MANKATO — In the predominately Lutheran community of southern Minnesota, the state's ruling to legalize same-sex marriage is causing many area churches to at least raise the question: If approached by lesbian or gay congregation members, would we perform their marriage ceremony?
More conservative leaning churches, such as those under the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, won't even consider it. The LCMS position is that the Old and New Testaments prohibit homosexual behavior, and in a 2004 resolution, the church called it "contrary to the Creator's design" and "intrinsically sinful."
Churches under the more liberal Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Synod, however — Minnesota's second-largest denomination with about 800,000 followers — have more leniency in deciding for themselves whether same-sex marriages will be conducted. The ceremonies can start taking place legally Aug. 1.
Christ the King Lutheran Church, with a congregation of about 2,700 people, is the first ELCA church in Mankato to decide that it will.
Pastor Patrick Patterson said during the past few years Christ the King has had a policy that it would only perform state-sanctioned marriages in the congregation. But if pastors felt conscience-bound, they could bless same-gender marriages outside of the church and not as a representative of the church.
Patterson was never approached to do so, which would have required a great deal of deliberation, he said. As an officiant of the church, Patterson said his actions must be in line with the church's positions and policies. Even when he's acting in his own capacity — such as serving on the board of the YMCA, he said as an example — he's still representing Christ the King.
“Thank goodness we didn't have to make that decision,” he said.
With the state legalizing same-sex marriage this year, the 11-member church council of Christ the King took two months to review the ELCA's statement on human sexuality (which became more inclusive of homosexuals in 2009), as well as the church's constitution, mission statement and values. At the June meeting the council voted, and with a two-thirds majority, decided to perform same-gender marriages.