An Illinois state senator who is a member of an LCMS congregation last month voted in favor of a bill that would legalize homosexual “marriage” in the state. Illinois Democrat Andy Manar is the legislator whose vote helped the bill pass the Senate. Manar is a a member of Zion Lutheran Church in Bunker Hill, a congregation in the Southern Illinois District of the LCMS.
Meanwhile, the president of the Southern Illinois District, the Rev. Timothy Scharr, has written an open letter upholding the biblical and synodical stance against homosexual behavior and thus opposing the bill.
These developments are covered in an article that appeared today in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and its website, stltoday.com, “Illinois gay marriage debate is splitting parties, churches”. Below are some relevant excerpts from the article:
– – – – – – – – – –
As Illinois edges toward legalizing same-sex marriage, the debate is dividing partisan, religious and even racial allies. . . .
And in Southern Illinois, a Lutheran state senator’s “yes” vote has rocked his church’s congregation, prompting a letter from an official of his denomination.
“We … feel compelled to express our Synod’s stance on same-sex marriage and the negative consequences that this bill will have on society,” the Rev. Timothy J. Scharr of Belleville, district president for Southern Illinois in the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, wrote in the open letter. “Homosexual behavior is prohibited in the Old and New Testaments as contrary to the Creator’s design.” . . .
Sen. Andy Manar, a central Illinois Democrat, supported the bill on the Senate floor along with most of his party — only to get an earful when he returned home and went to church.
Manar’s district takes in a wide, rural swath of the state just northeast of the Metro East area, where sentiment is strongly against same-sex marriage. But it also takes in largely urban sections of Springfield and Decatur.
“This was a vote that I struggled with,” Manar told The State Journal-Register newspaper in Springfield.
Manar’s fellow members of Zion Lutheran Church in Bunker Hill, about 40 miles from St. Louis, also struggled with it after learning he had voted “yes.”
“There were some hard feelings. We didn’t agree on it,” said Michele Weidner, a member of the church, which is under the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. “We just want our church to re-emphasize God’s law as far as same-sex marriage is concerned.”
She and other church members pressed the church for a more firm statement against it. They got it, in the form of a letter from Scharr, the synod’s district president, reiterating the church’s stance that homosexuality is “intrinsically sinful” and that marriage by definition is between a man and a woman.
Church member Kevin Weidner, Michele’s husband, insisted the issue was not an attack on Manar.
“Andy is a friend of mine. (He and his family) are good people. It’s basically a fight on an issue,” Weidner said. “It has created quite a stir, but you hear both sides and then you calm down.”
Manar last week responded to questions about the church conflict with a written statement, noting he has been a member for almost 30 years. “I welcome any member of my church and community to visit with me regarding this issue,” he wrote.
– – – – – – – – – –
Also, here is the letter written by Southern Illinois District President Timothy Scharr:
To All Illinois Citizens,
On Feb. 14 the Illinois State Senate passed the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act legalizing same-sex marriage in Illinois. This bill is now being considered in the House. We as members of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod congregations (LCMS) feel compelled to express our Synod’s stance on same-sex marriage and the negative consequences that this bill will have on society.
Homosexual behavior is prohibited in the Old and New Testaments (Lev. 18:22, 24; 20:13; 1 Cor. 6: 9-20; 1 Tim. 1:10) as contrary to the Creator’s design (Rom. 1: 26-27). The LCMS affirms that homosexuality is “intrinsically sinful” and that on the basis of Scripture, marriage is the lifelong union of one man and one woman (Gen. 2: 2-24; Matt. 19: 5-6). It also urges its members “to give a public witness from Scripture against the social acceptance and legal recognition of homosexual marriage” (2004 Res. 3-05A). At the same time, the Synod firmly believes that “the redeeming love of Christ, which rescues humanity from sin, death, and the power of Satan, is offered to all through repentance and faith in Christ, regardless of the nature of their sinfulness”.
Some supporters of the bill rationalize their vote because of an amendment added that prevents churches from having to perform same-sex marriages. This does nothing to protect individual families, schools, hospitals, and other organizations from the negative repercussions associated with it. Examples of these serious repercussions can be found in the “What same-sex marriage has done to Massachusetts” booklet comprised by the Illinois Family Institute (IFI). A downloadable version of this booklet can be found at www.massresistance.org. One example in the booklet states that because same-sex marriage is “legal,” federal judges have ruled that the schools now have a duty to portray homosexual relationships as normal to children, despite what parents think or believe.
We urge everyone to please contact their State House Representative and ask them to vote ‘No’ for the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act.
Rev. Timothy J. Scharr and Concerned LCMS members