Methodists, like most Christian faith communities, regard marriage as an important sacrament, affirming it as a covenant of love, support and “shared fidelity,” according to the Book of Discipline, the church’s basic doctrinal text. Most Methodist churches will hold Christian weddings for non-Methodists, as long as certain requirements are met.
Pastors play a key role in weddings in Methodist churches; they must approve of the program for the wedding, oversee planning for any reception or other festivities and give their consent, based on their counseling of the couple. Whether to perform the ceremony and how to perform it are “the right and responsibility” of a pastor, according to the United Methodist Church. Other clergy may participate in a wedding service, but only at the invitation of the host church’s pastor.
The United Methodist Church does not recognize same-sex marriages, as affirmed in the Book of Discipline. Therefore, weddings performed in a Methodist church must be between a man and a woman. If a pastor agrees to officiate at a same-sex wedding, she may be subject to disciplinary action by the church leadership, according to section 2702.4(b) of the Book of Discipline.
Because Methodist weddings are primarily religious services, the music should reflect that holy purpose, treating marriage as a sacrament as well as a celebration. The church’s official guidelines recommend that the organist or music director work closely with the couple. Within the general guidelines, individual churches can set specific rules. Christ United Methodist Church in Jackson, Tenn., for example, forbids the playing of secular love songs, pop music and, to preserve the beauty of the ceremony, pre-recorded music.
Regardless of the couple’s faith background, weddings in a Methodist church use the liturgy provided in the Book of Worship. This liturgy affirms that marriage is a joining of equals. While Holy Communion is optional, the church encourages participants to view the ceremony as a community sacrament, one in which the congregation play the vital role of blessing and honoring the wedding; in other words, they are not merely an audience. The couple has some flexibility in the choice of specific readings, but they typically use the same forms, the same vows and the same sequences as set out in the liturgy.
- United Methodist Church: The Book of Discipline, Marriage
- United Methodist Church: Infoserv FAQ, Weddings
- United Methodist Church: The Book of Discipline, Chargeable Offenses and the Statute of Limitations
- Ocracoke United Methodist Church: Service of Christian Marriage from the United Methodist Book of Worship
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