Highlights of Some Thoughts about Same-Gender Marriage in the Southeastern Minnesota Synod

This is a summary of Bishop Delzer’s original message. Find the entire message here.

bishopBy Rev. Steven Delzer
Synod Bishop

During the past few months there have been questions and conversation about same-gender marriage and what this means for pastors and congregations in our synod. I wish I could offer unambiguous guidance, but our 2009 Social Statement, Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust, and its implementing resolutions, leaves much to the pastoral care and discretion of each pastor and congregation. So, what follows is my best interpretation and guidance.

Conversation is important:

  • The Social Statement called upon “members of this church . . . to commit themselves to finding ways to live together faithfully in the midst of disagreements.”
  • It is important for pastors and congregations to be in conversation with one another before publicly recognizing same-gender unions (which the State of Minnesota now calls marriage), realizing that not everyone is going to agree.
  • Pastors have the authority to marry based on state laws, but they are not “free agents.” They carry out their ministry on behalf of the congregations that have called them.
  • Being open (or not open) to recognizing same-gender unions should always be a matter that is prayerfully considered for the sake of the couple and the community, and not for the sake of publicity or making a political statement.

Some talking points regarding the 2009 Social Statement:

  • The ELCA defines marriage as being between a man and a woman.
  • It is clear that there is significant disagreement in our church around same-gender unions and marriages, and we continue to create space for conversation and dialogue.
  • The Social Statement does not authorize ELCA pastors to perform same-gender marriages, but it does say that there can be recognition of same-gender unions (marriages), and that this is a matter of pastoral care in the local congregation.

Some further thoughts and talking points:

  • I take local pastoral authority seriously and therefore encourage pastors and congregations to act on the basis of their convictions (or bound consciences). Pastors and congregations have the same rights and responsibilities in regard to same-gender unions as they would with any heterosexual marriage. They can yes or no.
  • We live in a time of tremendous change in our society’s conversation and welcome of people in same-gender unions, and there continues to be disagreement. I pray that we can be in dialogue and that we will be both tolerant and forgiving of one another.

Read the full message here.

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