Same-Sex Split in the Lutheran Synod

Although opposed by many societies for centuries, same sex marriages have garnered more acceptance in our modern world. The dominant argument against the union of two men or two women is that religion states it is a sin. However, the recent wave of public support and urging for the church to re-examine its stance on same sex marriage has resulted in some churches allowing same sex unions. The Evangelical Lutheran church was the most recent in Canada to bring the issue of same sex marriage to the table. At a meeting here in Waterloo priests and other members of the Eastern Synod held a vote to decide whether or not same sex unions should be blessed by the Lutheran Church.

The meeting, which occurred in mid-July right here at Wilfrid Laurier University, involved nearly 200 delegates affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran churches of the region spanning from Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario to Halifax, Nova Scotia. The delegates voted 197-75 to allow congregations to decide individually whether or not to bless same sex unions. Prior to blessing a union, a pastor must speak with the bishop and get a two-thirds majority in favour vote from the congregation. They referred to this as the “local
option.’’ The delegates did not, however, vote on same sex marriage itself but this decision was seen by many as the first step.

Before same sex couples can receive blessings from the congregations under this eastern region Lutheran Church they must overcome one more obstacle. The National Church Council of the Evangelical Lutheran Church (ELCIC) in Canada responded to the Eastern Synod by stating that they did not have the authority to make such a decision. The ELCIC is the governing body between the general synod regions, and following the vote in July decided to look into the issue of blessings for same sex couples at their meeting in September. The decision reached by the Eastern Synod was called “uncertain.’’ The national bishop for ELCIC, Raymond Schultz, promised to make his own recommendation. In an interview with The Record, Bishop Schultz compared the Eastern Synod and their decision to the acts during the civil rights movement in the US that attempted to attain equal rights for African Americans in the 1960s. “Social change doesn’t occur in societies unless someone pushes the boundaries,” said Schultz.

If the ELCIC does not allow blessings of same sex unions to occur, a bishop from the Eastern Synod, Michael Pryse, plans to take the issue to the church’s court of adjudication and maintains that the synods have jurisdiction over same sex blessings. The final decision from the ELCIC will be announced later this month.