By Adriane Dorr
Calling on the LCMS to be faithful and bold in its teaching regarding biblical marriage, Princeton University law professor Dr. Robert P. George noted, “They [churches] are all we’ve got. In the churches, we need to restore the basic idea of marriage.”
George spoke to 175 pastors, church workers and lay leaders — gathered in Mundelein, Ill., Aug. 14-15 — during a first-of-its-kind conference called “Speaking the Truth in Love: A Compassionate Response to Same-Sex Attraction and Same-Sex Marriage.”
“Are we willing to say hard things? We have to tell the truth,” George said. “Marriage is the kind of good that can be chosen and meaningfully participated in only by those who have a basic understanding of it, [who understand] the idea that marriage is not just a romantic relationship for as long as it lasts.”
George, speaking on “Natural Law, Marriage and the Common Good,” was the keynote speaker at the event, which was sponsored by DOXOLOGY, an LCMS Recognized Service Organization that provides spiritual and psychological care for LCMS clergy. (Learn more at www.doxology.us.) The goal of the conference, DOXOLOGY’s Executive Director for Spiritual Care Rev. Dr. Harold Senkbeil said, was “to learn to speak compassionately yet faithfully regarding sexuality and same-sex attraction in our vocations as pastors, educators, parents and grandparents.”
Other presenters included: Dr. Beverly Yahnke, DOXOLOGY’s executive director for Christian Counsel, who also is professor of Psychology and chair of Social Science at Concordia University Wisconsin; the Rev. Bart Day, executive director of the LCMS Office of National Mission; the Rev. Dr. Gregory Schultz, professor of Philosophy at Concordia University Wisconsin, Mequon; and the Rev. Dr. Lucas Woodford, senior pastor of Zion Lutheran Church and School, Mayer, Minn.
In an effort to help pastors and church workers unsure of how to care for those struggling with same-sex attraction, Senkbeil explained, “Marriage is a picture of the union between Jesus and His bride, the church. That is why, for the Christian, same-sex unions are not possible. … It’s not hatred or bigotry but a matter of faithfulness to God who made us all.”
“Our job is to speak truth in love regarding homosexual behavior,” he noted, “that this is not in harmony with God’s design while showing them how to deal compassionately with this sin … with a forgiving heart. Our sexual identity is not a mere matter of having different appendages and different plumbing. It is our most basic vocation, a holy calling to use our masculinity or femininity in service of the neighbor as a faithful child of God, leading a chaste and decent life whether married or single.”
Yahnke focused on building up and restoring relationships and families hurting or broken due to same-sex attraction. Encouraging attendees to think counter-culturally, she reminded those gathered, “We aren’t anti-gay. We are pro-children, pro-family. The church is not anti-homosexual; it is anti-homosexual behavior. We have the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and for the people in our churches who are living celibate homosexual lives, we want to wrap the Gospel of Jesus Christ around them.”
LCMS President Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison, unable to attend the conference in person, surprised the group by joining via video conference, acknowledging that same-sex attraction is “obviously a very significant issue, and we know, in the church, this area will continue to provide challenges for us. My dream is that we see a Recognized Service Organization arise to help the church deal with these issues.”
“We have the balm of the Gospel that forgives us,” he said. “Jesus comes only for sinners, those who are struggling, those who are in need. And the beauty of Jesus is that He never turns down anyone who comes to Him for help.”
DOXOLOGY staff indicated that they are hopeful that the conference achieved more than simply relaying information and instead equipped attendees with a better understanding of how to respond in love to those in their congregations, families and communities who struggle with same-sex attraction.
“The people of God have a remarkable opportunity to move beyond silence,” Yahnke explained, “encouraging one another to speak compassionately and honestly about our God’s grace, mercy and love for all of His children.”
The conference lectures will be available in the near future for purchase and download at www.doxology.us/. In the meantime, you can stay up-to-date on when the presentations will be available by “liking” DOXOLOGY’s Facebook page.