Synod Online Reflections
Northeastern Minnesota Synod of the ELCA
Week of May 19, 2013
Civil Marriage of Gay and Lesbian Sisters and Brothers in Minnesota
After deliberating on the issue of gay marriage in this state, our legislators have made a decision. Considering what I have seen in the past, it was in my humble opinion, a civil discourse. I'm proud to be an ELCA Lutheran in these times; able to live into complex issues using Scripture, our heads and our hearts, our faith and our reason, and most important of all, our Lord Jesus as our guide, who teaches us how to live with love for all people.
We have already lived into being a "big tent" where we don't condemn others for their conscience- bound convictions on any number of issues. Rather, we treat each other as friends and co-workers with Christ. I've learned a lot from those who disagree with me. The ELCA is committed to unity in Christ, not uniformity of thought on every complex issue that comes our way.
Now, there will be conversations and questions and discernment among us, especially pastors who are called upon to officiate at wedding ceremonies. Congregations and pastors may be in different places about how to care for gay and lesbian people in committed relationships. Recently I shared some thoughts with neighboring bishops about how we might proceed in this church. Here is what I shared with them:
+ Care and Prayer needs to be taken seriously by all as we move into the new paradigm with regard to civil marriage for same-gendered individuals. We did a good job of agreeing to live into the ELCA churchwide decisions to respect and love one another where we differ. We can do this again!
+ Our church, the ELCA, continues to be a church with a wide range of understandings, deep conversations and faithful Scriptural study on the issue of same sex relationships. I have agreed to be bishop to the whole of my synod, not just to those who agree with my understanding of this issue.
+ This is a congregational ministry issue: pastors do not make unilateral decisions. Each congregation makes its own decisions in conversation with the pastor on how to or whether to celebrate same-gender unions or marriages. Pastors and congregational councils work together transparently. Ordained ministers have authority to marry as part of their call when authorized by state law, but churchwide policy does not determine whom a pastor may marry. Decisions need to be made in the context of a congregation's ministry and mission rather than by action of a bishop or synod council.
+ No rite or liturgy for the blessing of unions or marriage of same-gender couples exists in the ELCA. Celebrations of such relationships can be drawn from those who have done them well in the past, emphasizing always, life-long fidelity intents imbedded in our decisions as a church.
Carry on with the Gospel,
Bishop Thomas Aitkin
Northeastern Minnesota Synod, ELCA