Lutherans/Marriage questions

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My question has many parts to it. My first part is: how does the Lutheran Church feel about cousin marriage? We did not grow up together and became acquainted as adults. His mother is my father's older sister. We have no problem with it, and from my reading, the Bible does not forbid it, but I am curious as to what the church says about it. My second question is what is requires to be married in the eyes of God? We have prayed together and given our word to God that we will be with each other and no other until death do us part. We have not had a government wedding because of financial reasons, and we have not had one with our family because we are afraid of what trouble it may cause within our close and extended families. We want to do what is right, but we are also trying not to hurt our close family or cost me my ability to go to school. I am very confused and feel lost. Please tell me your thoughts and advice.

Answer
Anya:

Thank you for your question.

I am not certain if there is any Lutheran take on marrying one's cousin.  I believe that we would follow local laws as they are applicable.  In many states, it is permissible under certain circumstances. The basic concern with these laws is children--and most states specify that it is legal if the couple are of a certain age (presumably, so that the woman is past child-bearing age).  Other than that, I would check where you live.

What constitutes a marriage, however, has two parts.  Once again, the various states have their legal definition of marriage, which also entitles one to various benefits as well as responsibilities.  But the second part are the vows the couple give to one another before God.  Those vows of life-long faithfulness and partnership are the core of what we see as a marriage before God.  While I cannot officially tell you that what you are doing is the same as an official marriage, I think it does cover the essentials.  I assume God sees it as valid.

Blessing to you both. I hope that this is helpful.
Martin Eldred

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Martin W. Eldred

Expertise

I have been a Lutheran Christian for 55 years and a Lutheran pastor for almost 27. I can answer most general questions about Luther, Lutheran History, Lutheran Theology, and a Lutheran approach to Biblical Interpretation. I am ELCA, for those who know what that means, and I tend to be moderate theologically. I hope that I can converse with those that are either more conservative or liberal than I, and especially with those who are really just seeking.

Experience

Pastors are "generalists" and generally have a working knowledge on many subjects. We are also used to working with a variety of answers from a variety of people. I teach a great deal, especially in the area ofthe New Testament. I particulalry enjoy the Pauline literature.

Organizations
I have been a member of the Society of Biblical Literature, an international gathering of biblical scholars and teachers, since the late 1980s.

Publications
I have written a few book reviews for the journal, "Lutheran Quarterly."

Education/Credentials
I have a B.A. from Pacific Lutheran University in Religion (Biblical Studies)and a Master of Divinity from Wartburg Theological Seminary, and I am currently completing a PhD in New Testament.

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