“Unequally Yoked”—One Pastor’s Perspective

An article posted on the Spectrum website on June 20, 2023, grabbed my attention because it candidly addressed an issue I’ve wrestled with for my entire ministry—marriage between an Adventist and a Christian of another denomination. The Spectrum article’s writer addressed the subject from the perspective of a single, professional, Adventist woman. By contrast, I’ve wrestled with it from the perspective of an Adventist pastor who has often been asked to officiate at such weddings.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://spectrummagazine.org/views/2023/unequally-yoked-one-pastors-perspective

Is the Bible’s meaning of unequally yoked a reference to An Adventist/ non Adventist couple who are intent on marriage?

Is this really correct? In my view the mere fact that the couple are contemplating marriage despite the dissimilarity in their denomination may be a sign that they have already resolved the issues for themselves and are happy to take the next step of marriage. Could it be that these believers have both pledged themselves to love and be faithful to each other prior to the actual wedding?

Doesn’t rhe passage refer to unbelievers, which I take to mean those who do not believe in Jesus Christ, or the Christian faith at all?
Some one may ask, then, can God bless an Adventist/ non Adventist couple?
Does He frown on such marriages or can His grace sustain this type of marriage?
What will hinder a non SDA member of the clergy from marrying an Adventist- non Adventist couple?
Interestingly, what is the position of non SDA clergy on marrying Adventists with non Adventists? I would love to see the responses from the various denominations and their take on what it means to ne unequally yoked!

There were no SDAs until the 19th century, so the NT authors, editors and translators were clearly not referring to SDAs with their “unequally yoked” comment.

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I’ve read and re-read the passage about being unequally yoked and it doesn’t seem to be referring to marriage at all. It says:

Don’t become unequally yolked together with unbelievers; For what partnerships have justification and lawlessness? Or what fellowships radiance and moral darkness? What agreement is there between Christ and Belail [a demon]? Or what part to a believer with an unbeliever? What agreement has the temple of God [the part of the temple in Jerusalem where God literally resides] with false gods?

For we are an assembly of the living God, as has said God: I will walk in the midst of you, and my dwelling place with be with you [in the temple], and you will be to me as people, and I will be to you as God. - 2 Corinthians 6

In the last verse above, Paul is quoting:

  • 1 Corinthians 3:16: [Himself]: Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?
  • Leviticus 26:12: And I will walk among you, and will be Elohim to you, and ye shall be My people.
  • Ezekiel 37:27: My dwelling place also shall be with them; yes, I will be their Elohim, and they shall be My people.
  • Jeremiah 32:38: And they shall be My people, and I will be their Elohim.

This passage seems to refer to partnerships in general, which marriage could be included in, but marriage is never mentioned. It seems general partnerships would include things like a for profit business, or a charity. Or an employer. Most of us ignore this completely in modern society. We have no problem with the idea of working with or for non-believers.

One thing Paul did write about marriage, which appears to be diametrically opposed to the idea that being married to a non-believer is wrong/an issue, is…

To the rest I say—I and not the Lord—that if any believer has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he should not divorce her. And if any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he consents to live with her, she should not divorce him. For the unbelieving husband is made holy/is sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy/is sanctified through her husband. Otherwise, your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy. But if the unbelieving partner separates, let it be so; in such a case the brother or sister is not bound. It is to peace that God has called you. Wife, for all you know, you will bring the salvation of our god to your husband. Husband, for all you know, you will bring the salvation of our god to your wife. - 1 Corinthians 7

So, the believing spouse makes the non-believing spouse holy, and can bring them salvation?! That’s interesting! I’ve never heard that one preached from the pulpit.

Thank you Pierre-Paul and Tim. I appreciate both of your comments. Tim, you bring focus to a particularly interesting issue- the idea if the unbelieving spouse sanctified by the by the believing partner. Like you, I have never heard that addressed from the pulpiit. That would be a rather interesting presentation.

Still, I would love to hear other denominational views on marriage between individuals from differing Christian denominations. It should make for interesting reading indeed!

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As a pastor who followed church policy and informed my daughter that I could not perform her marriage to a non-Adventist, I have standing to address this question. I understand the risk I took in hurting my relationship to her, her husband, not to mention their relationship to the church. I agree that how we interpret the unequally yoked text could be theological overreach, but consider Christianity’s historic position against marrying outside the church. We align with Catholicism and many other conservative Protestant denominations. The attitudes within traditional Judaism are illustrated by Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof. It has been 7 years since my daughter was married by a friend of the family, a Disciples of Christ minister who came to her rescue and maybe mine as well. Later that same year, the church board overrode my decision not to marry an unyoked couple in the church, the daughter of one of the elders. I dutifully performed the that service to maintain the peace.

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It sounds like you are “unequally” yoked to the church board.

Being unequally yoked is not just about religious belief or identification. It includes every aspect of life - shared household labour, shared decision making, shared child rearing. If two people have different ideas about life issues, they are unequally yoked. Religious identification is just one aspect, and perhaps just a minor one in the scope of all the other life choices.


Do you find support in the bible that indicates the church is correct, that Adventists should only marry Adventists?

I suspect there is absolutely nothing there that indicates such a thing:

  • Even if, somehow, the text in 2 Corinthians applies to marriage - which it does not appear to - it refers to non-believers. Not non-Adventists.
  • All Christians would have been considered believers by Paul - regardless of which church they attended.
  • No one has any way of knowing what a given Christian actually believes. (Many people aren’t even sure what they believe, much less anyone else.)
  • Membership in one club (denomination) or another doesn’t prove anything about what a person believes and so it really isn’t a valid test to see if someone is about to become “unequally yoked”.

Outside the entire church, right? Outside of the faith. Not just the local club. So, yea, don’t marry a non-Christian is a seemingly reasonable tack. But even so, Paul’s advice on what to do if you find yourself married to a non-Christian seems to strongly counter that tradition. It sure seems like, for Paul, the marriage is more important than what the couple individually believe.

When I think about it, the Adventist position is rather a non-starter because being associated with an organized denomination is completely optional for Christians. There are many non-denominational churches that operate on their own. For people from all of those churches, the formula to only marry someone from your denomination doesn’t even make sense, just as it wouldn’t have in the early church, when there were no denominations.

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It ought to be a minor one, but SDAism is largely designed to isolate and separate the SDA gang from society. Many social interactions involve food, drink and weekends. By imposing club rules on these key areas of life, the church sought to create a culture incompatible with society and establish a situation where church members are uncomfortable associating with others, much less dating and marrying outside the club. The system is designed to cause friction between club members and non-club members, and then they proclaim “don’t marry outside the club, since there will be friction over following club rules”.


Sadly this would not be too much of problem with people outside Adventism due to the many things they share. Adventist pride itself in it’s distinctiveness. A Methodist and Anglican for an example would not have to worry about diet, entertainment, day of worship, infant baptism eschatology etc. Yes they will have to decide which church to go to but this conversation is very different than the conversation with Adventist and other Christians.

This is the problem. We need to not make the denominational distinctiveness our barrier to engagement with other Christians. I’m fact I would rather make them optional. I think it would be great for a child to have both a Sabbath and a Sunday service, and understand what the gospel is. There is a fear you may not hear the Christian message but the Adventist message in churches.

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In our 20’s, my wife and I spent about a year in Africa, me working for a French company, she doing volunteer work with some local nuns.

Being “good” Adventists, every meal we had with my coworkers was a reminder that we were not like them and indeed our teetotaling was our way of saying that we thought their entire culture, with wine being served with every course, is a decadent one, deserving of damnation.

Fortunately, my wife and I survived our self-imposed ostracism, abandoned Adventism not long after our return to the states and just last month celebrated 50 years of being equally yoked in that neither of us has spent two seconds regretting the decision to vacate our membership in the SAD-ism club.



I suppose that someone, somewhere thought this policy a good thing when they put it into place, but the egotism revealed by this is breathtaking. Sadly, this is but one of many such societal/church policies, (some informal) that have destroyed more than one happy relationship.

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Thanks for reading my article James and responding - I wish more Pastors had this attitude. I think regardless of a person’s stance on the issue the goal should always be to be present, helpful and kind to couples who are seeking to marry and too often as Adventists we push away instead of engaging with things that may be uncomfortable or nuanced.
I’m grateful that our Pastor had a similar heart and supported me and my husband from the very beginning of our journey. She really modelled Pastoral care to us in a way that represented the best of what Adventism has to offer.

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