ceremony vs. reception

TIME magazine has an interesting piece on the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission conference in Nashville. This paragraph caught my attention:

“Russell Moore, president of the ERLC, offered a nuanced approach to the practical challenges of changing sexual ethics. Moore said he would not attend a gay friend’s wedding ceremony because that would involve participating in their marriage vows, but he would attend their wedding reception.”

I have the highest respect for Russell Moore, I’d even call it a man crush, so I was surprised that he would attend the reception for a gay wedding. I don’t have the context of Moore’s comments, and I may be missing something important, but it’s still worth thinking about the difference between attending a gay wedding and its subsequent reception.

Here’s my first take:

It seems inconsistent to applaud the pastry chef for not baking a cake for the reception, and then to show up at the reception where this cake would be served. A thinking chef might wonder why he risked his livelihood to avoid a party that his pastor attends. The rank and file tend to be one step behind their leaders, so if pastors are attending wedding receptions, they can hardly be surprised if their parishioners are providing the flowers and pastries for it.

I also wonder what Moore would say to the happy couple at their reception. “Congratulations?” Would he buy them a congratulatory present? What would he write on the card? It would be difficult to say something meaningful that doesn’t in some way support their marriage.

Moore is right that attending a marriage ceremony is participation in the wedding vows. But isn’t the reception a celebration of those vows? If homosexual marriage is wrong, how could a Christian celebrate that?

Still, I appreciate Moore’s impulse to love. Last semester a student said that when asked by her gay neighbors to attend their wedding and reception, she declined, but reluctantly. That is pitch perfect. We decline to support or celebrate the act, but we love them and will always faithfully serve them. We’ll even have the new couple over for dinner, not to celebrate their union, but to get to know them better.

These are my initial thoughts. Yours?

3 Comments

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  1. Gosh. Head of a pin stuff. What if he turned up after the vows, but before the pastor says “You may kiss”. What if he turned up, but shut his eyes very tightly during the vows? What if you went to the reception but did not eat any of the cake?

  2. Mike is absolutely right. Yes, love sinners but don’t participate in their sin. Neither is this “head of a pin stuff.” Paul’s point in 1 Cor. 10:1-22 is that it is sin to eat the cultic meal in a pagan temple even though eating meat in and of itself is of no consequence. But eating meat in that context is to participate in the pagan significance of that “eating of meat” regardless of one’s knowledge of “meat is merely meat” or one’s intention. A wedding reception is always a celebration of the marriage. While we can love homosexual friends we can never celebrate with them over their sin. To do so not only dishonors God but fails to press the gospel upon them. In short, it’s disloyal (to God) and unloving (toward our friends).

  3. Maybe he just loves to eat wedding cake. I do (not a pun).

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