Guest Article — The Supreme Court Non-Decision

Two gold rings - reflected candlesBy now just about everyone has heard that the Supreme Court of the United State has declined to hear the appeals of multiples cases where lower courts had ruled against states holding to the traditional understanding of marriage as the union of one man and one woman. I live and serve as a pastor in Oklahoma, one of the states whose people have been overruled by unelected judges. Now because a federal court has spoken and the Supreme Court will not hear the case even more states will have to abide by this judicial legislation.

I know that there are many concerns about the implications of the Supreme Court’s decision not to take up this case. What will this mean for society, our children, the church, and the list goes on. One question that has been brought to my attention is what are pastor to do in regard to serving as agents of the state in performing marriages? It is easy to throw up our hands and give it up. I spoke with a brother pastor earlier this week who was ready to go to the court house and renounce his privilege of marrying couples because of the current state of affairs. I urged him not to do this.

Any pastor who considers giving up performing marriages (even with the option of blessing a civil marriage) must consider what all they would be giving up. If it has been worth it up to now to perform marriages, then it is worth it for faithful pastor to continue to do so. The opportunity to guide an engaged couple through premarital instruction, to proclaim God’s Word before friends and family of the couple have been worth for me up to now, and I don’t plan on changing my practice now that the state is confused about what marriage is.

Let’s face it; weddings have not been easy for pastors for quite a while. Wedding planners, television, and family and friends lacking a clear understanding of what is proper in worship come together to encourage couples to ask for strange practices that usually are less than helpful in proclaiming the Gospel and are sometimes contradictory to it. I have heard many pastors say they would rather do a funeral than a wedding, yet most of us have put up with the headache of dealing with bridal parties, photographers, wedding planners, and everything else that goes with the production that is a typical modern wedding because we are shepherds called to care for these lambs of Christ. We have recognized that even though some do not recognize weddings and the preparation that goes into them as a time for pastoral care, that is what they are. Pastors do not bring legitimacy to the wedding, we bring the Word of God. We could resort to only blessing civil marriages, but let’s be honest the opportunity to bring the Word of God to bear on this most solemn of events would be diminished.

There may come a time when pastors are forced to choose between giving up being agents of the state in conducting marriage and violating their conscience. I for one am not going to preemptively relinquish an opportunity to care for those souls entrusted to my care out of fear that one day I will be sued, fined, or jailed for how I provide pastoral care. I am much more concerned with the judgment of the Chief Shepherd than I am of the chief justice. The Lord has not called me to worry about what suffering may come for caring for His people. I will not turn and run though the wolf be at the door, because He did not turn and run from me, though I have been the wolf to Him.

Until I am faced with the explicit choice of giving up the authority to conduct marriages or conducting marriages for everyone who asks, I will continue to provide all the pastoral care that I can to those in my flock who desire marriage in the church. Since I was ordained I have been clear with every couple that comes to me for marriage, that my involvement is as a pastor providing pastoral care. I will not marry couples who will not listen to the Word of God by coming to premarital instruction. Nor will I marry two people if neither is a member in good standing of the congregation I serve, unless another pastor has asked me to do so on his behalf. The fact that the courts have made gay and lesbian “marriages” legal does not change my practice.

St. Paul admonishes the saints in Rome to “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.” (Romans 12:12) This Sunday in the three year lectionary we again hear the invitation “Come to the Wedding Feast!” (Matthew 22:4) What joy is our in Christ our Lord, who suffered and died to prepare a feast of rich food and well-aged wine for His beloved bride?! As we hope for the final fulfillment in the resurrection of the body and the life of the of the world to come we even now rejoice at the foretaste of the feast to come as we are given the pledge of our Lord’s Body and Blood at the Lamb’s high feast. By His grace we are able to patiently endure the afflictions of this age as we pray for the strength to confess His Word faithfully, for the wisdom necessary for those in authority to govern well, and finally that the Lord would hasten His return and for His sake bring us in robes of His righteousness to feast.

Almighty God, our heavenly Father, because of Your tender love toward us sinners You have given us Your Son that, believing in Him, we might have everlasting life. Continue to grant us Your Spirit that we may remain steadfast in this faith to the end and finally come to life everlasting; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. (LSB, 311)

Ned Moerbe, Pastor
Trinity Lutheran Church
Blackwell, OK


Guest Article — The Supreme Court Non-Decision — 19 Comments

  1. I do not believe the Supreme Court, nor any Federal or state lower court can force an unwilling pastor to officiate at a same sex wedding. I believe there will be a conviction clause and that First Amendment protection will apply, however, a Christian who happens to be a Public Justice of the Peace may not get this exemption. With an abundance of liberal and heretical churches willing to marry homosexuals, it is certain that the ELCA and PCUSA, as well as the Methodists, and Episcopalians will fill the void, since these denominations are already apostate beyond redemption. As for the hand of the state enforcing an anti-discrimination action against those pastors and denominations resisting the gay marriage legislation… is interesting to see who will stand on God’s word, and who will cave in to society’s new immorality and religious oppression. Already, Christian owned bakeries and other services are persecuted and fined for following God’s word on marriage. Never in America? And we thought we would always have a free society and a right to worship….well…we do not any longer. The Fascists came for the universities, and now they are coming for the churches.

  2. @John J Flanagan #1

    Very well said.

    John J Flanagan :
    The Fascists came for the universities, and now they are coming for the churches.

    Fascism is a word we are going to have to get comfortable with using and using correctly, if we are to understand, identify and speak against what is happening in the world, in our churches and why people are saying things that wouldn’t have been said so unashamedly just ten to twenty years ago.

  3. @John J Flanagan #1
    I think it’s stupid and un-wise to refuse to sell a cake to a same-sex wedding. (On the other hand it’s a horrific fine! Beyond all sense!!! We Europeans don’t know if we should laugh or cry.) Christians should live in peace in the world. In the church the false teachers should not be tolerated at all but avoided, in the society however we must tolerate a lot of heresy. 1 Corinthians 5:9-10 I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world.

  4. @John J Flanagan #1
    “I believe there will be a conviction clause and that First Amendment protection will apply, …”

    “Conviction” or “Conscience” clauses remain in effect for a few years at most. Then the authorities decide that such clauses are homophobic or misogynist and they are done away with. Beware such clauses–they are not worth the paper they’re printed on. Witness the homosexual lobby’s quest for “tolerance.” Now that they are having their way, tolerance no longer applies–it’s “my way or the highway.” The Church in Sweden is another example of such a clause re: ordination of women. You could look it up:

  5. @Rev Jakob Fjellander #3

    I think it is stupid and unwise for a Rev. to advise an individual to violate his or her conscience when it comes to servicing same-sex wedding ceremonies. However, this dos not surprise me knowing how far down the road of decline European churches are. This lack of speaking out against the greater society’s encroachment of an individual’s human rights is akin to the mostly silent clergy in Germany during World War II.

  6. @RK #5 I agree that it was stupid and unwise to use the word “stupid”, unnecessary provoking. I am sorry for that. But can you show me where Scripture tells us not to sell cakes to same sex weddings?
    Or are you maybe defending a Puritan/methodistic view of society?

  7. @Rev Jakob Fjellander #6
    I suppose selling a cake to a homosexual as a baker is not problematic for a Christian, but selling a cake decorated specifically for a same sex wedding denotes a tacit approval of the event. If we looked at the New Testament wedding where Jesus turned water into wine, one might fast forward to the times in which we now live. Some liberal Christian churches today might suggest that same sex weddings are moral, even receiving God’s blessings. That is their warped and tainted view. Jesus would never appear at a wedding of two men, because such an idea is paganistic and against God and nature, yet that is what some want in the heretical apostate churches we find in these dark days. Furthermore, would a believing Jew in the time of the wedding feast even consider supplying wine, or a decorated cake for such an occasion? The answer is “No!” But for those who wish to change the definition of sin, they will seek to excuse themselves and do what is wrong to please self and the new immorality of this society.

  8. @John J Flanagan #7
    Just for sake of clarity, let me add, that I diligently believe that homosexuality is really sinful, yes an abomination! I am not silent on these issues, I am rebuking the authorities for that from the pulpit (@RK).
    I agree that people can’t demand bakers to bake contrary to their beliefs and values (e.g. an obscene cake). But they have to sell to anyone what they bake. So if I were the baker I would have responded: “I am glad you like my cakes. My wedding cakes have a man and a woman on top. If you want to redesign it you take the responsibility yourself. I can sell you a cake (without figurines) and the figurines separately. They are sold in pairs, one man and one woman. So if you want to buy one cake and two pairs, that’s your matter.”

    How different is the situation in the church! In the church a Christian must not support any heresy. Giving churchly support (for instance money) to heretics is sinful. But a Christian has to use different principles in the world and in the church.

  9. Rev. Jakob Fjellander :
    So if I were the baker I would have responded: “I am glad you like my cakes. My wedding cakes have a man and a woman on top. If you want to redesign it you take the responsibility yourself. I can sell you a cake (without figurines) and the figurines separately. They are sold in pairs, one man and one woman. So if you want to buy one cake and two pairs, that’s your matter.”

    Are you sure that things work that way in the American wedding cake business? That all the baker does is deliver a wedding cake, and somebody else decorates it?

    I have a sense that that is usually not how it works.

    More importantly, however, I am even more convinced that before I could consider myself entitled and qualified to pronounce judgement against the baker in question, I would need to be familiar with not only the general workings of the American wedding cake industry, but also with the specifics of the situation in its entirety.

    Among other things I would need to know the answers to such questions as:
    1. Exactly what was requested?
    2. Exactly how was the request presented?
    3. Was the baker’s response to the request one he or she had had time to think through and prepare, or was it his or her spontaneous reaction to a surprising request, perhaps presented in an already stressful situation, while things were busy in the business?

    Without such knowledge I could hardly consider myself qualified – and I would know for a fact that I would have no right whatsoever as a Christian – to pronounce any judgement whatsoever against the baker, whether or not he or she is stupid or unwise.

  10. “We could resort to only blessing civil marriages, but let’s be honest the opportunity to bring the Word of God to bear on this most solemn of events would be diminished.”

    1) how so?

    isn’t it more in the spirit of art 23 of the augustana/apology for pastors to NOT be an agent of the state? How would this be giving up the only legitimate function of a called servant of the Word?

    2) “legislation…by unelected judges…

    A constitution is not a bylaw. Referendums to change a constitution makes them into a bylaw. You seem to want our country to be a small d democracy rather than a constitutional republic. You want everything to be decided by majority vote? the will of the people/majority? really really? what happens when christians and your particular ethics are no longer in the majority? do we really want the precident you are advocating?

    Your post troubles me as a confessional Lutheran.

  11. @John J Flanagan #1

    I personally believe that anyone should be able to discriminate against whoever they want to. I think that is freedom of speech and the right to free association. it could also be religious freedom for religions that oppose misogynation. That means that blacks could be turned away from public accomodations or interracial couples. after all Jim Jones University holds that the Bible mandates this.

    Do I favor racism? of course not. it is ugly I think. But it should not be illegal. I think this is a similar situation regarding gays/homosexuals.

    But our society has decided this: if someone is offering public accomodations be it lodging, or food or services, then they must offer those services to all takers. And I think that we can abide by that without compromising our religious convictions. Mariott hotels are owned by mormons. Mormons are godless and immoral. I dont need to boycott marriott because they support the mormons. I am buying a service.

    So then this: If pastors offer to perform weddings for persons who are not members of their congretation, then they are offering a service to the public at large. they will not be allowed to refuse that service to anyone. So it is perhaps a good thing this is happening. why should pastors perform weddings for anyone who is not a member. and this: why should pastors become functionaries of the state? All of that is mischief. maybe this will fix some of that?

  12. @Rev Jakob Fjellander #3

    I think you are right.
    Christians sell things to buddhists, mormons and other unbelievers,

    so what is worse: sexual immorality which destroys the body or idolatry that destroys the soul? which is the worse sin? isnt our refusal to sell a cake to a homo but to have no problem selling cakes to unbelievers a testimony to what matters to us? we make morality more important than faith in Jesus Christ. our testimony betrays that fact.

  13. @Jais H. Tinglund #9

    good answer! would the “christian baker” also sell a cake to a bar mitzvah? a mormon wedding (where they believe they will become gods and goddesses by being married)?

    “christian baker” as well as “christian morality” are both category errors. there is no such thing as christian anything except that faith that USES Christ as the ONLY shield from the wrath of God.

    proof: there is not one single moral act, word or deed that a christian should or would do that a pious pagan also should or would or could not also do. the only difference that makes one a Christian is , alone, faith, alone, in Christ , alone.

  14. fws :
    @Rev Jakob Fjellander #3
    I think you are right.
    Christians sell things to buddhists, mormons and other unbelievers,
    so what is worse: sexual immorality which destroys the body or idolatry that destroys the soul? which is the worse sin? isnt our refusal to sell a cake to a homo but to have no problem selling cakes to unbelievers a testimony to what matters to us? we make morality more important than faith in Jesus Christ. our testimony betrays that fact.

    It’s not an “either/or” when it comes to morality, fws. You can’t segregate Jesus from morality. You can put law and gospel in their proper places, but that’s not the same as saying “law is bad, gospel is good” (a Forde fallacy).

  15. I think the topic of tolerance of gay marriage by Christians living in a pluralistic society has been expanded broadly here to include our relationship to Mormons, Hindu and Buddhist cultures, etc…but this only makes the water muddy. We know that we live among other cultural values, many of which are contrary to our faith in Christ, and many people do not believe the word of God. Of course, this has always been true throughout history. Nevertheless, since we walk the narrow way, we must follow our faith and convictions despite the cost…public disdain and ridicule, and persecution. If a Christian cannot stand for a simple biblical command like marriage between one man and one woman, then that person is double minded and has merely a professing religiosity without substance or practical use. If one needs to find some justification or theological basis to avoid standing up for God’s word, there are those who will provide such an escape….which pleases Satan, the father of lies, but offends God, who seeks faithfulness from those who call themselves His own.

  16. @J. Dean #14

    The law is ALWAYS Good J Dean. But this is also true: You are completely corrupted by sin from birth in your very nature and essence. So “the Law…only…necessarily…always…accuses ” you. (book of concord). Your complete and utter lack of faith, fear , love and trust in your heart is what it is that makes the Law always and only seem to be about your sin and death. “The terms law, sin and death are inseparable” (Luther, “Only the Decalog is eternal, Luther’s Complete Antinomian Disputations”).

    God DEMANDS morality of all of us J Dean. And he shows he is serious about this by threatening to punish all who do not do the morality called the golden rule, and also promises to bless those who do morality towards others. you are right: Jesus cannot be separated from morality. Why not? Even pagans can both know and do true morality (aka carnal righteousness as saint paul calls it…) with NO need for the Bible, Christ or the Holy Spirit. reason, free will and human powers are sufficient. Confessions: Nothing more concerning morality can be demanded than the “Ethics” of [pagan] Aristotle.” So you are so right: there is no either/or as to morality. But then this: The eternal consequence of our best moral behavior is only one thing: Death. “The soul that sins, it shall die.” J Dean even your best moral behavior is the moral equivalent of a used tampon (cf st isaiah). Even your best morality is inchoate, that is, it is so tainted by sin so as to be worthless before God. God demands morality so human life is possible. Morality is, alone, for the benefit of your neighbor. Before God it is sin and merits hell. The only Obedience that works before God is that One Obedience of Christ. Alone, claimed by faith, alone.

  17. @John J Flanagan #15

    Explain to all of us how comparing the sin of homosexual sex to the sin of mormonism, buddhism and all other forms of godlessness “muddies the water.”

    So you think that sexual sinning is worse than the sin of idolatry? worse than unbelief? worse than denigrating Christ on the Cross by impenitently living in a “lifestyle religion” that denies Christ? and you would bake a cake for a Mormon man-woman wedding knowing they believe that through that marriage they actually believe they will become a god and a goddess and create their own planets!!!!???? really?

  18. @J. Dean #14

    Let me be more direct J Dean: I believe that Forde was an antinomian. I do not cast away many of the good things he said. And his writings have helped alot of people in many good ways. Some of the things he says are very Lutheran and very correct. For example Forde says this: “The movement in Romans 8 is not from vice to virtue in flesh vs spirit. It is the movement from true Virtue to alone faith in Christ.” This is Lutheranism at it’s very finest!

    At the same time, Forde, along with his disciple Nestingen tear apart the Lutheran Confessions by applying higher critical methods to dissect the Confessions to get at the “text behind the text.” Why do they do that? They are both trying to escape the plain meaning of those parts of the Confessions that disagree with them. Most notably this is article 6 of the formula of concord. But not only that part. They do this by suggesting that what is contained in the Formula is actual Melancthon’s Theology and not Luther’s. They distort the difference between Luther and Melancthon and exagerate it. And in fact the Confessions are a repudiation of the later Melancthon who was actually the father of calvinism and arminianism.

    So please do not think you understand what I am saying by slotting me with Forde’s theology ok? I follow the confessions, luther and chemnitz and Flacius (except for his horrible overstatements on sin and human nature that must be rejected at all costs).

    i would highly suggest you get this book: “Only the Decalog is Eternal: Luther’s Complete Antinomian Disputation. ” You can find this book on Amazon. You will find especially the 3rd , 4th and 5th disputations very challenging to what seems to be your current thinking about the Divine Law of God.

  19. @fws #17

    The same-sex couples, that I know of, say they have no sin; therefore, they are in the same boat as Mormons, Buddhists, etc. All of them, during this time of grace, have the opportunity to repent and believe but the same-sex couples would then have to end their sodomy while the former Mormon and Buddhist married couples could remain married in Christ.

    The gay rights “democracy” movement could just move on to another bakery, florist or photographer but not doing so shows their true nature. They would rather haul these people in front of judges for fines and/or put them out of business. This way seems right to men (society) but it leads down a wide path of destruction which will eventually and pointedly call out pastors, church members and denominations to account.

    There is a price to be paid for freedom of speech and association. That is why I am for people following their consciences in this matter and suffering the consequences.

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