weddings

Sacred rite takes secular turn: This is why church weddings aren't as popular as they used to be

Sacred rite takes secular turn: This is why church weddings aren't as popular as they used to be

When my son and daughter-in-law exchanged wedding vows two years ago, they did so in a church — but not their church.

They had a couple of reasons for this: For one, Brady and Mary grew up in different churches. They wanted to avoid choosing between either of them.

The second, more important consideration: They liked the distinctive look of the sanctuary they chose and the amenities, such as a large bridal room.

I was reminded of their experience as I read a fascinating trend piece in the Wichita Eagle this week on more couples foregoing church weddings altogether:

When Monique Pope was engaged, she had no doubt that the wedding ceremony would be in her Catholic parish.
“It was a beautiful ceremony,” said Pope, who married her husband Mike in October 2012. “When you walk into St. Anthony you’re just overcome by the beauty and the splendor of the church.”
Marrying in St. Anthony Roman Catholic Church in Wichita meant marrying in a church and a faith she had a close connection to, Pope said.
Yet Pope and her husband are among a decreasing number of American couples who have their wedding ceremony in a church.
Only 26 percent of couples had their wedding ceremony in a religious institution in 2016, according to data from The Knot’s 2016 Real Weddings Study. That’s down from 41 percent in 2009.
he Knot surveyed nearly 13,000 U.S. brides and grooms, finding that weddings in farms, barns and ranches had gone up, along with weddings in historic buildings and homes. Other popular venues are beach houses, public gardens, wineries and museums.

The byline on the piece belongs to Katherine Burgess, the Eagle's relatively new faith reporter. I don't know that we've mentioned her at GetReligion. If not, welcome to the Godbeat, Katherine!

It's an interesting piece that hits at major reasons behind the trend:

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It would appear first UK 'same-sex Muslim wedding' featured nice clothes and that's that

It would appear first UK 'same-sex Muslim wedding' featured nice clothes and that's that

If your GetReligionistas have said it once, we have said it a thousand times since we opened our digital doors 13 years ago: There is no one, monolithic Islam.

Thus, there is no one Muslim "Tradition," with a big-T. There is no Muslim Vatican or college of cardinals. There is no conference that speaks with one voice, like the annual gathering of the Southern Baptist Convention. There is no Islamic equivalent of the global Anglican Lambeth Conference (which, come to think of it, doesn't speak for all Anglicans these days).

With that in mind, let's ponder this: What makes a "Muslim wedding" a real Muslim wedding?

This question is not easy to answer, since in Islam weddings do not have the same kind of sacramental significance that they have, let's say, in Christianity. But two things appear to be clear and they create a kind of creative tension linked to this subject.

(1) When people talk about Islamic wedding traditions they often discuss fine details -- clothing, rituals, social events, even the amount of religious content -- linked to the culture in which the rite is taking place.

(2) In Islam, weddings have strong legal, as opposed to sacramental, implications. The key is that the rite creates a relationship that is viewed as legally binding in a Muslim community. Thus, it is a Muslim wedding.

With that in mind, consider this Time magazine headline: "This History-Making Couple Just Had One of the U.K.'s First Same-Sex Muslim Weddings." Here is the heart of this short story:

Newlyweds Jahed Choudhury and Sean Rogan are helping make history in the U.K., which legalized same-sex marriage in 2013.

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A fairytale wedding, the New York Times and a couple that just might be Catholic

A fairytale wedding, the New York Times and a couple that just might be Catholic

The New York Times has this wonderful “weddings” feature where a staff reporter writes up the backstory of one of the couples featured on their wedding announcement page. At least, I think that's how the Times finds these stories. In the case of a story that ran last week, the groom was the great-grandson of Maria and Georg von Trapp of “The Sound of Music” fame.

The tale of how he met and wooed his bride is such a romantic story, not the least because the two were graduate theology students at Boston College. Yes, that word was "theology."

Thus, the groom comes up with quotes like, “We are people who enjoy lots of books and investigating particular questions having to do with the human existence, or God, or the nature of beauty.”

The chance of the Times ever finding, much less writing about such a couple, got me interested in reading more. We learn:

The two had met briefly during the summer of 2012 at a mutual friend’s wedding and he remembered her as quiet and thoughtful. ”There was an introverted loveliness about her,” he said. (By contrast, Jon Petkun, a friend, said Mr. Peters possessed an “ear-piercing loveliness.”)
That fall, Ms. Sloan and Mr. Peters got to know each other better. She wore Warby Parker eyeglasses that were almost identical to his. She appreciated both liturgical music and Ella Fitzgerald, as he did.
Growing up in Carmel, Ind., she was a bookworm with an early curiosity about God. “When she was small, she’d say things like, ‘This summer, I’m going to read the Bible,’” said her father, Dan Sloan.

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Doctrinal questions? Chicago Catholics have fewer marriages, babies and, well, priests

Doctrinal questions? Chicago Catholics have fewer marriages, babies and, well, priests

The big Catholic news out of the Archdiocese of Chicago -- the nation's third-largest diocese -- has become shockingly normal, perhaps so normal that journalists aren't even asking basic questions about this trend anymore.

The Chicago Tribune put one of the big numbers right up top in its latest report, noting that the Chicago archbishop -- a man closely identified with the tone of the Pope Francis era -- is now facing a crisis that will literally cost him altars. How many churches will he need to shutter? The current estimate is 100.

It's hard to keep Catholic church doors open without priests:

A radical overhaul in the nation's third-largest Roman Catholic archdiocese could shutter many of the Chicago church's houses of worship by 2030 as it reckons with decaying buildings and an expected shortage of priests, the church's chief operating officer confirmed Friday.
Chicago Archbishop Blase Cupich told priests and advisers in meetings in recent weeks that the shortage -- an estimated 240 priests available in 2030 for the archdiocese's 351 parishes -- could necessitate closings and consolidations. The archdiocese governs parishes in Cook and Lake counties.

So what are the basic questions here? Yes, obviously, there is the question Catholic leaders have been asking for several decades: Where have all the seminarians gone? Why is a larger church producing fewer priests?

Looking at the hard-news coverage of the Chicago crisis, other questions leap to mind (or to my mind, at least). People keep saying that the "demographics" of the church have changed. This is true, but that only raises more questions that link demographics and doctrine. Hold that thought.

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Wow! Wall Street Journal demonstrates how to cover gay rights vs. religious liberty

Wow! Wall Street Journal demonstrates how to cover gay rights vs. religious liberty

When it comes to gay rights vs. religious liberty, framing is frequently an issue in mainstream news reports.

Too many journalists — unable to keep their personal worldviews to themselves — ditch impartiality for advocacy on this subject matter.

The funny thing is, unbiased reporting makes for much better reading. Right?

I mean, who doesn't enjoy a story with real-life nuance, conflict and intrigue? Enter The Wall Street Journal with a six-month update on the "Utah Compromise": 

Every morning for about the past year, Angie Rice woke up to go to work as a special-education teacher at Roy Elementary School near Salt Lake City, sat on the edge of her bed, and wept.

She then layered four men’s shirts and put on baggy cargo pants to hide her changing shape—and arrived for work in her old identity as a man named Art.

But this fall, because of a new Utah law that protects lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people from being fired for their sexual orientation or gender identity, Ms. Rice, who over the past four years had transitioned from a man to a woman, felt comfortable going to school as herself for the first time.

“That law saved my life,” said Ms. Rice, 53 years old.

In the same county as Ms. Rice’s school, Ricky Hatch, a clerk who opposes same-sex marriage, has been able to continue in his job without performing weddings. A provision in a companion law passed on the same day as the antidiscrimination measure lets him appoint others to perform weddings as “clerk designees”; all have agreed to perform same-sex weddings.

“I don’t want to discriminate as an elected official, but I also don’t want to violate my religious conscience, and this law allows me to do that,” said Mr. Hatch, 48.

Six months after the “Utah Compromise” antidiscrimination law took effect, both gay-rights activists and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints say the law helps preserve the rights of religious believers who oppose same-sex marriage while protecting LGBT people from discrimination. At the same time, new church policies last week barring young children of gay couples from church membership, and requiring disciplinary action for Mormons in same-sex marriages, illuminate the church’s complicated path in its “fairness for all” approach that attempts to separate its teaching from its politics.

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Getting out of civil marriage biz? Tribune details one side of debate in Chicago

Getting out of civil marriage biz? Tribune details one side of debate in Chicago

Several months ago, I heard about an interesting decision made by Father Patrick Henry Reardon, a very outspoken and influential Eastern Orthodox priest up in the Chicago area. After the state of Illinois approved the redefinition of marriage -- including same-sex unions -- Reardon decided that he would get out of the civil marriage business and stop signing secular marriage licenses.

This was, for Reardon, an intensely theological subject and he was most comfortable discussing the topic in those terms. It was a challenge to quote him in ways that were accurate, yet could be included in a column for readers in mainstream newspapers. This was pretty complex territory.

The priest knew, of course, that a U.S. Supreme Court on this subject loomed in the near future and he assumed that it would complicate matters even further, especially in terms of the First Amendment and religious liberty. But the key, for him, was that he was discussing a sacrament of the church and doctrines on which he could not compromise. Thus, I ended my Universal syndicate column on this topic like this:

At his altar, said Reardon, this means, "I cannot represent the State of Illinois anymore. … I'm not making a political statement. I'm making a theological statement."

I also quoted the American leader of the branch of Orthodoxy in which Reardon serves, who, while not directly addressing the issue of civil marriage licenses, made it clear that his church would not be taking part in a major reshaping of marriage.

The upcoming Supreme Court decision could "mark a powerful affirmation of marriage between one man and one woman … or it can initiate a direction which the Holy Orthodox Church can never embrace," stated Metropolitan Joseph, of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America. "Throughout the history of our faith our Holy Fathers have led the Orthodox laity" to unite to "preserve the faith against heresy from within, and against major threats from societies from without."

For me, as an Orthodox layman, the most interesting part of that statement were the words focusing on the church and the theological tensions that are ahead, the part when the metropolitan mentions the struggles to "preserve the faith against heresy from within."

Heresy is not a word that bishops toss around without careful thought.

Now, in the wake of the 5-4 Obergefell decision by Justice Anthony Kennedy and the U.S. Supreme Court, the Chicago Tribune has followed up with a news report about Reardon that does a good job of describing his decision, yet does very little to dig into the thoughts and beliefs of those who either oppose or dismiss his strategy. Consider, for example, this passage in which an Orthodox bishop seems to echo, in reverse, some of Reardon's thinking:

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