May 12, 2004 (Updated May 17, 2004)
Lutheran Church & gay marriage
law cannot be valid simply and completely in all respects for us. We have to take
into consideration the character and ways of our land when we want to make or
apply laws or rules, because our rules and laws are based on the character of
our land and its ways and not on those of the land of Moses, just as Moses' laws
are based on the ways and character of his people and not those of ours."
The movement for gay marriage has led faith communities around the world to question their position on same-sex marriage, homosexuality, and other issues that touch on core values and beliefs. Some faiths, like the Catholic Church, shut down discussion and silence priests and nuns. Others, like the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC) have engaged in guarded, cautious debate.
Editor Pastor Brad Everett writes in the introduction to the Forum: "In the ELCIC [Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada] two of the more pressing issues are (in order of importance), the understanding of the authority of Scripture and homosexuality. Homosexuality as a social issue came to the fore this past year when various court decisions altered the traditional definition of marriage to include same-sex couples. Homosexuality has been an issue in the church for some time now, with individuals and groups working to change the Church’s traditional teaching on this matter to allow for blessing same-sex relationships, and for the ordination of non-celibate homosexuals."
Everett (and Pastor Karl Johnsen) attempt to ground the discussion in a fundamental Lutheran belief: "the place we begin with any matter like this is Scripture. Sola Scriptura (Scripture Alone), the understanding that Scripture should be the sole authority for the Church in matters of faith and life ...The ELCIC Constitution follows this in Article II, Section 3:
In a previous issue of the Forum (Nov. 2003), Everett relied, once again, on strict adherence to the Scripture, to question whether the Synod should be exploring how to respond to the growing rights and acceptance of homosexuals. The Synod was wrong, Everett writes, to study homosexuality in a conference "giving sessions dealing with science and personal experience equal time with the discussion on Scripture."
Everett almost has his rhetorical gay "non-celibate" Bishop on his knees, and not praying, in an effort to question how such a person can be one of authority. Everett sexualizes a minority group, fixated on this characteristic, and he looks to the Bible for support of ongoing discrimination based on Everett's favoured and selective Biblical sexual prohibitions and controls.
The Living Voice
Vaughn Roste, a writer familiar to readers of this web site, challenges an impoverished and fossilized view of faith in the Forum. Key elements of Lutheran beliefs, Roste argues, would be discarded under a regime of sola scriptura: the Creeds, the doctrine of the Trinity, the theology of Incarnation.
A close look at Biblical principles of marriage reveals that the Lutheran Church has long abandoned Everett's dusty reference to sola scriptura.
"Views have changed," Roste necessarily states the obvious, "as has our concept of marriage. Many claim that this is the result of the Holy Spirit working in our world ... Indeed, to rely solely on Scripture for doctrine is to ignore the possibility that the Holy Spirit has been active in the past sixteen centuries and indeed, may be actively encouraging us today to move beyond a literal reading of the Bible and to refuse to become modern Pharisees."
When it comes to homosexuality, Karl Johnsen writes that "People can be remarkably selective when it comes to which Old Testament injunctions ought to be set aside."
Maybe Johnsen is advocating we avoid all contact with menstruating women (Lev. 15:19-24), and that we stone to death anyone found working on Saturday (Exodus 35:2)?
Roste believes that same-sex marriage helps to align faith communities to the "main current of Scripture": love.
"The God in whom I believe refuses to be constricted to a book, or even the revelation of God in a single human being. I cannot believe that the Bible is God's last and final word to humanity if I also believe that God still speaks to us today ... For Christians who believe that God is ultimately in control of the world, we always need to consider that the changes we see around us in society might be the hand of God at work. The Church should not have a strictly adversarial relationship with the world if God is speaking to us daily through it."
"Our generation has one crucial question to ask itself," Roste says. "Are we going to be inclusive and exemplary of God's unconditional love - or not?"
What you can do