Great Stuff — What the Supreme Court Ruling on Same-Sex Marriage Will Mean for Confessional Lutherans

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US Supreme Court building with people on steps

US Supreme Court building with people on steps

Back in 2014 the three judges of the 7th Circuit Court ruled that Wisconsin and Indiana could not limit marriage to heterosexuals. According to Judge Richard Posner, this ruling was necessary because traditional (natural) marriage is based on “a tradition of hate…and savage discrimination.”

A similar ruling will likely come from the Supreme Court sometime this June, only this time it will be applied to every state. And the rationale above will be a major factor.

The upcoming ruling on same-sex marriage is much more than a political issue. It will impact not just a small segment of the population, but federal and local governing bodies, schools, businesses, families, individuals, and many other institutions. Over the last 50 years (and especially the last 15) we have seen a radical shift in culture where God’s ordained ordering for society has taken hit after hit. And what is so significant and historic regarding the expected decision is that this change will be cemented into the fabric of society by the highest court of the land. Furthermore, if the majority of justices rule as anticipated, individual Christians and our confessional Lutheran churches will be challenged – and persecuted – like never before. This is not hyperbole. It is simple reality.

Satan’s finger prints are all over this and he knows exactly what he is doing. As usual he is telling a lie, a lie that more and more people have bought so that supporters of gay marriage now outnumber supporters of natural and God-ordained marriage.   He has been able to convince a majority – including youth, adults, seniors, professors, lawmakers, judges, governors, a president, teachers, business owners, the news media, local city councils, and even virile organizations like the NFL – that marriage is not something defined by a transcendent God (as confirmed by natural law, history, and the inerrant Scriptures), but is something constructed by man and society so that man and society can do with it as they please. Culture has quickly moved marriage from the bin of “constructed by God” to the bin of “constructed by man.” Just a few years ago most people believed that God had said of marriage, “This is mine.” Now most of these same people are saying, “No, it is ours.” They bought into a lie. And as Hermann Sasse wrote,

The lie is the death of man, his temporal and his eternal death. The lie kills nations. The most powerful nations of the world have been laid waste because of their lies. History knows of no more unsettling sight than the judgment rendered upon the people of an advanced culture who have rejected the truth and are swallowed upon in a sea of lies. Where this happens, as in the case of declining pagan antiquity, religion and law, poetry and philosophy, life in marriage and family, in the state and society — in short, one sphere of life after another falls sacrifice to the power and curse of the lie. Where man can no longer bear the truth, he cannot live without the lie. Where man denies that he and others are dying, the terrible dissolution [of his culture] is held up as a glorious ascent, and decline is viewed as an advance, the likes of which has never been experienced. (Union and Confession, 1936)[1]

The Confessing Church

Throughout history marriage between a man and a woman was something that nations treated as natural and sacred – as an institution that has a transcendent source and approval. We biblical Lutherans “believe, teach, and confess” this understanding of marriage. It is one of those sacred teachings that is supported and revealed both in nature and the Scriptures. But do we confess this teaching in the same way we confess other Scriptural doctrines? Or do we recognize a higher confession for those doctrines that deal with eternal things? After all, marriage, as Scripture teaches, is only for this life and not the next (Matt. 22:30). So, is our conviction about marriage something we should be willing to suffer for? If the government tells us as individuals or as a congregation, “Endorse and support this new court ruling, or suffer,” do we have to say, “No, here I stand”? Or do we have the Christian freedom to avoid paying a price as culture shifts away from natural law and God’s ordering?

First, if we love our neighbor we will confess the truth. God-ordained marriage is for his good as well as ours, even if he is not a Christian. Marriage of one man and one woman is the basis for civilized society. Without it, a nation will crumble. Man, woman, and child all benefit from God-ordained marriage in this fallen world. So for the sake of our neighbor, here we stand.

Second, if we love God and his Word we will confess the truth. We cannot think wavering in one teaching will not carry over to others. Jesus said, “One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much.” (Luke 16). Or as St. Paul said, “A little leaven leavens the whole lump.” (Gal. 5).  But we go further than this. The marriages in this life are not the ultimate marriage. By their very existence they direct us to the much greater and eternal marriage (Eph. 5:22ff.). A groom and bride here, reflect (albeit dimly) the forever marriage of Christ, the Bridegroom, and his Bride, the Church. If we do not stand firmly on the biblical teaching of marriage – by word and deed – we end up robbing God of one of his purposes of the earthly bride and bridegroom relationship, that of pointing to the eternal Bride and Bridegroom relationship, an eternal Marriage established by the Gospel. Natural marriage is clearly related to the Gospel and eternal things. If we do not stand firm on marriage, we will soon not stand on Christ. So out of honor for God and his Word, here we stand.

What’s Coming

We don’t yet know all that will happen, though individual states and countries like Canada where same-sex-marriage is the law give us some clues and examples. And considering the rapid “progress” gay marriage has made in just the last several years, there is good reason to believe that proponents are determined to push it to be legally and ethically binding as far as they can; it is a steam engine that has not yet slowed down. Pressure will be put upon both the individual and many institutions not only to tolerate the new definition of marriage but also to agree with and support it. This pressure, as is the case now, will continue to take the form of name calling such as intolerant, bigoted, hateful, homophobe and therefore evil (who wants to such labels attached to them?). But with a legal court ruling that applies across the board, the pressure will come in the form of court costs, hefty fines, businesses and institutions forced to close their doors, or jail. We have seen some of this already in the several states where gay marriage is legal: families and small businesses (bakeries, florists, wedding photographers, a T shirt company, bed and breakfast inns, banquet halls) have paid a high price, simply because they said they could not with a clear conscience allow their services to be used in support of gay causes. Parents will have no recourse when their children are taught that same-sex marriage is good and traditional marriage is bigoted, for that is what the new law of the land will in essence say. Pastors will apparently have an exemption from having to perform same-sex weddings (though Justice Scalia suspects that will not last), but in Canada there are examples where pastors and others have been silenced and even fined for simply stating the biblical position in public. It remains unclear how congregations will be affected, but they are vulnerable, especially those that allow facility usage by outside groups (e.g. the rental of the church for weddings by non-members). The tax-exempt status of confessional churches will likely be challenged. Updates to their constitutions and bylaws may be helpful, but this is no guarantee when facing a Supreme Court decision. But the challenge we may have to face first of all will be our Bethany Lutheran College. Federal money and grants will become an issue as long as we teach as we do. So will Bethany’s tax-exempt status. According to one attorney, “[D]octrinal provisions in the governing documents of religious schools may not be enough to fend off IRS challenges to tax-exempt status if the IRS or the courts conclude that the right of same-sex couples to marry is a fundamental and compelling public policy.”[2] So even with a clear confession of faith by our synod, college policies and practices may still be found to be unconstitutional. Many judges and local authorities, as we have seen, are more than willing to compel all sectors to comply, in spite of the first amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Some of us may be called upon to testify in ways we would rather avoid. We may be tested with the words of Christ, “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.” (Matt. 10). The question that we as individuals, as Christian parents, as Christian business owners and managers, as Christian congregations, as a Board of Regents, as a confessional Lutheran synod, need to ask ourselves is: When is it okay to support a lie of Satan with our actions, our business, our money, our words, our policies, our silence, instead of drawing a line and saying, “No, I can’t do that; no, here I stand”? What if the government says, “We demand that the services you provide, your business, your policies, your churches, your college be used to support the decision of the Supreme Court in spite of and contrary to your sacred beliefs.” When would we take a stand, draw a line and say, “Here, and no further?” If we will not stand here, we will not stand firm when they tell us to deny Christ. If we will not be “faithful in a very little”, we will not be “faithful in much.”

What to Remember and Do

Though it does, none of this should take us by surprise. Jesus predicted that as long as we live in the Church Militant we will be hated, persecuted, called names, and even delivered over to death (Matt. 10). It just happens to be that what the devil is currently using to bring about this current and coming trial is the biblical teaching on marriage. And so it is essential that we remember that “our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Phil. 3:20). And this implies that we have already won, or more accurately, that Jesus the Son has already won everything for us. “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? … In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” (Rom. 8). The earthly kingdom, our nation, is temporary. The Kingdom we have through faith in the crucified, risen, and ascended Savior is eternal. He is now seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty, where he rules all things for the good of the Church, even though we often can’t grasp how.

So we walk by faith in Jesus. And that includes confessing our sinfulness, a sinfulness that puts us in the same boat with any and all enemies. We claim no moral superiority. We are by nature, with everyone else, sinful and unclean. What we do claim is grace: that we are cleansed by the blood of Christ in the waters of baptism, comforted and sustained through gospel found in the Word and the other sacrament. This we trust, even as the world and Satan press hard against us.

We also fight. We hold to and faithfully teach the word of God, especially to our children. We defend the Word of God in our churches, college, seminary, and in the public square. We need to be ready to take legal action to defend ourselves from wrongful intrusion by the government. The synod, the college, congregations, and pastors have to be prepared to seek sound legal counsel. But we also often fight in a strange way: We love the very ones who oppose God’s Word, God’s Christ, and God’s children. We love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us (Matt. 5). While they place before us the fiery furnace, we hold out to them a cup of water and, when the opportunity arises, the Water of Life, for they are loved by the God of all mercy just as much as we are.

And we pray, confessing our many sins and praising God for his free forgiveness. We pray also for steadfastness, for we will be tempted to compromise when we shouldn’t and even deny our Lord. And we pray for our neighbor: our pastors, our churches, our synod, our nation, our governing authorities, and our enemies. And then we wait for the return of the King and the new heavens and the new earth.

-Pastor David Thompson


[1] Copied from a May 19th, 2015 statement by LCMS Pres. Matthew Harrison on the same subject (


About Norm Fisher

Norm was raised in the UCC in Connecticut, and like many fell away from the church after high school. With this background he saw it primarily as a service organization. On the miracle of his first child he came back to the church. On moving to Texas a few years later he found a home in Lutheranism when he was invited to a confessional church a half-hour away by our new neighbors.

He is one of those people who found a like mind in computers while in Middle School and has been programming ever since. He's responsible for many websites, including the Book of Concord,, and several other sites.

He has served the church in various positions, including financial secretary, sunday school teacher, elder, PTF board member, and choir member.

More of his work can be found at


Great Stuff — What the Supreme Court Ruling on Same-Sex Marriage Will Mean for Confessional Lutherans — 17 Comments

  1. In the strict sense it shouldn’t affect us at all. We remember that this world is passing away, and that one of the worst things we can do is cling to it as if it’s the be-all-end-all of our existence.

  2. A good article– thanks for sharing it.

    And I do think such articles are appropriate for the Church today, since it has laid in such a stupor for so long, co-habitating with the culture and forgetting that the world is the Church’s persecutor rather than our spouse.

  3. I intend to give the same amount or more to my local congregation with or without tax exemption. It will be an interesting test for the church in America. A winnowing will occur.

  4. Dear BJS,
    Food for thought after reading the Rev. President Harrison’s note on this same sex issue. We as ordained men are licensed by the state to marry. Is it time to begin the process of pulling out as “tools of the state”? Go back to the old ways, we bless a marriage. If the state wants to allow marriage between “whatever”, then do so; of course we feel that is wrong. But if you want your marriage to be blessed, then step inside the Church. Is this not more the historical way in Luther’s time? Go to the state for the paper, then step inside for the blessing under God.

  5. @RK #3

    I couldn’t agree with you more–let the ‘winnowing’ process begin now. This action could make the LCMS once and for all come out from the shadows of the Catholic church. It could be the one act that will bring back those who are just waiting in the wings to come back to church–one that has strong doctrine and the courage to ‘Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s” (Matthew 22:21).

  6. Now we have the SCOTUS decision, Obergefell et al. v. Hodges, in which the SCOTUS helped the U.S. to sink further into depravity and perverted rot.

    The article, “Why Four Justices Were Against the Supreme Court’s Huge Gay Marriage Decision” provides excerpts from Justices Scalia and Thomas opposing the SCOTUS decision. Here’s Justice Scalia (footnote 22 in his dissent):

    “If, even as the price to be paid for a fifth vote, I ever joined an opinion for the Court that began: “The Constitution promises liberty to all within its reach, a liberty that includes certain specific rights that allow persons, within a lawful realm, to define and express their identity,” I would hide my head in a bag. The Supreme Court of the United States has descended from the disciplined legal reasoning of John Marshall and Joseph Story to the mystical aphorisms of the fortune cookie.”

  7. From DOXOLOGY

    With today’s landmark decision, the Supreme Court of the United States has negated the express will of the citizens of several states with laws limiting marriage to one man and one woman. More significantly, it has introduced a definition for marriage contrary to the express will of God and opened the door to persecution of those who for reasons of conscience hold the biblical view.

    Though today’s ruling effectively redefines marriage legally in our land, it does not set aside the scriptural definition of marriage any more than the infamous 1973 Roe v. Wade decision changed the scriptural definition of life.

    Marriage was instituted by God in Eden as a holy estate and comprehensive union between one man and one woman for their mutual support in both joy and sorrow and the procreation and nurture of children. This union of holy matrimony is a picture of the mystic union and communion of Christ Jesus and His Bride, the Holy Christian Church.

  8. Justice Alito, (dissenting, pp. 6-7):

    “[Today’s decision] will be used to vilify Americans who are unwilling to assent to the new orthodoxy. In the course of its opinion, the majority compares traditional marriage laws to laws that denied equal treatment for African-Americans and women.

    “I assume that those who cling to old beliefs will be able to whisper their thoughts in the recesses of their homes, but if they repeat those views in public, they will risk being labeled as bigots and treated as such by governments, employers, and schools.”

    Justice Thomas (dissenting, p. 15):

    “In our society, marriage is not simply a governmental institution; it is a religious institution as well. Id., at 7. Today’s decision might change the former, but it cannot change the latter. It appears all but inevitable that the two will come into conflict, particularly as individuals and churches are confronted with demands to participate in and endorse civil marriages between same-sex couples.”

  9. Now we wait for the Demonicrat regime to issue its edicts regarding changes to the 501(c)(3) status and government financial aid programs for parochial schools, colleges, universities, seminaries, hospitals, nursing homes, orphanages, and recognized service organizations of church bodies that continue to oppose perverted same-sex “marriages”.

    After that, religious leaders who oppose same-sex marriages may be put on the TSC’s No-Fly List. Oops! There go those quincentennial celebration plans at Wittenberg… unless you manage to get a ticket on a transatlantic ocean liner.

  10. @Carl Vehse #9
    Dear Carl,
    Yes, this SCOTUS decision will put probably the most tension with our LCMS ranks. All the latest bickering we read about even the last few days, no one really cares outside us.

    BUT with this, we are going to be exposed to the world that thinks us “haters”, and all sorts of things.

    Let’s see how many pastors “fly under the radar on this”.

    I myself posted on Facebook, Tweeted today, the Faith website clearly delineates a marriage policy, hall usage policy…talk about life as a worker/priest; today is not a pretty day!I am getting tired of fielding questions and conversation, I want to leave and hole up in my Sacristy.

  11. Dear BJS,
    What this SCOTUS decision really means is more depression and loneliness for pastor’s who proclaim the Law and Gospel of God as outlined in Holy Scripture.

    And sad that we do not have the support structures in place to help and guide.

    No one said a pastor’s life was ever easy, it will get lonelier now.

  12. The Caligula-like-diety Kennedy speaks (pp. 18-19):

    “The right to marry is fundamental as a matter of history and tradition, but rights come not from ancient sources. They rise, too, from a better informed understanding of how constitutional imperatives define a liberty that remains urgent in our own era.”

    The Lutheran Confessions (Ap.XXIII(XI).9-13) speak:

    And because this creation or divine ordinance in man is a natural right, jurists have accordingly said wisely and correctly that the union of male and female belongs to natural right. But since natural right is immutable, the right to contract marriage must always remain. For where nature does not change, that ordinance also with which God has endowed nature does not change, and cannot be removed by human laws…. Moreover, a natural right is truly a divine right, because it is an ordinance divinely impressed upon nature. But inasmuch as this right cannot be changed without an extraordinary work of God, it is necessary that the right to contract marriage remains, because the natural desire of sex for sex is an ordinance of God in nature, and for this reason is a right; otherwise, why would both sexes have been created? And we are speaking, as it has been said above, not of concupiscence, which is sin, but of that desire which they call physical love [which would have existed between man and woman even though their nature had remained pure], which concupiscence has not removed from nature, but inflames, so that now it has greater need of a remedy, and marriage is necessary not only for the sake of procreation, but also as a remedy [to guard against sins]. These things are clear, and so well established that they can in no way be overthrown.

  13. Today Texas Governor Greg Abbott issued a Statement regarding the Supreme Court’s homosexual “marriage” ruling. In part it said:

    “The Supreme Court has abandoned its role as an impartial judicial arbiter and has become an unelected nine-member legislature. Five Justices on the Supreme Court have imposed on the entire country their personal views on an issue that the Constitution and the Court’s previous decisions reserve to the people of the States.

    “Despite the Supreme Court’s rulings, Texans’ fundamental right to religious liberty remains protected. No Texan is required by the Supreme Court’s decision to act contrary to his or her religious beliefs regarding marriage.

    “As I have done in the past, I will continue to defend the religious liberties of all Texans—including those whose conscience dictates that marriage is only the union of one man and one woman. Later today, I will be issuing a directive to state agencies instructing them to prioritize the protection of Texans’ religious liberties.”

    The Governor’s statement also referenced the Texas Pastor Protection Act which states, in part:

    “A religious organization, an organization supervised or controlled by or in connection with a religious organization, an individual employed by a religious organization while acting in the scope of that employment, or a clergy or minister may not be required to solemnize any marriage or provide services, accommodations, facilities, goods, or privileges for a purpose related to the solemnization, formation, or celebration of any marriage if the action would cause the organization or individual to violate a sincerely held religious belief.”

  14. A one-person majority of the U.S. Supreme Court got it wrong – again. Some 40 years ago, a similarly activist court legalized the killing of children in the womb. That decision has to date left a wake of some 55 million Americans dead. Today, the Court has imposed same-sex marriage upon the whole nation in a similar fashion. Five justices cannot determine natural or divine law. Now shall come the time of testing for Christians faithful to the Scriptures and the divine institution of marriage (Matthew 19:3–6), and indeed, a time of testing much more intense than what followed Roe v. Wade….

    “The ramifications of this decision are seismic. Proponents will seek to drive Christians and Christian institutions out of education at all levels; they will press laws to force faithful Christian institutions and individuals to violate consciences in work practices and myriad other ways. We will have much more to say about this….

    “However, even as we struggle as a church to come to a unified response to this blatant rejection of the entire history of humankind and its practice of marriage, “We shall obey God rather than man” (Acts 5:29). Christians will now begin to learn what it means to be in a state of solemn conscientious objection against the state. We will resist its imposition of falsehood upon us, even as we continue to reach out to those who continue to be harmed by the ethic of radical sexual freedom, detached from God’s blessing of marriage. And we will stand shoulder to shoulder with Christians, churches and people of good will who are resolute on this issue.”

    Excerpted from President Harrison’s letter, “Synod president responds to SCOTUS same-sex marriage ruling.

  15. The fifth-column leftist media’s censorship of America now expands

    “As a result of Friday’s ruling, [Harrisburg, PA] PennLive/The Patriot-News will no longer accept, nor will it print, op-Eds and letters to the editor in opposition to same-sex marriage.”

    The newspaper later allowed freedom of speech for a “limited” period of time.

  16. Pastor Prentice, your comment that this means “more depression and loneliness for pastors” saddens me. God has not changed. His promises remain and those of us in the pews want to stand shoulder to shoulder with you. We need you to stand tall and remember that God will never leave us and preach that message to us. We are praying for you, pastor.

  17. @DO Fritz #16
    Dear, dear DO Fritz,
    Oh, thank you for your prayers, I will also pray for you as one that cares for the men that toil in the ministry.
    Yes, loneliness and depression do occur because in reality, even the pastors of this blog rarely rally to the aid or to offer words of encouragement directly, it is easier just to blog and comment, then go back to work. Or simply find fault, rather than common likeness.
    And then we pastors must cinch up the pants and go about our business, which we do, loving our flock and those around us with Law and Gospel, God’s Truth in a tough and more sinful world.
    Oh, we will stand tall, but know we are hurting more and more as we are attacked upon, by many sides.
    The one thing I do wish that we would as fellow pastors, stand together, it is a fight that we need the support of each other.
    But the Lord IS good and His mercy endures. I would have it no other way…

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