Getting out of the marriage business?

Michael Paulson of The Boston Globe has a story that begins:

“In a novel approach to the tensions that have accompanied the same-sex marriage debate in many religious denominations, the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts this month will consider getting out of the marriage business.

A group of local Episcopal priests, saying that the gay marriage debate has intensified their longtime concern about acting as agents of the state by officiating at marriages, is proposing that the Episcopal Church adopt a new approach. Any couples qualified to get married under state law could be married by a justice of the peace, and then, if they want a religious imprimatur for their marriage, they could come to the Episcopal Church seeking a blessing from a priest.”

I am not ready, and perhaps not qualified, to discuss the theological merits of the argument that these priests are making. But as someone who is always looking for way to get unchurched people to cross the threshold of our churches, can I say that this strikes me as a truly terrible idea? Why should we pursue a strategy that would result in fewer people turning to us at important times in their lives? Why would we want to reduce the number of occasions on which people see us doing the sort of thing that we typically do extremely well?

And while I am reeling off rhetorical questions, would anyone like to bet me that a move like this would be enormously unpopular with the people in our pews, regardless of their views on gay marriage?

(Hat tip to Kendall.)

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