ReconcilingWorks Applauds Statement from California Bishops on Same-Gender Marriage

ReconcilingWorks Applauds Statement from California Bishops on Same-Gender Marriage

ReconcilingWorks: Lutherans for Full Participation applauds the July 12 statement issued by three bishops and one bishop-elect concerning the marriage of same-gender couples in California. Addressing their respective synods, the four leaders wrote a letter of “pastoral guidance” in response to the recent decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals that again have made the marriage of same-gender couples legal in California.

Bishops Murray Finck (Pacifica Synod), Mark W. Holmerud (Sierra Pacific Synod), and Dean Nelson (Southwest California Synod) and Bishop-Elect Guy Erwin (Southwest California Synod) wrote, “We believe that where authorized by state law, ordained ministers in ELCA congregations have the authority to offer same gender marriage ceremonies, as long as there has been consultation and endorsement of this act by congregational leadership.”

The four leaders drew their conclusion from the ELCA social statement on sexuality, “Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust,” which was adopted by the ELCA Churchwide Assembly nearly four years ago. Highlighted in the pastoral letter is a passage from the social statement describing how some congregations will “surround [same-gender] couples and their lifelong commitments with prayer to live in ways that glorify God, find strength for the challenges that will be faced, and serve others.” These congregations “believe same-gender couples should avail themselves of social and legal support for themselves, their children, and other dependents and seek the highest legal accountability available for their relationships.”

ReconcilingWorks praises the pastoral letter for its helpfulness and clarity in addressing this topic in the context of ELCA policy and teaching.

The bishops and bishop-elect went on to write, “Since no rite or liturgy for the blessing of unions or marriage of same gender couples yet exists in liturgical resources provided by the ELCA, celebrations of such relationships can be drawn from other Christian denominations and advocacy ministries.”

The statement is fortuitously timed in that, less than a month from now, the 2013 Churchwide Assembly will be considering a memorial on “Ministering to Same Gender Couples and Families.” As passed by thirteen synods, the memorial calls for conversations throughout the ELCA “regarding the growing trend in state and federal laws toward marriage equality and how all the expressions of the ELCA can responds to the needs of the neighbor.” The memorial also emphasizes the “sharing of resources that would be most helpful for those wishing to support lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals and couples as we seek to grow into this new reality.”

We encourage all to read the full text of the letter.

The Churchwide Assembly meets in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, August 12–17. ReconcilingWorks will host a variety of events at the assembly, including a worship service, educational workshops, and fellowship gatherings. Please see for more details.