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Lutheran Pastors Support Gay Marriage, like President Obama
Today the president announced his views on gay marriage. A group of Lutheran pastors have their own reasons for doing so along with many Catholics.
By Donald Heinz
Editor's Note: For the first time a president of the United States has gone on record today in support of gay marriage. “At a certain point,” Mr. Obama said in an interview in the Cabinet Room at the White House with ABC’s Robin Roberts, “I’ve just concluded that for me personally, it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same sex couples should be able to get married.” For a president to make such a statement is a big step toward changing cultural attitudes in the country.
For ten years my wife and I lived in Gig Harbor, Washington, near Tacoma which is south of Seattle. There we enjoyed the company of several retired Lutheran pastors. The state of Washington through its legislature and governor recently legalized gay marriage but there is now an initiative petition being circulated to overturn that action. On behalf of the pastors listed below Donald Heinz wrote the following for the opinion page of a local paper, the Peninsula Gateway. It provides good reasons for all pastors and Protestants to join President Obama in support of marriage equality for all gay and lesbian persons.
We are retired Lutheran ministers living in the Gig Harbor area writing to express our view on Referendum 74, the attempt to mobilize citizens to revoke same-sex marriage. We urge people not to sign this anti-gay petition and to vote against Referendum 74 if it appears on the November ballot. Why? We strongly support Christian activism on behalf of a just society, but we are concerned that the public may assume all Christians oppose gay marriage. The archbishop of Seattle has called on all Catholic parishes to hold anti same-sex marriage petition drives on Sunday mornings. We applaud the decision of St James Cathedral in Seattle, and other Catholic parishes, not to do so. We are heartened that Catholic sisters across the country have made it clear that their health, education, and social welfare ministries are much more important to them than working against same-sex marriage. We have been sorry to see the turmoil in our own denomination, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, after it authorized the ordination of homosexual clergy, but we deeply admire our church body for taking that stand. We note with dismay that a local church considers $300,000 a price well worth paying to separate itself from the gay-friendly stance of its national church body.
We do not oppose Referendum 74 because we are moral relativists who merely want Christianity to adapt itself to shifting winds. But we do note that all demographic studies make obvious that the anti-gay prejudice will be obsolete by the next generation. Young people and most recent college graduates are having none of it. The recent Secret Service scandal, among many others, makes it clear that the real threats to marriage and family in the United States come from heterosexuals. It is ironic that the homosexual community appears to be leading the way in its admiration for marriage as the best form of life for couples devoted to each other.
No, our real reason for objecting to the move against homosexuals is that we are compelled by the Gospel and the ministry of Jesus Christ. The Christian Gospel sets us free from imagining that boundary-tending and rituals of exclusion are what God most wants from us. How unfortunate that gender obsessions rather than exemplary ministry are coming to be the chief marks of the modern church. No wonder the secular world “hates the church but admires Jesus.” The grace of Christ, for which no password is required, has set us free to love and serve all our neighbors. Jesus models for us the moral imagination that draws people in rather than shuts them out. Jesus surrounded himself with victims of social exclusion, extending the circle of God’s love far beyond our own comfort zones. As we know from the New Testament, God’s guest list is always larger than the church’s. In prejudice-breaking action, Jesus reached out across all social and cultural divisions and made the new life in God available to all, while religious professionals meanwhile spent their time protesting his affiliations with sinners. Modern Bible-believers would do well to spend less time on fanciful exercises like “What would Jesus do” and occupy themselves instead with “What DID Jesus do.” Is it really too complicated to figure out what the Bible says? Luther long ago saw that our freedom in the Gospel always trumps freeze-dried biblical literalism. If your interpretation of God’s will contradicts the inclusive love evidenced in the ministry of Jesus, then your understanding is deficient.
We are particularly dismayed that the lovely sounding “family values” pitch is, in fact, Christian code for homophobia and historic prejudice. No one is fooled when some churches insist on their loving welcome of gays while fervently working against their civil rights. In the Kingdom of God that Jesus proclaims, love imaginatively stretches law towards new forms of social justice. But today some Christian arms are so full of antipathy to gays that they cannot possibly hold the Gospel too. Conservative Christianity, whether evangelical or Catholic, seems preoccupied with the dangerous sexuality of women and the cultural border-crossings of gays. Such a Christian stance produces a poisonous cloud that descends upon all gays (and women as well). In the name of the radical God of the Bible expressed in the ministry of Jesus, Christians must not simply tolerate, but welcome and embrace gays and join in celebrating their life together.
(Signed by) Donald Heinz, Paul Borg, Don Clinton, Daryl Daugs, Richard Hermstad, Bob Keller, Bob Olmsted, Dick Werner
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