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“Now you must raise your children up in a world where that union of man and box turtle is on the same legal footing as man and wife…”
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Posts for August, 2013

Do Brethren marry?

Timothy Kincaid

August 20th, 2013

There is an article on centredaily.com about the mayor of State College, Pennsylvania, hosting same sex marriages for licenses issued by Montgomery County clerk Bruce Hanes. It’s a nice piece, but I did a double-take when I read the following:

The couple, from Bushkill, Pike County, were married Monday morning at the home of State College Mayor Elizabeth Goreham. They received a marriage license in Montgomery County on Thursday and immediately made arrangements for the ceremony.

Davis and Scalzo were married by the Rev. Ken Kline Smeltzer, from a local Church of the Brethren.

This caught me by surprise. It was not my impression that ministers with the Church of the Brethren could officiate at same-sex marriages.

The Church of the Brethren is one of the three historic pacifist churches (Quakers and Mennonites being the other two). There are about 1,000 churches with about a quarter of a million congregants, mostly in Pennsylvania and the Virginias. They believe in simplicity in worship and life, service to others, sole adherence to the New Testament, and originate from an evangelical tradition.

They also are non-hierarchal and believe in a “priesthood of all believers”. Yet even though congregations tend to be autonomous, this is a rather aggressive step outside the proclaimed shared doctrine. It will be interesting to see if Rev. Smelter’s decision is accepted as a matter of “unity in diversity” or whether some within the denomination will seek to restrain the officiation at same-sex marriages.