simply the completion of what you had already begun. So thank your father for beginning the process which you now complete and encourage your friends to finish what they started.

Fr David

#15 Kenny Scott

Kenny Scott

    Junior Poster

  • Members
  • 4 posts

Posted 30 August 2012 - 03:13 AM

Hmm... I assumed a marriage ceremony meant inviting friends and family to be there. Ok well that solves the drama of it.

Fr David thank you for the answer... I will pursue concept of betrothal further.

I dont mean to put forth that I would choose not to offend my family over the church. I always try to obey the church. It was just a a shock that until a few days ago I was a member in good standing and now I am not. One priest did not express to us or anyone in our church a need to be married in the church, but a rather a blessing of one desired. Now we have a new priest who has the opposite view. I am just trying to understand. This will be good to come to terms with and understand as are church in 90% converts with many families who will be going through this issue as well.

To sum up, if I understand correctly... According to society I am married. According to the Church, I am betrothed, but not married.
Are both views considered covenants and not to be broken? I ask based on your example of a man who was married before becoming Orthodox who did not remarry in the church and had a civil divorce. In that situation, did that man not sin in having a divorce, since the Church did not see him as married? Or was it still sin, since he was seen as betrothed?

#16 Rdr Andreas

Rdr Andreas

    Very Frequent Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 5,027 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member

Posted 30 August 2012 - 11:21 AM

Hmm... I assumed a marriage ceremony meant inviting friends and family to be there.


Sacraments are sacraments, not social events. For family and friends to rejoice at the baptism of a child - the bringing of a new member into the Church - and to rejoice at the union of a man and a woman in marriage is right and proper. Are these always quite like that? My wife and I had the sacrament of marriage in the Russian cathedral in London with no relatives save my wife's mother, and three Orthodox couples, our closest spiritual friends, who shared the holding of the (heavy) crowns. Afterwards, no party, no champagne (or even prosecco), no speeches, no presents - just a cup of tea and some cakes and we went home.

#17 John Konstantin

John Konstantin

    Frequent Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 342 posts

Posted 30 August 2012 - 12:28 PM

Sacraments are sacraments

And you could have added ordination. Certainly nothing like the song and dance I had to go through when I was ordained and celebrated my first mass outside of Holy Orthodoxy.

#18 John Konstantin

John Konstantin

    Frequent Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 342 posts

Posted 30 August 2012 - 11:28 PM

Continuing the discussion. We know that it is better to marry than to burn. Given that there may be, in addition to the Crowning, a civil ceremony to make the union legally binding and recognised within a particular country, what are the implications for one's conjugal activities? Could potentially a couple be crowned and live together and enjoy the marital bed but not as yet have a registrar legally formalise the union? Or conversely, the other way around?

#19 Rdr Andreas

Rdr Andreas

    Very Frequent Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 5,027 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member

Posted 30 August 2012 - 11:47 PM

The civil ceremony, where this cannot coincide with the Orthodox sacrament, is normally beforehand. It is good for the Orthodox marriage to follow as soon as possible thereafter.

#20 Father David Moser

Father David Moser

    Moderator

  • Moderators
  • 3,581 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member
  • Verified Cleric

Posted 31 August 2012 - 01:11 AM

C Could potentially a couple be crowned and live together and enjoy the marital bed but not as yet have a registrar legally formalise the union?


Most bishops with whom I am familiar require that a civil license for the marriage be obtained prior to the Church wedding. In some cases it is against the law to solemnize a marriage without a civil license and again, most bishops, afaik, require that their clergy comply with the legal regulations of the municipality in which they live and where their parish is located.

Fr David Moser




0 user(s) are reading this topic

0 members, 0 guests, 0 anonymous users