Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Doing What is Right in your Own Eyes

"In those days there was no king in Israel; all the people did what was right in their own eyes." Judges 21:25

This summer the ELCA will vote on proposed recommendations that we pretty let congregations and synods decide if we are going to recognize same sex marriages and/or rostered leaders who are in same sex marriages.

On the one hand I understand this is a compromise that may be necessary to keep the church from coming apart. People of good faith just do not agree on this. And right now we have rostered leaders living in same sex relationships serving in ELCA churches in a variety of limbo like situations. Either the synod officials are ignoring the fact that they are in violation of current Visions and Expectations of rostered leaders or the churches have been "disciplined" but are still very much associated with the ELCA.

But something about not having a uniform stance in the church bugs me. This culture is already so much into doing whatever seems right to you. Nobody seems to appreciate the value of the discipline of coming to consensus as a community and bowing to that consensus even if it's against your own personal opinion or wishes.

Now that same sex marraige is legal in Iowa --on the one hand I've had some suggest I should put an ad in Gay publications and offer to do same sex marraiges. And then the congregation I serve wants to know that the ELCA does not recognize same sex marragies. I wrote and asked my bishop for some guidance. He doesn't want to put out a written statement so that it doesn't unduly inflence the discussion at our upcoming Synod Assembly in June. But the answer seems to be "Do what seems right in your own eyes". Frankly I think that's above my pay grade.

My own personal opinion is that it would be good for the church to bless and encourage same sex monagamouse committed relationships. But I don't think my opinion gives me the right to go out and marry people in the name of the church.

I used to really appreciate that the ELCA did not tell people what to think about controversial issues. In this case I wish it would. Perhaps that's just laziness on my part. Then I could just say, "Well this is the teaching of the church" .

Nobody ever said life or faith was easy.


  1. There's also the other side of the church doing marriages in the US as compared to some other countries: The pastor acts as an agent of the state, doing the marriage, signing the certificate. I hadn't thought about this; I just took it for granted, but then I read about two churches in Minneapolis whose pastors decided to not "do marriages" but they would bless marriages done by the state, like is done in some European countries. The pastors didn't want to be seen as in agreement with the "state" ie government policies, whatever they were.

  2. Its a tough one... but do we leave behind those polarized one way or another on controversial issues, especially those related to the third use of the law? Is unity in Christ greater than the disagreements over the third use of the law? Pulpit and altar fellowship we have with other denominations would suggest third use disagreements are much less of a factor than many would like them to be.

    I've also been reading Using ELW Vol 2 as of late, and just reached the marriage section a few days ago. Its interesting to note, that both the local option, and the bless marriages part are discussed, to say nothing of quotes from Luther in those arenas. Its almost as if history in some ways is repeating itself.

  3. Joelle, someone else I respect is having a similar conversation here. You might enjoy the perspective.

  4. Thanks for that link - I think he makes a good point.