Genesis 2:24- for this reason, a man will leave his father and mother and be reunited to his wife and they will become one flesh.
Mark 10:19- therefore, what God has joined together, let no man separate.
Article 45(2) of the Constitution of Kenya 2010: every adult has the right to marry a person of the opposite sex, based on free consent of the parties.
A wedding ceremony is normally filled with pomp and splendor as all and sundry turn up to rejoice the unification of two people. For some people, it is the time to put on their best garb and to others, it is a heaven-sent opportunity to interact and ‘eat rice.’ Most importantly, to the bride and groom, it is the day of their dreams. However, sometimes, the dream never comes to fruition due to circumstances that they either have created themselves or ones that are beyond their control; such as when one party fails to show up.
Recently, everyone was puzzled by the situation in Nakuru where a couple had looked forward to the big day which never came to pass. This was because the pastor refused to solemnize the wedding. He allegedly compelled the couple to undertake medical tests thrice. And in the last test, he sent them to a clinic of his choosing that brought different results. As a result, he failed to officiate the wedding citing several grounds such as: it was past six and legally the wedding could not be conducted, the medical tests results and that he was following God’s will not to officiate the wedding. The couple, parents and the visitors were upset by this.
The refusal by the pastor and the reasons he suggested have elicited fierce debate on many platforms. Some has supported him since others have considered his conduct appalling. In this article, I shall try to look at the reasons referred to by the pastor and attempt to look at them both legally and Biblically, then assess whether they are justifiable.
Compulsory medical testing.
It was alleged that the pastor compelled the couple to undertake some medical test. And in the last test, the couple was to go to a clinic elected by the pastor. This is illegal. Under the HIV & AIDS Prevention and Control Act, section 13, no person shall compel the other to undergo a HIV test. Section 14, no person shall be compelled to undergo testing as a precondition or continued enjoyment of among other grounds marriage. Simply put, you cannot force another person to undergo a test to get married. Having dealt with the first justification, it is important to understand about Christian marriages and see whether the pastor was right in cancelling the marriage.
Conduct of Christian marriages.
The Marriage Act governs marriages in Kenya. Under section 6, a Christian marriage is one of the marriages recognized under the Act and part III which provides how it should be conducted. In addition, under the Marriage (General Rules) Rules 2014, a wedding can only be conducted between 8 am and 6 pm. The main thing we can pick out from there is that the authority conferred to a pastor is to receive any objections about the marriage and sign the marriage certificate together with the couple and send it to the registrar. Having seen his authority given, we should then see if he was justified in his refusal.
To begin with, the authority to conduct a marriage comes from the Attorney General; that is, it is delegated responsibility. That is, the pastor can only act to the extent of the authority given by the Attorney General. He cannot go beyond that. This does not mean that the pastor cannot postpone the wedding due to reasons beyond his control such as a drunk bride or groom or even death of one of the parties to the marriage. He still has to get the parties’ consent. The pastor stated that in his defense, it is either you follow God’s way or not. Nonetheless, God through the bible has commanded us to obey the authorities. In Romans 13:1, everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. In verse 2, so, he who rebels against authority is rebelling what God has instituted…and they will bring judgement against themselves. The authority to conduct the wedding ceremony came from a competent body and therefore, he being an ardent servant of God, he has to act as per the mandate given. Then, that brings us to the next question on whether the pastor can cite his moral convictions to prove his actions.
Can he adduce his moral convictions?
Someone could argue that it was against his morality or conviction to officiate the wedding. However, if a society is ruled contingent on the moral convictions of someone, we would have a deeply divided society. This is because every person has what he perceives to be right or wrong. And that is why the law comes in. It sets the requisite limits of what makes up acceptable and non-acceptable conduct. This however does not mean that the law is not influenced by morality. Indeed, morality influences some laws.
In this case, the pastor cannot adduce his personal reasons to justify non-compliance with the law.
The refusal by the pastor to officiate the wedding cannot be justified by any reason whatsoever. His actions are unfair to the couple and the families of the couples. The church should be an emblem of impartiality where all are welcomed to the kingdom. Even if the medical tests produced results that showed otherwise, the church should inculcate these members and teach them the right ways. The Constitution under Article 27 prohibits discrimination on grounds such as health status. Then, the church should emulate Jesus who welcomed even sinners to the Kingdom of heaven. No one should be forced to undergo medical tests or have their wedding cancelled due to some personal reasons by the person officiating it. Despite all these, the couple forgave the pastor in an interesting turn of events.
Nevertheless, if the pastor had preferred not to formalize the nuptial, he should have communicated to the duo earlier to avoid such events. Weddings are expensive. And having someone call off your wedding means that you will have to start the process again. Probably the couple will choose to do a small wedding…that is their discretion.
Undeniably, what God has joined together, let no man separate.
*image credits Amazon.com