By Adriane Heins
Should LCMS pastors continue to perform the marriage rite for heterosexual couples in LCMS congregations, in light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s June 26 ruling that same-sex couples have the right to marry in any state in the country?
Jim Campbell — senior legal counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom, Center for Marriage and Family director and key litigator in high-profile cases across the nation — has a quick answer to that question: “We think that churches and people of faith and Christians should continue to do that. Why? Because Christians shouldn’t abandon the field.”
On July 14, Campbell gave that answer as he offered insight into the Supreme Court’s marriage ruling via a webinar hosted by “Free to be Faithful,” the Synod’s education and awareness initiative regarding marriage, life and religious liberty.
During the webinar, he also urged pastors and congregations to put their marriage policies in writing and to do so in the most specific way possible.
“The more restrictions that a specific church has on weddings, the easier it is to access legal protection,” he noted, stating that a congregation’s documents regarding marriage will be useful “in defending against a potential attack that could come down the road.”
Redefinition of marriage
Campbell spoke briefly regarding the court’s decision to legalize same-sex marriage nationwide, explaining, “Before the court’s decision, when the Supreme Court has attempted to determine and define fundamental rights, it has always looked to the history and tradition of this nation.” In this case, however, he believes the court arbitrarily determined that history and tradition “don’t set the boundaries of these fundamental rights.”
As a result, Campbell said, the court “discussed the right to marry in a high level of abstraction,” which has caused Alliance Defending Freedom and millions of Americans to be “very worried about the future of religious liberty.”
Still, Campbell encouraged Christians not to give up or lose hope, encouraging them to “winsomely and yet boldly and persuasively [communicate] our views on marriage.”
“Some people may think that now that the court has decided, the debate on marriage is over,” he noted. But continuing to speak about marriage in the public square helps those with opposing views to see that “there is a rational, reasonable faith-based basis for our views,” he said.
What’s to come
Campbell also spent a few moments pointing to future issues that may result from the Supreme Court’s ruling, namely an adverse impact on faith-based adoption and foster agencies.
“In the District of Columbia, in Massachusetts, in Illinois, soon after [their] redefinition of marriage … we saw faith-based adoption and foster agencies driven out of that work in those jurisdictions so it’s reasonable to think that could occur now in all the states and jurisdictions,” he said.
Churches and other religious organizations also may one day lose their tax-exempt status, Campbell noted. “Justice Alito referenced this issue in the oral argument: ‘If we redefine marriage as a constitutional matter, what will be the impact on the tax-exempt status of religious organizations that continue to believe that marriage is the union of a man and a woman and continue to oppose same-sex marriage?’ ”
The response from the solicitor general, according to Campbell, was simple: “That is going to be an issue. I don’t deny that.”
Finally, Campbell foresees a negative impact on licensed professionals — counselors, lawyers, doctors and the like. “We’re concerned that if they operate consistent with their religious beliefs on marriage, they may face issues with future licensing,” he said, recounting the story of a counselor who was removed from her job for refusing to provide relationship counseling to a same-sex couple.
Speak the truth
Still, Campbell doesn’t believe the future is entirely bleak. “Continue to boldly and winsomely speak the truth about marriage,” he urged. “I feel like it sounds trite, but it’s the most important thing that we can do. Speak the truth about marriage, that it is a union of a man and a woman.”
“Truth will ultimately prevail,” he reminded webinar attendees. “The time to bear witness to the truth about marriage is now.”
The webinar is archived (click here) for viewing at any time.
Visit “Free to be Faithful” to find more resources on marriage, life and religious liberty.
Adriane Heins (email@example.com) is managing editor of The Lutheran Witness and editor of Catechetical Information for LCMS Communications.
Posted July 14, 2015
I have been following the abortion issue and the gay marriage issue closely over the past decade, and although I am just an obscure observer and no erudite historian, I have felt it would eventually lead us to where we are today. What is especially troubling is how many liberal churches are fine supporting gay marriage, and even use a distorted interpretation of scripture to support it. Still….in the political arena…millions of professing Christians throughout the nation have willfully supported and voted into office the most egregious pro-abortion candidates and those who promoted gay marriage. In the process, they have often ignored and passed by conservative Christian candidates who were or are pro-life, and support traditional marriage. Those Christians who support the policies of the Democratic Party and hold to the values represented by this party as just as culpable as the leaders they have kept in power. So we arrive at this point in our history, where we live in pagan Babylon, not Christian America, and the days ahead will bring persecution, loss of tax exempt status, the dissolving of some churches, and severe assaults against religious speech and expression. The churches will be purged, and the compromisers will continue to vote Democrat as they did before, while the remnant of faithful believers will bear the brunt of the dark years ahead.
Wow! Am I mistaken, or did John Flanagan just comment that if you vote for a Democrat, you are not a true Christian; on the LCMS website? Really? So much for “FREE to be faithful!”
It seems as though the distinction between the pastor officiating the Rite of Holy Matrimony and the pastor voluntarily acting as an agent of the state who solemnizes a “civil marriage contract” is not being maintained.
Luther rightly made this distinction when he acted as an agent of the state and pronounced the couple as husband and wife on the steps outside the church and then proceeded to conduct the Rite of Holy Matrimony, blessing the marriage, which God created, with the Word of God and Prayer from within the Church.
When acting as an agent of the state, pastors must follow the rules of the particular state. As Lutherans we certainly recognize the validity of a civil marriage contract that is solemnized by a court official. Furthermore, Scripture ultimately teaches that it is not the state, nor even the pastor, but God who joins husband and wife together in this union. The state may register and recognize it, the Church may bless it, God establishes it.
Rev. Lorfeld, I am confused. Does “must follow the rules of the particular state” mean that LCMS ministers are to obey the controversial – but apparently settled – Supreme Court ruling rather than God’s clear word…or are they to offer some sort of a civil union instead of traditional marriage?
Can you give the source of the information about Lutheran acting as an agent of the state on the steps and then conducting the Rite of Holy Matrimony within the church? I’d like to read more about that.
How will military chaplains be affected?
The LCMS should clearly state our opposition to same-sex marriage, and refuse to marry same-sex sex partners as our religious right under the Constitution of the United States. However, the Church should NEVER proclaim that those who vote for a particular political party are not true Christians! Both political parties support issues that can be construed as supporting God’s laws, or opposing them. We must be careful to protect our religious rights without trampling in the civil rights of others. Voting in Civil society is our Constitutional right, and there are a MYRIAD of issues to be considered, aside from just same-sex marriage and abortion; such as social and economic justice, racism, poverty, corporate greed, and the environment…. just to name a few.
Why is this a question? We obey scripture alone and remain faithful to our Lord.
Actually one of the best articles I’ve read on this comes from Matt Ward and I think he is right. This is a direct assault on Christians and our pastors need to be very careful not to compromise. It would be better not to act as an agent of the state at all, then to participate in defying God. This certainly puts me in mind of Matthew 10
Here is the link to the article:
This is an article about a priest in Chicago who performs the marriage ceremony for couples, but does not sign the marriage license. I think this is a workable solution.