What About SAME-SEX Marriages?
By Paul Anderson
I met the bishop when he came for a congregational meeting July 24, 2002. I told him of my appreciation for his father who was helpful to me at seminary. The bishop conducted himself well at a meeting that had to be difficult. After a time of rather polite dialog, in which the pastoral heart of this leader showed itself clearly, he was asked if it was wrong for two people of the same sex to live together. When he responded, “I don’t know,” one could hear gasps throughout the crowd. It was a telling moment. It left no doubt among the hundreds in attendance that the ELCA leaders had lost its voice. The participants knew that the Word of God addressed the issue, but this man seemed to lack either the courage or the conviction to speak it forth as his father would have done thirty years before.
I moved to the microphone and made this observation: “My father was a pastor in the ELC and the ALC for 48 years. Your father was a friend of his, as were two other pastors, one an evangelist in the old ELC. Each of them was clear regarding the issue of homosexuality. There was no debate; the Word of God spoke with authority. These men, now in heaven, have sons who were, or are, bishops in the ELCA. When I met with one of them when I moved to Minnesota to acquaint him with my work at Lutheran Renewal, he was kind, easy to talk with, and pastoral. I appreciated his willingness to allow me to help in the call process. He told me that he supported what I did but that he also supported the Reconciled in Christ community (advocates of the gay/lesbian lifestyle). I said, ‘You’re sure not where your father was.’ He acknowledged that to be the case. The other bishop, moving far from his father’s position, became a strong and vocal advocate for the homosexual lifestyle.”
Then I added, “One generation is all it took. The ELCA can no longer speak to the issues of our day. If the Word of God does not address these matters clearly, then we no longer have any basis upon which to talk with the ELCA leadership.” (And let me say parenthetically that I am not writing this to those with a gay/lesbian lifestyle. If I were, I would take a different approach. This is for church and lay leaders and pastors who need to engage in this issue in a biblical way. I desire that homosexuals experience God’s grace in Christ like anyone else.)
The effectiveness of the homosexual lobby in secular society is obvious. Within a very short time frame homosexuality has moved into the “mainstream”. It is no longer a sore subject. TV programs now feature sit-coms showing the gay life style as an acceptable— and attractive—way of life, often depicting those who disagree as homophobic, intolerant, or simply “not with it.” Jokes and allusions to the gay life are common fare. The same lobby has brought its influence to virtually every mainline denomination. That the official acceptance of homosexuals into the ordained ministry is being voted on at the 2005 ELCA convention is evidence of their successful strategy. If the statement doesn’t pass next summer, it will be voted on four years later.
The 1993 Human Sexuality document in the ELCA was strongly rejected. The Church was not ready. So the leadership bought time by a second document which appeared to be more accepting of a traditional position but which also urged the Church to continue study and dialog. The strategy worked. As the culture became more accepting, so has the Church. The opposition has been worn down.
If we ever needed courage, we need it now. If the Lutheran Church ever needed to stand under the clear and absolute authority of the Word of God, it needs to do so now. We at Lutheran Renewal call on congregations and pastors in the ELCA to speak out without apology or compromise to their denominational leaders concerning what the Church for twenty centuries has believed and is now preparing to discard in one generation. We are not being homophobic. Our fears are much greater than that. We fear the devastation of our society. We fear for the sanctity of marriage. We fear for children who will be raised without a father and a mother in the home. We fear for a Church that can no longer bring truth and grace to homosexuals who desperately need it. We fear the discipline of God for despising His Holy Word. And especially we fear (and grieve) for homosexuals who are left imprisoned in a destructive lifestyle and not offered a clear call—and help—to freedom.
We have been asked where Lutheran Renewal stands. Here is our position:
- The Word of God is our authority. When it speaks, whether through Moses, Jesus, or Paul, it is true. The Bible is not a complicated book to interpret, and the authors are not generally hard to understand. Let them explain themselves. Scripture interprets Scripture more accurately than any commentary or other outside source. Apparent contradictions are probably in the reader’s mind, not in the author’s. The profound love of a merciful and compassionate God is revealed over and over again throughout Scripture by the boundaries he gives for the fulfillment and protection of his beloved creation.
- God defined marriage. It is profoundly important that we find this truth in the first chapter of the Bible. “Male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number…” (Gen.1:27,28). The first recorded purpose of sex is procreation, and that takes one male and one female. Chapter two describes how families are made: “For this reason [because they are different but complementary] a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh” (Gen. 2:24). Union, physical and spiritual, is defined as the coming together of a man and a woman.
- Jesus defined marriage. It is likewise profoundly important that Jesus quoted from both these texts (Gen. 1 & 2) in speaking to the sacredness of marriage between a man and a woman. In His defense of marriage, He went back to the beginning to the first institution created by God. Jesus spoke about the solidarity of marriage in the strongest terms possible (“What God has joined together, let man not separate”), but He excluded same sex marriage in the discussion.
- Paul affirmed marriage in the same way. There is no second-guessing of Scripture on this matter: “Each man should have his own wife, and each woman her own husband” (I Cor. 7:2). Paul, like Jesus, went back to the beginning for his authority (I Cor. 11:8; 1 Tim. 2:13,14). Make no mistake–they knew plenty about homosexuality in their day (I Cor. 6:10). Paul and Jesus were not speaking out of ignorance but out of the inspiration of God.
- All other sexual activity is forbidden. While Scripture consistently affirms marriage as the union of one man and one woman, Scripture condemns the union of two people of the same sex, as it also condemns heterosexual activity outside of marriage or polygamy. Same sex unions are biologically impossible and spiritually forbidden. Any look at the animal kingdom establishes the first fact. And Scripture is clear about the second. It is physically and spiritually dangerous: “Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another” (Rom. 1:26,27). God’s Word does not stutter, and neither should we. If the Scripture and almost two thousand years of church history speak with a united voice, it would be spiritual suicide to alter that call in one generation.
- We all need grace and truth. Jesus said to the woman taken in adultery, “Neither do I condemn you [grace]. Go now and leave your life of sin [truth].” It would not have been either grace or truth to say, “Neither do I condemn you; go and celebrate your sexuality.” Lutherans have been clear historically that there can be no good news without the bad news, that the Gospel without the law is no Gospel, that grace without truth is sentimental, and that truth without grace is brittle. We need both—and we need them today more than ever! May God give us compassion, and may God give us courage!