In a traditional marriage ceremony, the officiant addresses the congregation with, “If any man can show just cause why they may not lawfully be wedded, let him now declare it, or else hereafter forever hold his peace.” Even when those words aren’t uttered explicitly in the ceremony, they nevertheless indicate what attending a wedding means. That is why when you receive a wedding invitation, they are almost invariably an invitation to a “celebration” of some sort. Whether they realize it or not, the witnesses are not merely spectating. Unless they raise a verbal protest, the presence of witnesses implies their support of the union. Because our Lord has told us not to celebrate or approve sin, Christians must not attend “gay weddings” (Isa. 5:20; Rom. 1:32).
I have been writing and speaking about gender and sexuality for over decade and a half. Whenever I talk about transgenderism, one of the first practical questions I hear concerns the use of pronouns. Whenever I talk about homosexuality, one of the first questions is about attending “gay weddings.” The answer to both questions is always “no.” While some Christians may have found difficulty arriving at those answers ten years ago, I have noticed that many Christians are far more prepared to give the right answer today. Bible-believing evangelicals seem to have moved toward a settled position against attending a gay wedding.
Or at least that is what I thought. Over the last couple weeks, controversy has erupted online about whether it is right for Christians to attend a so-called “gay wedding.” Two events in particular have precipitated this conversation. The first are some remarks by a prominent evangelical pastor advising a grandmother to attend what appears to be a gay wedding (and then the pastor’s subsequent doubling-down on his position). The second are some reported remarks to the same effect at the recent Mere Anglicanism conference.
I have no questions about what these teachers believe about marriage. Both of them affirm what the Bible teaches about marriage as the covenanted union of one man and one woman. Both of them also affirm that homosexuality is sinful and that “gay marriage” is therefore always wrong.
Nevertheless, both of them also seem to think that attending a “gay wedding” need not imply affirmation of homosexual immorality. They don’t offer a universal permission slip to attend “gay weddings.” Rather, they say that under certain circumstances it may be okay to attend. So long as the couple knows that you don’t approve of the “gay wedding” and so long as the wedding is not masquerading as a Christian ceremony, it could be okay to attend. Under those circumstances, attending the “wedding” could be a way to signal your love for a sinner who needs to be saved.
What are we to make of these arguments? The arguments fail because they misconstrue the public meaning of a wedding ceremony. Attending a wedding is not like attending a concert or a graduation where attendance suggests nothing about your own views on the proceedings. A wedding is a public recognition of a union at which the attendees are assembled as witnesses in order to solemnize the union. Those who attend are there to help celebrate and add their assent and witness to the union. That is the public meaning of attending a wedding ceremony no matter the intention of the one attending.
In this way, it is much like eating food sacrificed to idols and doing so in the context of a religious ritual dedicated to an idol. Yes, there may be a context in which it would be okay to eat the meat (1 Cor. 10:25-26), but Paul warns Christians that they must never eat that meat as a part of a feast dedicated to an idol (1 Cor. 8:10).