Not all families are nuclear

Nor couples straight

After exploring some of the Scriptural roots of heteronormativity and homophobia in Christianity, it is important to consider the ways that these assumptions show up in our liturgies and rituals. Marriage Liturgies, Baptismal promises and many images of Creation and Creator subscribe to images and assumptions which can exclude many family structures. Single parent or guardian households, same-sex couples, non-binary partners and all shapes of family and love should be able to see themselves in the language used in public liturgies.

Jesus had a step dad, and Mary's family tree is anything but nuclear

Nativity Scenes aren't what they seem...

Every Nativity Scene depicts a Holy Family, complete with Mary and Joseph looking down at their new Baby. It is easy to forget, when looking at such a holy scene, that this is not a typical nuclear family with a biological mom and a dad. Joseph is not Jesus' biological father, since it was the Spirit that helped Mary to conceive (Matthew 1:18). Mary is Jesus' biological parent, while Joseph is His Step-Father.

To be clear, this in no way lessens the sanctity of that family, nor is it intended to diminish Joseph's role as Jesus' earthly father (nor is it meant to diminish the vital role of any adoptive parent or step-parent!). To the contrary, it could be said that this non-nuclear detail about the Holy Family actually enhances their sanctity because this makes them more incarnate in this earthly world.

It is a source of comfort that Jesus Christ, Redeemer of the World, comes from a non-nuclear family because from the very beginning, He breaks the "mythical norm"* which seeks to exclude and marginalize God's people. Jesus not only brings about God's love for all of God's people, but He also represents the perfect imperfections of humanity, making His love all the more accessible and present.

*Cheryl Anderson.

Mary's Family Tree is Intentionally Flawed

The Gospel of Matthew includes a genealogy of Mary, the mother of Jesus (notice, it is not a genealogy of Joseph!). The stories attached to the names mentioned in Matthew's genealogy span from incest, infidelity, rape, prostitution and polygomy.

See also: Sex(ism); Jesus' Family Tree

ELW Marriage without Communion, Introduction Option A:

Current Language:

…The scriptures teach us that the bond and covenant of marriage is a gift of God in which a man and a woman are joined as one, an image of the union of Christ and the church…

Alternative Language:

…The scriptures teach us that the bond and covenant of marriage is a gift of God in which two people made in God’s image are joined as one, an image of the union of Christ and the church…

Note: This language appears in many places in the Bible and Marriage liturgies, so one may practice adjustments like this in many other ways.

ELW Marriage without Communion, Introduction Option B:

Current Language:

…The Lord God in goodness created us male and female, and by the gift of marriage founded human community in a joy that begins now and is brought to perfection in the life to come…

Alternative Language:

…When the Lord God Created us, They called Themselves “Us,” saying “Let Us make humankind in Our image.” God is in relationship with Godself, and through the gift of marriage we have the opportunity to feel the depth of that same connection between two people, in love…

In all Wedding Liturgies and Settings:

Instead of he/him; wife/husband, etc:

  • Use the pronouns used by each person to be married

  • Use pronouns for the Godself which reflect their relationship with God, not yours as the Officiant

  • If “husband and wife” are not preferred by the couple, use “partner,” “spouse,” or any other language that is more representative of the people being married.

  • When introducing the couple at the end, ask what titles and order-of-names is preferred by the couple. Do not assume “Mr. and Mrs. Malefirstname Malelastname” is the only choice.

  • Encourage the couple, and guide them if they wish, in finding Scriptures or other texts which are sacred to them for the Ceremony. These texts should inform the commitment they're making to God and one another.