Central Texas man questioning legality of his marriage is out of luck

BELTON, Texas (KWTX) A Central Texas man on the brink of divorce after a three-year marriage questions whether the ceremony, performed at the Full Gospel Refuge Church of God, was ever legal to begin with.

The Full Gospel Refuge Church of God is listed on county records, has a Facebook page, and its pastor says it has about 20 members who meet twice a week. (Photo by Chelsea Edwards)

The church is tucked behind a home where a repair shop used to sit, and that is part of the problem for James Wolfe.

"I do not believe it's a church," he said.

"We went and got the marriage license, then we didn't have a ceremony or nothing,” he says.

“(The pastor) just signed the marriage license and said, ‘you go consummate the marriage.’"

He says the pastor never proved he was a licensed minister, but in Texas, officiants don't need to register or show any documents in order to perform a marriage ceremony.

An officer of a religious organization may perform the ceremony, and it doesn’t matter where church is held, who or what is worshipped or whether services involve rituals such as communion.

And the Bell County Clerk’s Office, which issues marriage licenses, says it doesn't cross-check for licensed officiants.

It's actually up to religious organizations to determine who can perform marriage ceremonies.

The Full Gospel Refuge Church of God is listed on county records, has a Facebook page, and its pastor, who declined an interview, says it has about 20 members who meet twice a week.

He says he's been licensed for more than two decades.

Wolfe says his wife has sent the divorce papers.

"We argued. What couple doesn’t?” he says.

“That is the reason why we are separated and everything right now."

But because his marriage license and his marriage are valid, he'll ultimately have to sign on the dotted line- just like everyone else.