Saturday, November 8, 2008

Let's start at home - Lutheran discussion on Proposition 8

For those unfamiliar with the acronym, "LCMS" stands for Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, a group based in...Missouri with 2.4 million members (as I previously noted). So, as a follow-up to a previous post, I thought I'd search for LCMS-related material related to California's Proposition 8.

I've shared the link before, but I don't know if I've ever quoted from the document before. To be technical, the document does not specifically address Proposition 8, but it does address the California Supreme Court decision earlier in the year that recognized same-sex marriages in California.

Anyway, here's part of the document "Statement in Response to California Supreme Court Ruling on Same-Sex 'Marriage,'" issued under the name of LCMS President Dr. Gerald B. Kieschnick:

Statement from the President of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod
in Response to California Supreme Court Ruling on Same-Sex “Marriage”
June 24, 2008

The recent decision of the California Supreme Court legalizing same-sex “marriage” highlights the downward spiral of moral values that is becoming so prevalent in our culture. This most recent action contravenes not only the Judeo-Christian values that have defined the moral compass of this great nation, but also the laws of nature and the natural reproductive process.

In the face of such moral decline, The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) has consistently upheld the Bible-based values that designate “marriage as the lifelong union of one man and one woman (Genesis 2:2–24; Matthew 19:5–6)” (2004 LCMS Convention Resolution 3-05a, attached. All subsequent quotations are from this resolution). The LCMS has consistently held that “homosexual behavior is prohibited in the Old and New Testaments [of Holy Scripture] (Leviticus 18:22, 24; 20:13; 1 Corinthians 6:9–20; 1 Timothy 1:10) as contrary to the Creator's design (Romans 1:26–27).”

As a Christian body in this country, the LCMS has the duty and responsibility to speak publicly in disagreement with this action of the California Supreme Court. In the present context we cannot be silent, since such silence “could be viewed as acceptance of the homosexual lifestyle.” Accordingly, we as a church body urge our leaders, members, congregations, and all Christians, “to give a public witness from Scripture against the social acceptance and legal recognition of homosexual 'marriage.'”

While this occasion calls us to declare that homosexual behavior is both unnatural and sinful, (see Leviticus 18:22; 20:13; Romans 1:24–27), we also recognize that it is necessary to respond to these “sexual sins with the same love and concern as all other sins, calling for repentance and offering forgiveness in the Good News of Jesus Christ when there is repentance.”

“The Gospel declares that Jesus Christ is the atoning sacrifice for the sins of the world (1 John 2:2) and that Christ, who knew no sin, was made to be our sin so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21). It is the church's proper evangelical work to proclaim the reconciliation of the sinner to God in the death of Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 5:18–19) in a spirit of compassion and humility, recognizing that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by His grace, through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus (Romans 3:23–24).”

Finally, we pray that all people, especially men and women properly united as husbands and wives, will honor God's divinely ordained relationship of marriage. And we pray that all husbands and wives will “give thanks to God for the blessings of marriage, lead a chaste and decent life, and each love and honor one's spouse.”

Dr. Gerald B. Kieschnick, President
The Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod

"Transforming lives through Christ's love ... in time ... for eternity ..." John 3:16-17

The document then quotes from the 2004 resolution on the matter, but if you really want to read a bunch of whereas'es you can go here.

On October 23, the LCMS went a step further:

Dr. Gerald Kieschnik, president of the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod (LCMS) denomination, issued a statement Wednesday announcing the LCMS’s commitment to support marriage amendments on the ballots in three states Nov. 4....

He also urged Christians to educate and inform themselves on the issues, but made it clear that he was not telling people how to vote. Instead he emphasized that the issue of defining marriage was an important one, and one that would affect generations to come.

Concerning the church’s role in such battles, Kierschnik said that “when it’s not necessary for the church to speak, it is necessary for the church not to speak,” but that he believed that confronting the issue of the definition of marriage was not one of those times. He urged Christians to let their voices be heard on the issue and to “cast [their] vote according to their conscience on Nov. 4.”

Other than that, I didn't find a huge amount of LCMS discussion in support of Proposition 8, and I couldn't find any LCMS discussion against Proposition 8. (There are certainly Lutherans who oppose Proposition 8, but they did not identify themselves as part of this particular synod.) Zion Lutheran Church did have a page about Proposition 8 that quoted Kierschnik, but it has been taken down.

For the record, the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod is not the largest Lutheran group in the United States. The largest group, with nearly 4.8 million members, is the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). While I could not find a Proposition 8 statement on the ELCA website, and the ELCA's Lutheran Office of Public Policy - California issued no recommendation (either pro or con) on Proposition 8, Mark Holemrud, ELCA Bishop for Northern California and Nevada, did make a "Here I Stand" statement:

[C]lergy and religious leaders from a variety of traditions came together on the steps of San Francisco City Hall to speak out against California proposition 8, a proposed constitutional amendment which would alter the state constitution to strip the right of marriage from same-sex couples....

I was particularly pleased to see a strong Lutheran turn out, both among seminarians, laity, and ordained clergy. Perhaps most uplifting was seeing ELCA Bishop of Northern California and Nevada Mark Holmerud (the guy in the purple shirt) boldly denouncing proposition 8 and declaring his support of same-sex couples.

But it's not just a northern California thing. The Los Angeles Times published this before the election:

More than a dozen Lutheran ministers are to appear after services today at St. Matthew's Lutheran Church in North Hollywood to urge a "No" vote on the measure, which would define marriage in the state Constitution as between only a man and a woman.

The St. Matthew's website is here, by the way.

And there's the Wisconsin Synod. Here's the closest thing that I found to a political statement:

Unless you have been living in a cave somewhere, you might have noticed that we are about to hold an election in our country. Across the United States on Tuesday, citizens will be choosing people to represent them at all levels of government.

We recognize the special blessings that we have in this country, highest among them the freedom to worship God and proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ without restriction or limitation. As Christians, we also recognize the responsibilities we have to exercise our citizenship and to participate in the process of choosing those who will lead and represent us.

We often pray for godly leaders and good government. We recognize how a society benefits when the government faithfully carries out its responsibilities to protect the lives and promote the well-being of its citizens. As we recognize and pray for those blessings, it's important for all of us to participate in choosing those leaders by voting. This Tuesday, please take the time to cast your vote.

Serving in Christ,
Mark Schroeder

However, while I couldn't find evidence of a political position on the issue, there is a theological position. For what it's worth, Barack Obama holds the same position theologically (as Rick Warren is fond of noting), but opposed Proposition 8 politically.

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