"Our Long History of Marriages" by Nan Paget
Our long history of marriages in this church

My first knowledge of this church was as the place where my parents were married in 1926.  They were at Stanford,
or rather my dad had left Stanford and had just taken a job as reporter for the S.F. Examiner. They heard from fellow students that the Swedenborgian Church in S.F. was a good place to be married, so went to the church on O'Farrell St., where they were told to go to the other church at Washington and Lyon Sts.   So they went there and got married, on my dad's 24th birthday, March 23, 1926.

At that time and for many years,  the S.F. Swedenborgian was the second most popular church in the nation for
weddings-- after the Little Church Around the Corner in New York. Currently, our Wayfarers' Chapel in Southern Calif. performs
many more weddings than we do.  However, they are not a parish church and are not allowed to become one.

We have always considered this part of our ministry to the community-- and have always offered this service to those who came from different religious traditions, or had no tradition of their own.

This has been one of the major ways to bring in new members.  Many or most of our current members came into the church from weddings. Rev. Jim Lawrence made it a point to marry and befriend couples living nearby.

Back in 1991, when I was on the church committee, the question arose of performing gay blessings, or ceremonies of commitment.  One of our ministers was all for it, the other was a little dubious.  We voted to do it, and later Rev. Jim
(the leery one) said he felt it was the right thing.  We did these (spiritual, not legal marriages) for many years, and drew new
members (and active ones) from these ceremonies as well. These included recent members/chairs of the church committee,
as well as some who became students at Swedenborgian House of Studies and were then ordained.

When Mayor Gavin Newsom promoted gay marriages four years ago, Rev. Rachel greeted this with joy in our service, and was
applauded.  While I don't think she performed any in our church at that time, she did so this year,  following the Supreme Court
decision, and even offered them free for a few days before her retirement.

Meanwhile, our North American church took up this question, and at our 2004 annual convention, passed the following resolution:

As a result of changing legal status, a growing awareness of our own social justice policy, and a desire to be led by God, churches and individuals have requested guidance from the Council of Ministers and the Denomination on same-sex marriage. During the 2003 Convention the Council of Ministers appointed a committee to prayerfully examine our theological, spiritual, and practical response to the question of same-sex marriage. This [2004] convention, the Council has met and discussed the work of the committee and passed the following motion for consideration by Convention.

The Council of Ministers supports and recommends to Convention the adoption of the following  resolution:       Denominational Statement on Same-Sex Marriage

With humility and prayerful willingness to be led by the Lord, and in love toward the neighbor, the Swedenborgian Church of North America, a Christ-centered church that affirms religious pluralism, recognizes the goodness of love in many forms. Wherever love is, God is there too, "for God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them" (1 John 4:16). We also affirm our fundamental human right of freedom of choice; we affirm the right of each individual to choose his or her life partner, and to do so within a committed relationship based in love and faith toward the Lord, and in love and fidelity toward one another. We affirm that in a democratic and free society, adult persons should be free to enjoy the same basic legal rights within a committed and faithful relationship, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, race, religion, or social status. We affirm that the presence of hatred, discrimination, homophobia, and selfishness are against God's will as we perceive the Divine with and amongst us.

Therefore, we do so declare and affirm that couples, irrespective of sexual orientation, deserve the right to legally join themselves together in a union of love called marriage.

We do this with the conviction that marriage entails lifelong mutual trust and strict fidelity to one partner, for better or for worse, and the Church will offer its ongoing support to the couples it has united. We acknowledge that there are differences of opinion within our church regarding usage of the term "marriage" for same-gendered couples, and we affirm the goodness of a diversity of opinion. As members of the Lord's New Church on earth (specifically within General Convention) whose hearts enjoy deep affections for the truth of God found in the Holy Bible as illuminated by the beautiful doctrines of Emanuel Swedenborg, we affirm the importance of continued good scholarship and deep, careful, spiritually sensitive, compassionate thinking and dialogue. No individual or congregation will be required to bless same-sex marriages in the Swedenborgian Church. The Church respects the judgment of those who decide to bless these relationships by providing such rites for use within the Church. The Swedenborgian Church, therefore, lends its support to ministers and congregations who, as a result of their own discernment processes, decide to offer their services and sanctuaries to people, irrespective of sexual orientation, who wish to join themselves together in holy marriages.

Resolution passed 75-13, July 11, 2004, in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada, by the delegates to the annual convention of the General Convention of the Swedenborgian Church of North America.

I addressed the delegates following the reading of the resolution and after some remarks by ministers involved on the committee. I mentioned that I had been a member of the San Francisco church since 1957, that we were widely known as a wedding church at least since 1926 when my own parents were married there, and that we had probably done thousands of weddings in years since then. I said that I was a member of the church council in 1991, when the question of our ministers performing civil unions or "gay blessings" arose, and that we had voted then to allow our ministers, Jim and Rachel, to perform them if they wished. I said that this policy has not harmed our church, nor has it harmed our community.

No one spoke against the resolution, and it passed 75-13, without further discussion.

Nan Paget


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