As the U.S. Supreme Court prepares its soon-to-be-announced decision on the legality of same-sex marriage in all 50 states, Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod President Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison is preparing an LCMS response to the high-court decision, a decision he expects will “create an alleged constitutional right to same-sex marriage — contrary to God’s created orders, natural law and the inerrant Scriptures.”
“If the Supreme Court rules that same-sex marriage is legal in every state or must be recognized in every state, what is our response?” Harrison asks in a May 19 letter to all active LCMS clergy.
“We stand fast,” he writes, citing 2 Thess. 2:15. “We redouble our teaching on God’s ordering of marriage and family, intended for protection for all. We take legal action where absolutely necessary. ‘Public remedy, made through the office of the public official, is not condemned, but is commanded and is God’s work, according to Paul (Romans 13).’ ”
That plan, he adds, “fits the nature of the Church: she is enduring and eternal. She speaks Christ’s forgiveness and peace to men and women struggling with same-sex attraction and heterosexual attraction alike, in and out of season.”
In the letter, Harrison also shares some “practical implications,” urging Synod pastors to:
- stay tuned for “potential ramifications” of the Supreme Court decision from the LCMS legal team. “We may discover that there is ultimately no constitutional protection for the Synod, its institutions, you or your congregation. We don’t know, but we will be reporting back to you with our findings.”
- “give serious thought to obtaining counsel [for your congregation] from your own attorney” and consider using the Synod’s “document on marriage policies for member congregations, which offers sample provisions limiting the use of church property to marriages that are consistent with LCMS beliefs.”
- “be prepared to discuss what marriage will look like in the future. Will LCMS pastors eventually be forced, as agents of the state, to perform same-sex marriages? If that happens, will we be prepared to let the state perform the legal marriage ceremony, while we as pastors provide a religious ceremony for those marriages that are in keeping with our confession of faith as Lutheran Christians?
“We must have these discussions as pastors and as a Synod, and we may even need to make decisions at the next Synod convention in the summer of 2016.”
“Know that I, as Synod president, stand with you,” Harrison assures pastors, adding that he doesn’t know what protections the Synod or U.S. Constitution will offer them in the wake of the high-court decision.
“Will we be fined for not performing same-sex marriages? Potentially. Will we be thrown in jail? Maybe. A recently deceased Catholic bishop (Cardinal George) described what I believe we shall now begin to face: ‘I expect to die in bed, my successor will die in prison and his successor will die a martyr in the public square. His successor will pick up the shards of a ruined society and slowly help rebuild civilization, as the church has done so often in human history.’ ”
Acknowledging that “the devil has been defeated” and “the Gospel knows no limits, but proclaims the gracious kingdom of our Lord to all, through Christ’s Word and Sacraments,” Harrison says pastors must not give up but “are called instead to repent, to be ready, to move confidently into the future, come what may.
“We speak the truth in love to all,” he writes. “We share Christ’s forgiveness with each person He sets in our path. And the Lord will work all things for good, even these trying times. He is faithful, brothers. He will do it.”
To read the letter in its entirety, click here.
Posted May 19, 2015