In the past week, there has been debate over the right of the Chick-fil-A restaurant to advocate and support the Biblical or Genesis understanding of marriage instituted by God for woman and man.
For the past few decades, and intensified recently by church debate, church convention rulings, and personal disagreement, leaders and Bishops will also differ in their perspectives. Church members in good conscience respectfully can differ. This controversy has filtered down to the church pew, and for many represents a doctrinal issue that they prefer to leave alone. The issue of same-gender marriage versus the traditional Biblical understanding is oftentimes exacerbated by fears, mistrust, cliches, and inadequate reflection on the actual Biblical references related to marriage.
However, since the Chick-fill-A controversy has made the newspaper headlines and is the stuff by which cliches are bandied about, that is half truths, gossip, and hearsay, please allow me to state that my own perspective after a half century of teaching, research, writing, missionary work, and Lutheran leadership, is that Chick-fil-A has the Constitutional right to advocate their Biblical perspective. At the same time, let it be emphased that Chick-fil-A has stated that it treats "every person with honor, dignity, and respect — regardless of their belief, race, creed, sexual orientation, or gender."
Here in South Carolina, we have had both debate and disagreement on this issue within various denominations. The Episcopalian Diocese of South Carolina, recently, through the words of their Bishop Mark Lawrence, strongly asserted his dissent about a same-sex liturgy in the following words: "Such rites, are only contrary to the canons of this diocese and to the judgment of your Bishop, but more importantly I believe they are contrary to the teaching of Holy Scripture; to two thousand years of Christian practice; as well as to our created nature."
Let me state that I agree with Bishop Lawrence. Further, let me add that like St. Paul said to his younger charge, Timothy, "I am the worst of sinners, but God's grace is also given to me." Continuing, allow me to declare that what I write hopefully, is written from the perspective of the Publican, who confesses his complicity in all the sins of the day, and cries for mercy; this perspective is contrasted with that of the Pharisee, who in his legalistic mind set is inclined to judge others as worse than himself. As Christians, we have to struggle against such duplicity, and church teaches that God's Word of grace and Holy Sacrament assist the believer to be strengthened in his or her Christian life style.
While all this is said, let it be strongly emphasized that the Christian church must be open to all — whether bi-sexual, lesbian, homosexual, transgendered, conservative, liberal, conservative, or whatever race, ethnicity, or origins — the call of Jesus Christ in both forgiveness and reconciliation is given.
Church history informs us that even two great servant Apostles, Paul and Peter, did differ, but under the supremacy of following the Master, they reconciled and moved on in their Christ Mission. And there have been other disagreements concerning church teaching, but the Christ Cross calls us to be in a reconciling mode.
I have Lutheran friends on both sides of this issue, but it is my hope that we agree to disagree and follow our conscience and the guidance of the Holy Spirit. However, after studying the Biblical references again and again, I must agree with a respected, well-informed Lutheran theologian friends of mine who insists that Holy Scripture does not support same-sex marriage. But as these words are said, let a caveat by given — and again be emphasized that love, care, and nurture for all of God's creatures is part of loving the neighbor, which is the second commandment after loving our Lord in mind, body, and spirit.
I have been studying Martin Luther's teaching for seventy years or more, and from church history comes the timely and timeless words of the great Reformer, who at Worms, Germany, circa l521, would say: "Unless I am convinced by Holy Scripture, conscience, and natural reason, I cannot and will not take back what I have written." I stand by the words in defense of religious freedom and the right of Chick-fil-A to properly advocate Biblical marriage.
Dr. Albert E. Jabs