CHICAGO (ELCA) – The Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton, presiding
bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), offered a pastoral
letter June 30 to the 3.8 million members of the denomination in response to
the recent Supreme Court ruling that same-sex couples may now exercise the
right to marry. The full text of the statement follows:
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Grace and peace to you in the name of the crucified and
Last week the U.S. Supreme Court rendered its decision
announcing the right of same-gender couples to have equal access to marriage.
For many members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, this decision
is a welcome sign of hope and a time for celebration. Other members of this
church do not agree with the court's decision and remain deeply concerned
because of their understanding of Scripture.
This decision affects each of us, some profoundly, and we
are not of one mind. Let us continue to accompany one another with prayer, love
and mutual respect as we reflect on this new reality and remember Paul's words
in 1 Corinthians about the enduring power of God's love.
The ELCA social statement "Human Sexuality: Gift and
Trust" (2009) neither endorses nor forbids same-gender marriages and
recognizes that we have differing understandings and convictions on this
matter. In its decision, the court stated that "the First Amendment
ensures that religious organizations and persons are given proper protection as
they seek to teach the principles that are so fulfilling and so central to
their lives and faiths."
According to this church's social statement on human
sexuality, all decisions about recognizing, supporting and holding publicly
accountable same-gender relationships are entrusted to congregations. Recognizing that the church is not of one
mind on this subject, our 2009 actions provide that congregations and clergy
should discern together whether to recognize such relationships and to what
Pastors are to engage in conversation, discernment and
partnership with the congregations who have called them prior to solemnizing or
presiding over a same-gender marriage. On the other hand, no pastor is
obligated to solemnize the marriage of any couple, same-gender or
different-gender, whom the pastor cannot in good conscience marry.
As Lutheran Christians, we continue to be a church that
engages in conversation and discernment in all aspects of our faith and life.
Creating space for respectful conversation and dialogue continues to be an
important part of our life together. A helpful resource for engaging in
difficult conversations is "Talking Together as Christians about Tough
In addition, the ELCA Ministry to and with Same-Gender
Couples and their Families Working Group remains in the process of completing
its work. A report of the group's findings and possible recommendations will be
presented to the ELCA Church Council at its November meeting.
We seek to see our differences as a gift to be celebrated as
we live out that which unites us: the mercy and grace of Jesus Christ who leads
us into mission and ministry in the world. In the midst of this change, we are
first and foremost church – a church that proclaims the good news of Jesus Christ.
May God bless, guide and strengthen you each day as you go in peace and serve