The EPC Book of Order, CHAPTER 5: CHRISTIAN MARRIAGE 5-1 While marriage is not a sacrament of the Church, it is ordained of God and intended to last as long as the couple shall live. God has designed marriage for the mutual help of husband and wife and for the development of their moral and spiritual character, and for the propagation of children who are to be reared in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. 5-2 Who Should Marry: A man and a woman who are able to give their consent may marry unless their blood relationship is forbidden by Scripture. The partners should share a common Christian faith and a common intention to build a Christian home. Christians would be wise to seek as partners those who share a common faith and heritage. 5-3 The Church’s Role in Marriage: Marriage ordinarily should be performed in the place of common worship by an ordained Minister of the Church, and with the family of faith present. In approving the marriage, the Church affirms the divine institution of marriage and invokes God’s blessings upon those who enter the relationship according to God’s Word. As the Church hears the vows a couple make to one another, it should assure the couple of God’s grace within their new relationship. 5-4 The Remarriage of Divorced Persons: It is the divine intention that persons entering the marriage covenant become inseparably united, thus allowing for no dissolution save that caused by death of either husband or wife. However, the weaknesses of one or both partners may lead to gross and persistent denial of the marriage vows, yet only in cases of extreme, unrepentant, and irremediable unfaithfulness (physical or spiritual) should separation or divorce be considered. The remarriage of divorced persons may be sanctioned by the church, in keeping with the redemptive Gospel of Jesus Christ, when sufficient penitence for sin and failure is evident, and a firm posture of an endeavor after Christian marriage is manifested. Divorced persons should give prayerful thought to discover if God’s vocation for them is to remain unmarried, since one failure in this realm raises serious questions as to the rightness and wisdom of undertaking another union. If the Minister has any questions about the readiness of divorced persons to remarry according to these principles, the Church Session should be consulted and its concurrence sought. 5-5 The Minister’s Role in Marriage: It is the duty of the Minister to consult with the couple contemplating marriage. They should be given godly advice concerning the establishment of a Christian home, as well as instruction in the meaning of marriage in God’s sight, and the biblical teachings of the roles, duties, and relationships within the home. The Minister should give such other counsel which seems needful, wise, and helpful that the couple may be well prepared for their new estate in marriage. Should the Minister be convinced that genuine faith is absent, that full responsibility for one another is missing, and that the blessings of God are not likely to rest upon such a relationship, the marriage ceremony should not be performed. It is the duty of the Minister to meet all civil requirements in performing and properly registering the marriage. In addition, the Minister shall report the marriage to the Church Session which shall record it in its permanent records. It is wise for a Minister to keep a personal record of marriages which includes the names, the dates, the place, and the civil body issuing the authority to marry. 5-6 The Service of Christian Marriage: The marriage ceremony is an act of worship. For that reason, it is under the direction of the Minister only and shall always be characterized by reverence throughout. Music should be appropriate to the occasion and the Church Session or the Minister may determine what music is acceptable. Appropriate hymns sung by all are always proper. The decorations and all appointments should not be ostentatious or so call attention to themselves as to distract the worshipers from their duty to God on such a solemn occasion. The service itself should be conducted with dignity and reverence, beginning with prayers for the new home being established and for the members of the new family. Vows shall be exchanged, appropriate Scriptures read, and a charge may be given which sets forth both the duties and privileges of marriage. The Minister shall conclude the ceremony by publicly declaring that the couple is now husband and wife and the benediction shall be pronounced. 5-7 The Blessing of a Civil Marriage: Persons who have been married by a civil authority may desire to have that marriage blessed by a service in the Church, performed by a Minister of the Gospel. It is proper to perform such services, provided all the conditions for a couple preparing for marriage are observed. A marriage should never be sanctioned that does not meet the criteria laid down herein.