I Now Pronounce You…


Mawage. Mawage is wot bwings us togeder tooday. Mawage, that bwessed awangment, that dweam wifin a dweam… And wuv, tru wuv, will fowow you foweva… So tweasure your wuv.

– The Impressive Clergyman

If you glance at the sidebar of my blog, you’ll notice my “Credentials of Ministry.” A word on that…

Way, way, way back in 2003, before I absconded with an open(er) mind, the church I was working at in Missouri licensed me to “marry and bury,” as the saying goes. Between then and my departure from the ministry, I performed two extremely Christian weddings (cord of three strands, Proverbs 31 woman, husbands love/wives submit, and all that).

Then, having packed my clerical bags, I assumed that was all in the past…

…Until a friend asked me, quite recently, if I would be interested in conducting a secular wedding ceremony for his dad. To my surprise, I found myself actually considering it. And in one week and change, I will be doing it.

However, being unsure as to the continued validity of that first license, I decided to update my status by applying for ordination to the Universal Life Church, a process which took about three minutes and which is accepted, with certain exceptions, in most of the fifty states.

So, now, have license, will travel.

The online approach is unlike me. On one level, I feel like I just shopped for a term paper. On another, though, this feels…important. Formality doesn’t carry as much weight with me now as when I was “Pastor Vance”; after almost seven years of what our families would call “Godless marriage,” I find that two strands, tightly woven, don’t really need a third. If the online ordination offered by the ULC allows me legally to bring  two new strands together, then it’s good enough for me.

It feels important because there are people, like me, who believe that the parties involved are more significant than whatever religious legitimation might be brought to bear on the proceedings. A strong commitment between loving individuals, whatever their gender, trumps commitment to any particular theological or philosophical system. The latter is neither necessary nor sufficient to a long and happy marriage, and sometimes only gets in the way.

Also, in the wake of the Supreme Court’s Obergefell decision, it seems to me that someone needs to stand for the right–legalized, perhaps, but still not guaranteed–of all people to build a relationship with the person of their choice. I was once told that, if a same-sex couple looks hard enough, they’re sure to find a pastor willing to marry them. To which I reply: No one should have to “look hard” for permission to celebrate their desire for commitment, as if their love were any less valid than anyone else’s. So, look no further: here I am.

This is a feeble attempt to express my feelings on this matter. And I’m definitely not the A-Team. But if you’re looking for affirmation rather than approval; if you’re more interested in your commitment to one another than commitment to any particular faith; if the only legitimation you need is your love for each other; if any of this applies to you, then I’m your guy.

Now…let us eat cake!!!

9 thoughts on “I Now Pronounce You…

  1. I’m all for cake and two strands, tightly woven. You wrote:

    “No one should have to “look hard” for permission to celebrate their desire for commitment, as if their love were any less valid than anyone else’s.”

    Hear, hear.

  2. Vance, I think you should read a book called How (Not) to be Secular by Jamie Smith. It is a summary of Charles Taylor’s work, and captures what seems to me to be your new outlook on life, what he calls exclusive humanism. The idea that we can create enough meaning along the x-axis of life where we are slowly shutting out the need for transcendence along the y-axis.

    It’s questionable whether or not we can really reason away transcendence.

    1. It’s funny; I don’t consider myself secular at all. I’m actually much more attuned to matters of spirituality than I was before leaving the Christian church. In fact, if I had to self-identify, I would call myself a highly religious pseudo-atheist humanist with strong Buddhist leanings. There’s a mouthful… :0)

      I’m not interested in reasoning away transcendence. I am interested in properly defining it. There is definitely an element of the transcendent in our daily lives, but I think it is an emergent transcendence rather than a convergent one–which is to say, I think whatever spiritual truths there are emanate from us and are reified through common usage. This doesn’t make them less valuable or significant in my mind; if anything it makes them more so.

      BTW, I think the shoe fits both feet: perhaps I can’t “argue away transcendence,” but is it any more possible or convincing to argue it into existence?

      (We need to get together again sometime. I miss our talks…)

      1. Vance! I miss our talks as well. Thank you for the reply.

        I’ll quote from James K.A. Smith, who summarizes three forms of secular:

        Secular 1 – “A more ‘classical’ definition of secular, as distinguished from the sacred – the earthly plane of domestic life. Priests/sacred and Butchers,Bakers,Candlestickmakers/secular.”

        Secular 2 – “A more ‘modern’ definition of the secular as a-religious – neutral, unbiased, ‘objective,’ – as in a ‘secular’ public square.”

        Secular 3 – “Taylor’s notion of the secular as an age of contested belief, where religious belief is no longer axiomatic. It is possible to imagine not believing in God.”

        It is the last definition of secular I am talking about, which Taylor says is defined by “exclusive humanism – A worldview or social imaginary that is able to account for meaning and significance without any appeal to the divine or transcendent.”

        Am I incorrect when I read you saying that you are not reasoning away the transcendent, but that the transcendant begins within us? If so, this seems to be a natural, rather than supernatural, order that defines your reality. (sorry to keep quoting from my book, but this is what Taylor calls the Immanent Frame – “A constructed social space that frames our lives entirely within a natural (rather than supernatural) order. It is the circumscribed space of the moder social imaginary that precludes transcendance.”)

        Anyway, I want to talk to you about it in person sometime. I want to know what turned you off of Christianity, and away from the church.

  3. I’ve posted a post once before saying I’ll make cake! So… I’ll be in on that!
    PS I didn’t find anything feeble. It was all very nicely put. 🙂

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