I celebrate with many today, the Supreme Court Decision making civil laws defining marriage as solely between a man and woman, illegal. I support without reservation the legal right for homosexual couples to marry. This is not a new position for me, but one that I have held since the mid 90’s when the issue was first brought to my attention. Therefore, I did not support the 2004 Defense of Marriage Act in Ohio.
I am convinced the interest of the state is served when people join together publicly and legally to create households, support each other in good times and bad, buy homes and plan for retirement, and of course raise families. I have seen no evidence to show that whether the married couple is homosexual or heterosexual impacts the concerns of the state. A recent Supreme Court case from California looked into this question specifically, whether there was a harm done to families or the state in homosexual marriage. The evidence of harm was unconvincing to the Supreme Court as it was in the California courts.
I do not however believe the state should force the church to be involved in gay marriage. Today’s decision, does not do this. The majority of Christians do not believe that God’s intention for marriage includes the union of a man and a man or a woman and a woman. The Southern Baptist Annual Convention held in Columbus this month, made clear that denomination’s opposition to gay marriage. Scripture read literally is clearly on the side of the majority of Christians who oppose gay marriage.
The ELCA and Martin Luther have never advocated that scripture should be read literally, but rather as a vehicle to reveal Christ to us. Martin Luther said that scripture is the cradle that holds Jesus. Scripture read in light of Christ might leave room for a different, even a new understanding of marriage. The ELCA, of which Messiah is a member, is open to a new understanding as am I. Neither I nor the ELCA believe that our local congregations should be forced to accept gay marriage. Our 2009 national decision on sexuality allows for congregations to carefully discern on this issue and promised to respect their decisions. I support this decision fully.
I believe that in light of this Supreme Court decision, it is time for Messiah to decide as a congregation where we fall on this issue. We have gay members and in the next few years or even months we could be asked to take part in their marriages, blessing their union as a community as we do heterosexual unions. This fall, I will lead Wednesday night classes around the topics of homosexuality and gay marriage. We will look at scripture, church tradition and the culture, the three legs of the stool that determines Christian ethics. We will have good, loving conversation, safe for all sides of this topic. They will not be a vehicle to move the congregation to where I want you to be. Nor, will it be a debate, with the loudest voices winning. Instead, we will honestly consider the enormity of this change in Christian understanding of marriage, leaving us to ask together whether this is where grace is leading us. At the end of this study, our council can determine how and what if any changes we want to make as a church.
This is an exciting time to be the church. May God bless us as we are church together. Peace, Pastor Karl