Controversial 'Get Them Married' teen retreat cancelled after outcry

Vaughn Ohlman promotes a patriarchal view of marriage.

A controversial retreat aimed at bringing together Christian families who want to find husbands and wives for their children has been cancelled after an outcry against the group that promoted it.

The 'Get Them Married' retreat was scheduled to be held in Wichita, Kansas on premises owned by the Salvation Army. The planned retreat was publicised when it was covered by Raw Story and led to an outburst of criticism as it was said to be promoting an extreme version of patriarchy and child marriage.

The retreat was scheduled to be run by Vaughn Ohlman, an adherent of the 'Quiverfull' movement that advocates large families for Christians.

The Salvation Army denied permission for the retreat to be held there, saying in a statement that the Let Them Marry group had sought permission to use it but that no contract had been signed. It said: "Our decision is based upon our long-standing concern for the welfare of children. At The Salvation Army, we work every single day to provide a safe, caring place for children, many of whom have been left vulnerable due to the actions of adults."

Ohlman promotes early marriage between Christian young people, taking aim at the 'True Love Waits' movement.

Ohlman writes: "While it may sound very spiritual, the idea of getting a wife or husband by a mere avoiding of fornication is neither practical nor scriptural. In order for true love to have successfully 'waited', true love needs to stop waiting at some point. Our young people are not going to be married by a mere 'waiting'. No one has ever been married by such a method, and no one ever could be."

He also claims that fathers have a right to choose a spouse for their child: "We believe that Scripture teaches quite clearly that the father does have the power to choose a spouse for their virgin child; and we see this in several Scriptural examples."

Ohlman also teaches that betrothal is a "binding contract", saying: "It has many of the same obligations as a full-fledged marriage, though not yet consummated. To disavow the betrothal is willful abandonment and/or adultery."

Perhaps his most controversial teaching is his advocacy of "young marriage". He cites Calvin's view that a woman is in "the flower of her age" between 12 and 20, John Gill's figure of 12 and a half and Martin Luther's of 15-18. However, he says: "We do not endorse marriage at ages as young as twelve," and he flatly denies endorsing paedophilia. He adds: "But we are certainly in agreement with the commentators that marriage (in order to be timely and to accomplish its purposes) ought to happen before the age of twenty for almost everyone."

In a response to the criticism directed at his movement, Ohlman wrote denying that the planned retreat was aimed at arranging marriages and reiterating his opposition to child marriages.