PASTORAL GUIDELINES FOR MATRIMONY
Marriage is one of life’s primary experiences. The Christian wedding is an historic ceremony of dedication administered by the church and a ritual of commitment for those entering into marriage (Segler). The church’s ministry is not to conduct weddings. Its ministry is to nurture marriages, before and during the marriage (Dulin). These concepts imply responsibility on both the part of the church and the couple entering into the marriage relationship. The church’s responsibility, therefore, is to provide a wholesome atmosphere and a complete program of discipleship in which youth may rightly mature in matters of dating, becoming engaged, and planning for establishing Christian homes (Segler). It is the responsibility of the couple seeking a Christian marriage to take part in such a program by active participation with the community of faith. Before the Pastor will make a commitment to marry a couple, certain prerequisites are necessary:
Both individuals must possess a clear testimony of their Christian faith.
Both individuals must be active members participating in the full program of a Christian church. At least one of these individuals must be a member of Bethel Baptist Church.
If the church is to nurture such a union, both individuals must, in good faith, plan to remain active members of their church. Preferably the couple will be members of Bethel Baptist Church.
Both individuals must meet the Biblical qualifications for marriage as well as the principles for marriage set forth in the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message. Marriage is therefore the union of a man and a woman.
Both individuals must meet the legal requirements for marriage by the Commonwealth of Virginia.
Both individuals must agree to participate in a minimum of five to six sessions of premarital counseling.
Because the Pastor reserves the right to marry those individuals that he determines are biblically and legally qualified, and adequately prepared for marriage, it is essential that the couple contact the Pastor at least six months prior to the desired wedding date.
The Pastor will not consider officiating the marriage of a couple who are cohabiting. Couples who are cohabiting must first honor God by separating for a minimum of the six month period of premarital counseling prior to the wedding date.