One Family's Experience with New Song-Salt Lake
On November 3, 1996, Ivan and Kellie Lewis got married. While hundreds of couples on a national scale went through the same experience on that day, there was something unique about the Lewis' wedding ceremony: the minister wasn't there.
A native of Louisiana, forty-one year old Ivan Lewis grew up in the Bayou State, later living in Alabama and Tennessee. He had been a member of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA). When he moved to Utah, there was no local PCA church to attend, so he joined the Springville congregation of the Presbyterian
New Song-Salt Lake began in 1996, and Ivan started attending there. He had become increasing disillusioned with the PC(USA), keeping a close eye on what Ivan calls "ultra liberal policies." After the refusal of Greater Atlanta Presbytery to discipline a transvestite minister, he desperately wanted to get out of that denomination. In a telephone interview, he stated that he asked Rev. Wade Smith to write the PC(USA) congregation where his membership was, in order that he could transfer. "I asked no less than ten times. He [Wade Smith] told me he had sent for it. After the third or fourth time, he said he hadn't received it. After four or five months I gave up asking for it."
Ivan still attended New Song-Salt Lake for awhile. While appreciative for the teaching at the church, he also expressed disappointment at the way it was delivered, which was reflective of "the coffee house mentality of the seventies." Ivan mentioned the use of video clips of heavy rock and secular movies, such as
Indiana Jones, which would be utilized during public worship; and the fact that profanity was heard more than once in the playing of those film clips.
During his time of attending New Song-Salt Lake, Ivan and Kellie got married. The organizing pastor, Wade Smith, was out of town; so the ceremony was performed by the pastoral assistant, Jeffrey Szakonyi. Ivan said: "Jeffrey did it in proxy of Wade." Kellie tells it this way: "Neither Jeffrey nor Wade was positive that Jeffrey could legally perform the ceremony. Jeffrey had told us that he had performed weddings in his home state of Washington but wasn't sure if his authority carried over to Utah. So, since we were in a bind, and Wade was out of town, Jeffrey went ahead with the public ceremony, and to make sure that it was legal, Wade could sign it later, just to make sure." The assistant signed the marriage certificate as "Pastor Jeffrey Szakonyi," even though he was not ordained at the time. According to Ivan, Mr. Smith signed the document a week or so later, after having the couple take vows in front of him. "Wade was going to
have to sign it for it to be valid in case Utah didn't recognize Jeffrey as authorized," Ivan stated. "He [Jeffrey] didn't know if he had full authority to sign it."
Ila Mae Barker of the Utah County Records Office said that the marriage license (No. 113931), which was the document filed with the county, was signed by Rev. W. Wade Smith as a minister of the Presbyterian Church in America.
Title 30, Chapter 1, Section 6 of the Utah Code says that marriages "may be solemnized by the following persons only: (a) ministers, rabbis, priests of any religious denomination who are: (i) in regular communion with any religious society; and (ii) eighteen years of age or older . . . ." The section further provides that "[a] person authorized under subsection (1) who solemnizes a marriage shall give to the couple married a certificate of marriage that shows the: (a) name of the county from which the license is issued; and (b) date of the license's issuance."
Chapter 1, Section 11 states that "The person solemnizing the marriage shall within 30 days thereafter return the license to the clerk of the county whence it issued, with a certificate of the marriage over his signature, giving the date and place of celebration and the names of two or more witnesses present at the marriage. For failure to make such return he shall be guilty of a misdemeanor." Section 12 provides that both the license and the certificate "of the person officiating at the marriage shall be filed and preserved by the clerk, and shall be recorded by him. . . ."
The Lewis' live in Orem, about an hour south of Salt Lake City, and they no longer attend New Song-Salt Lake. Ivan says, "We just didn't fit in with the folks at New Song. Plus, it was a long drive. Some of the guys are great there, and I wish them all the best!" Kellie, who is a fourth generation Mormon
originally from Alberta, Canada, is a member of the
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS). The couple
alternates between attending services at a local Evangelical Free
congregation and an LDS church.
Mr. Ivan Lewis