The ELCA Northeastern Minnesota Synod Assembly Opposes Changing the Minnesota Constitution

The Northeastern Minnesota Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), met in assembly in Grand Rapids, Minnesota, April 27-29, passed a resolution opposing any “legislation or public policies that would prevent same-gender couples and their families from pursuing ordinary legislative or legal means to gain the support and protections afforded to all others.” It also called upon synod congregations to “continue to welcome, care for, and support same-gender couples and their families.”

 The Northeastern Minnesota Synod is the second of the six ELCA synods in Minnesota to have met in assembly and passed resolutions expressing opposition to amending the constitution of the State of Minnesota to preclude marriage between persons of the same gender.  Previously, the Minneapolis Area Synod Assembly passed such a resolution.  The remaining four synods in Minnesota will meet in the coming weeks and months.

 The resolution passed by the Northeastern Minnesota Synod does not bind the individual members of the synod to voting in any particular way.  It is nonetheless an important sense of the synod’s reaction to the attempt to change the constitution to restrict rather than protect freedom of religious communities to choose whom they marry.

 Earlier this month, the bishop of the synod, the Rev. Tom Aitken, indicated his personal view on the subject of this constitutional amendment, saying in a Pastoral Letter sent to members of the synod on April 17, 2012, that he intended to vote against making such a change. Bishop Aitken wrote:

“I have already publically stated that the ELCA does not tell its members how to vote in the public arena. It is worth noting that we Lutherans live well in paradox, able to hold prayerful convictions in respectful tension all the time. We recognize that faithful Christians, tending to Scripture and confessions, live together with differing understandings of capital punishment, war, and genetics, just to name a few ethical issues. We’ve made a commitment to live together with diversity. Since life will continue to present us with complexity and grey areas, I prefer to live into the future together with respect for this diversity, while focusing on Christ and the gospel as our theological core. The proposed Minnesota marriage amendment would preclude some congregations in our synod from providing a ministry of marriage they regard as appropriate and may well deny equal treatment to couples under the law. Therefore, I will vote against it. That doesn’t mean you have to. We stand firm on the principle of honoring the bound conscience of each other.”

See the full text of the letter at  or at

Emily Eastwood, Executive Director, Lutherans Concerned/North America, said “I give thanks for the leadership of Bishop Tom Aitken and for the continued prophetic witness of the Northeastern Minnesota Synod.  The process of the debate was respectful and quite thorough, lasting one and half hours.  Though various attempts were made to moderate the language of the resolution or delay a decision until after the November elections, finally, a large majority of the voting members chose action over delay by taking a stand now against the proposed amendment.”