Considering the climate of our society, one which unfortunately is growing rather disinterested in Christ and His Church, it is becoming more and more common for folks to call upon the Church and her pastors only as it suits them. This is especially true when it comes to Baptisms, the holy estate of Marriage, and funerals.
Initially, it is good to be reminded that while one is a Sacramental act (Baptism) and the other two (funerals and marriages) are not, all three are gifts from a loving Savior and are administered according to the Biblical mandates establishing them.
In the case of Baptism, the mandate is two-fold. Christ declares in Matthew 28:19-20 that Baptism is comprised of both the actual baptism and the teaching that either precedes (adults) or follows (children). In the case of Baptism, with regard to infants and young children, if the intent on the part of the parents is merely to baptize but not to raise the child in the faith as Christ instructs, then there is much for the parents to consider and of which to become convinced before the pastor may rightly and faithfully administer the Sacrament.
In the same sense, there is much to be considered with regard to Christian marriages and funerals.
In the case of marriage, for the pastor to be called upon, it first requires that at least one of the betrothed be a member of Our Savior Evangelical Lutheran Church in Hartland, Michigan, and be in full agreement with the doctrines of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod believed, taught, and confessed at Our Savior’s altar. Second, it would be expected that a regular life of faith will have been observed of this member. If this is not the case, then a commitment to such would be required. At a minimum, such a commitment would involve attendance by both the bride and groom in pre-marital classes (3 sessions) as well as participation in the Adult Membership class (approximately 15 sessions) taught by the pastor.
It is certainly understood that many times the children of faithful families of the congregation follow careers and move away while still retaining a relationship with their home congregation. We understand and rejoice in this Godly bond, and so it is left to our pastor to communicate with the current pastor of the one(s) making the request regarding pre-marital coursework, ceremony participation, and/or facility usage so that all is accomplished in decency and good order.
With regard to funerals, similar levels of discernment are used, although it should not be expected of the congregation or her pastor to preside over funerals or provide parish resources (facility usage for luncheons, etc.) for deceased non-members or inactive members.
“Non-member” is defined among us in a two-fold sense. First, a non-member does not display a regular life of faith in connection to the parish of Our Savior or another Christian congregation and therefore, funeral services provided by a funeral home would be more appropriate. Second, a non-member may be someone who, while not a member of Our Savior Evangelical Lutheran Church, is nevertheless a faithful member of another Christian, namely Lutheran, congregation. In such circumstances, funeral presiding and facility usage is left to the discretion of the pastor.
“Active membership” is currently defined among us as any baptized and/or confirmed member who attends holy worship at least once every six weeks.