Lutherans & Homosexuality

Amidst controversy, Hallmark started a line of homosexual wedding cards in 2008.

Having just hit 25 weeks of posts, I’m honestly just a little exhausted at this point.  I love writing, but need to recharge the batteries a bit.  I have no intentions of leaving you empty-handed though.  In fact, I think what I’m leaving you with is superior writing.

One of the blessings/curses of being the younger brother is that you 1) get to learn at an accelerated rate by seeing your older sibling accomplish something and mimicking, 2) you almost always feel like you’re trying to play catch-up in terms of accomplishment.  This is the case for me when it comes to my brother’s writing.

Last summer, perhaps the biggest issue in American Christianity was the news of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA) approving of homosexual clergy.  It prompted much confusion from non-Lutherans about what exactly a “Lutheran stance” on such an issue would be.  My brother used the opportunity to write a series of articles on it.  I hope you find them as beneficial as I did.

SIDE NOTE: Homosexuality is the issue I’ve received more questions on than any as possible blog topics.  If you have a topic (current event, doctrinal issue, etc.) that you would like to see addressed, please send me a note and I’ll try to cover it in future articles.

Written by Jonathan Hein
Pastor, Beautiful Savior Evangelical Lutheran Church (WELS)

This past week I received an interesting phone call. It was by a well-intentioned individual who lambasted me and my church for teaching that homosexuality was acceptable.

I immediately knew what happened. He had read in the newspaper that recently the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) adopted a resolution at their synod convention that not only paved the way for the ELCA to perform same-sex marriages, but also opened the door for openly gay pastors to practice ministry. Because our name is Beautiful Savior Evangelical Lutheran Church, he assumed we were part of the ELCA. We are not. We are part of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS), so named because it began in 1850 with a union of three Lutheran churches in Milwaukee, WI.

The WELS is the third largest Lutheran church body in the country. The ELCA (which is actually an amalgamation of three different Lutheran synods) is the largest. These two synods could not be more different. The WEL’s theological position has not changed, on any issue, in 159 years. If God and his word do not change, how could theology change? (Theology is simply the combination of the Greek words theosmeaning “God” and logos meaning “word”.) The ELCA has changed its theological position regularly to reflect that which is culturally popular or politically correct.

Today, I begin a series of bulletin inserts which will explain the WELS’s theological position on sexuality, and hopefully help you to articulate that position to anyone you run across who thinks we are the same as the ELCA.

Today, we talk about how the real issue is the Good News of Christ, not homosexuality. We get worked up when people deny what the Bible says about homosexuality, not because we’re homophobic or hold that sin as being “worse” than others. Rather, we are concerned that if you deny any portion of God’s Word, you will eventually lose the Gospel.

Lutheranism & homosexuality part 1 of 5

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) has received a lot of news coverage for their recent national convention’s decision to approve a resolution committing the church to find a way for “people in such publicly accountable, lifelong, monogamous, same-gender relationships” to serve as professional leaders of the church. This has led to confusion. We are part of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS), not the ELCA. But because people see “Evangelical Lutheran” in our title, they often assume that we are part of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Not at all.

The WELS’s public written confessions state that the Bible is the Word of God. As such, it contains no mistakes or errors. The Bible is not mere opinion, but is the revealed will of a loving God to his children. The ELCA’s public written confessions state that the Bible contains the Word of God. There is a big difference between saying the Bible is the Word of God verses saying it contains the Word of God. If the Bible only contains the Word of God, that means portions of the Bible are God’s Word, but other portions are not. Thus, if there is a portion of the Bible you don’t like, you toss it out claiming “That’s not really what God would say, but only what Paul (or Moses or Peter or Matthew) said.” Theology becomes nebulous. It can shift with any opinion poll or the morals of the day. But if the Bible is the Word of God, and if God is serious when he says, “I the LORD do not change” (Malachi 3:6), then there is something odd about a theology that changes from generation to generation.

Ironically, the Word “evangelical” is the combination of two Greek words which translate literally as “good news.” Another commonly used word that means “Good News” is “Gospel.” What is this “good news”?

Through the prophet Isaiah, God wrote, “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, ‘our God reigns!’” (52:7). The good news is that because of what Jesus has done, salvation can be proclaimed to all who sin (which is the same thing as saying “to all people,” since all sin). The good news is that people who commit even the most grotesque sins – murder, adultery, etc. – can, through Christ, be at peace with God. But when you rip out portions of God’s Word which condemn sin, you lessen the need for Christ. You negate the need for the “good news.” In other words, if you toss aside God’s Law, you will also lose the Gospel eventually. Church history has shown this to be true again and again.

An example – I have been known to lose my temper, which can be a sin, as God’s Word encourages gentleness. So the way you show love for me is not by saying, “Well, the occasional temper tantrum isn’t that big a deal! I don’t know if you should call that a sin!” The way you show love for me is by calling my temper tantrum sin, and then by assuring me that in Christ, that sin (and the infinite others I have committed) have been forgiven. The way you show love for me is by repeating Jesus’ words to the woman who was caught in adultery. After forgiving her sin he added, “Go now and leave your life of sin” (John 8:11). Those words could apply to homosexuality, or temper tantrums, or gossip, or envy. In gratitude for what Christ did to save me from my sin, I struggle to leave them behind. I will never be able to do so entirely. But I still try. This is the joyful struggle of a Christian who lives in the shadow of the cross. “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” Jesus said (Matthew 16:24). I deny myself the impulses of my flesh if they are contrary to the Word of God, precisely because I know that a God who loved me enough to give me his Son would not steer me wrong.

A true Lutheran will tell you there is no such thing as Lutheran theology. Martin Luther simply wanted to rid the church of his day of the error that had crept in through the abuse of pope and council. He wanted to restore the pure theology of the early church, which was built sola Scriptura – on Scripture alone. A true Lutheran is cautious with God’s Word, afraid of ever saying more than it says… or… every saying less than it says.

That is why the resolution of the ELCA saddens me. In calling “good” what the Bible calls “sin,” they lesson the need for Christ in the world. That is not evangelical. And by denying the clear teaching of God’s Word, they make God’s Word seem unclear. That is not Lutheran.

Please realize not all Lutheran congregations are the same. Some take the Bible very seriously. We are one of them.

By Jonathan Hein

10 thoughts on “Lutherans & Homosexuality

  1. Lon Peper says:

    “The ELCA has changed its theological position regularly to reflect that which is culturally popular or politically correct.”

    This is what is referred to as a “feel good” church. Sadly the ELCA is Lutheran in name only.

  2. Billy says:

    The Old Testament clearly states that there shouldn’t be any homosexuals. This is a bad thing and is against Gods word.

  3. Lauren says:

    This is not a debate on if Homosexuality is right or wrong. This is a matter of loving and accepting one another for who they are. “Let us love one another, because love comes from God.” (1John4: 7)This bible verse explains to us to love everyone because God loves us. We can’t push these people away because they are different and we most certainly can not look at these people and tell them that they are not called by God to be Pastors because they are homosexuals. It is not our place to decide who is called and who isin’t. It is our place to love one another, as clearly stated in 1st John.

    The Lutheran church has always been filled with loving, accepting, and non-judgmental congregations. We can’t choose to change that now. If we decided to push these children of God away then we might as well be a part of another church who looks down upon people because of their lifestyle choices.

    • Sorry, Lauren.

      This IS a debate of homosexuality as right or wrong because that dictates what the loving way to respond to it is. When someone is in sin, we are to point out their sins to them to lead them to repentance (Matt 18:15-20).

      If homosexuality is indeed a sin, it needs to be pointed out. Read Romans 1:18-32 and honestly tell me that God does not consider homosexuality a sin.

      The Bible is also clear that unrepented sin leads to eternal damnation. Hebrews 10:26-27 says, “If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God.”

      So, now tell me, what is the loving thing to do? If I allow someone to persist in unrepentant sin, they suffer eternally in hell. If I lead them to repentance, and they ask Christ for forgiveness, they live eternally in paradise.

      The obvious “loving” thing to do here is the tough love and the awkward conversation. Tolerance is weak and cowardly. Standing for the truth of God’s Word takes courage.

      All that said, you are exactly right that it’s God’s will for us to love one another. Being unloving to someone who professes homosexuality would be a sin that needs to be repented of also. We respect the integrity of all humans. But if unrepentant sin truly leads to hell, I would NEVER describe tolerating it as the loving thing to do.

  4. I am not here to state who is going to hell or who is righteous or not. I am here to ask this question: why are homosexuals so bent on calling what they want “marriage”? First, from its origin, marriage does not reflect the model that the homosexual community is presenting—-the same gender being joined as life partners. Second, the concept of “marriage” is a biblical endeavor whose standard is set with the first man and woman.

    Marriage is meant to reflect the relationship between GOD and his creation; displaying the love, provision and interaction that He communicates along with man’s role as expected to show gratitude as well as reciprocating love and interaction is only part of what’s to be mirrored. Also, in a marriage, commonly, it is rightfully assumed that a couple will reproduce or “procreate” which furthers this reflection of the marriage mirroring GOD’s dealings with man whereas GOD “creates”. Even in a case where a man and a woman are joined and cannot (whether the problem lies in the man or the woman physically) procreate it at least has the appearance of the possibility of procreation.

    The pretentious petition for “same sex marriage” is an attempt to make a mockery of faith and of its essence is to Edge God Out! Marriage holds for mankind a reminder that GOD is a Great Creator, in fact, the Creator of all things. Every time a child is born it is a reminder of the awesomeness of creation. Life is first in the man delivered to the woman for her to carry for a hopeful 9 months. This is why we call GOD a “He”, not because He has gender in His Spirit form but because He “is the first cause of a thing”. A homosexual couple cannot represent this possibility which is why it would be redefining “marriage” to ultimately become something that is not Marriage at all.

    It is evident to me that the attempt of the homosexual community is indeed pretentious. I firmly believe that those for “same sex marriage” have set out to “DESTIGMATIZE” homosexuality and are on a quest to normalize its lifestyle. In doing this they are doing to others what they don’t appreciate having done to them; they are disregarding the faith, convictions and a wholesome societal paradigm for a selfish behavioral cause AS homosexuality is a BEHAVIOR and not an ETHNICITY. Though I am not for same sex unions at all, I ask, why not call it something else if these attempts to legalize such unions have no ulterior motives?

    We must continue to argue from a faith perspective but we need to become more wise than “blunt”. Simply saying “Adam & Eve and not Adam & Steve” doesn’t cut it anymore.

    We must take the position to meanings and definitions.

    Marriage by definition means to take two separate and complimenting components and merging or blending them. Testosterone and testosterone don’t merge neither do they compliment one another. A lamp isn’t complimented by a lamp but by a bulb. A plug isn’t complimented by a plug but by a socket outlet. To compliment something is to bring something to the table that the first component does not possess of its own; this is illustrated when you try to connect “north and north” or “south and south” poles of a magnet-it doesn’t work!

    If you were covered with necklaces and you added another necklace there would be no complimenting effect. But if you have on a plain black turtleneck sweater and you add something ornamental (something different) then you have complimented the sweater, right?

    What the homosexual community is purposing is to change the very “generic” definition of marriage whether from a biblical or none biblical perspective. So then, it cannot [from a terminological standpoint] be consider marriage at all by reason of the noncomplimenting components that are attempted to be joined.

    P.S. Let’s stop calling it “Gay” which means Happy and call it as it is “homosexuality”.

    Find Article at this link:

    • AB says:

      “Marriage is meant to reflect the relationship between GOD and his creation” – maybe this is why the homosexual community want to become married. For their love to be blessed by the Church community. I don’t understand your argument about how homosexual relationships cannot be complimentary. Just as a heterosexual partner brings attributes, personality traits, skills that are different, so also does a homosexual partner. Let’s not beat around the bush here, call your argument for what it is, two penises or two vaginas do not match.

      To dismiss someone’s sexuality as a ‘behavior’, as something that can simply change with enough effort has and will cause great harm.

  5. AB says:

    Checkout this blog about homosexuality in the Lutheran Church in Australia – I would be interested in hearing your comments.

  6. Paul K. says:

    It states in Genesis that during creation, God said, “It is not good for man to be alone. I will make a helper for him.” That would be woman. If God thought men being with men was good enough then I suppose the need for women wouldn’t be there, and especially not for the sole purpose of reproduction. The LORD did not want man to be alone. Period. Homosexuality is a sin. ELCA wants to create a “feel good” atmosphere to attract more members, not save them. Very sad. I am a lifelong WELS member and have been schooled all the way through 12th grade in WELS schools. We are members of the Holy Christian and Apostolic Church. It is not our “rules” but the laws commanded by God. He states the way it is and if it doesn’t fit into someone’s lifestyle, they ultimately are the one’s to pay a HUGE price. He is a Holy God and expects perfection. He is also a loving God. That is why He sent His only Son to die for us. We all behave in ways at times that are not pleasing to God. Everyone must repent, which means to have a conscious change of heart and turn back around and away from our sin. The reward is absolutely incredible and beyond our feeble comprehension. Why wouldn’t one want to please God? The Lord’s blessings to all. 🙂

    • AB says:

      Maybe, just maybe, the ELCA have open ears to really hear the message of Jesus and thinking of the person in front of him and not the ‘law’. I encourage you to read Neil’s blog and make comment

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