Editor’s Note: This press release was sent by the Lutheran Church-Canada July 18 following the (liberal) Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada meeting which authorized pastors to conduct same-sex ‘marriages.”

Responding to a vote by delegates at the convention of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC) meeting in Saskatoon, July 15 and 16, which authorized its pastors to conduct same-gender marriages and finds sexual orientation no longer an issue for ordaining pastors, the leaders of Lutheran Church-Canada (LCC) issued a statement noting that the ELCIC does not speak for all Lutherans in the country.

The statement at lutheranchurch.ca/marriage notes that the ELCIC is the only Lutheran church body in Canada “that has approved such a departure from accepted Christian teaching.” While the ELCIC is the largest Lutheran body in Canada, statistics available online show that nearly 40 per cent of Lutherans worshipping each week belong to congregations outside the ELCIC.

Noting the words of Jesus who spoke of marriage in terms of a man leaving his father and mother, being united to his wife, and the two becoming one flesh, LCC’s presidents (bishops) declared the church body’s continuing witness to, “Christ’s clear teaching that God designed marriage as the lifelong union of one man and one woman.” They further state that LCC will not ordain pastors who do not support this position.

At its 2002 convention Lutheran Church-Canada affirmed the historic biblical definition of marriage. At its most recent convention in June 2011, delegates agreed that the Bible’s qualifications and standards for a pastor include a heterosexual orientation.

LCC’s position is one held by the Church for the past 2000 years and supported by millions of Christians worldwide including the Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and a rapidly growing number of Lutheran churches in Africa. “LCC is not speaking from the margins,” the statement notes.

The statement also rejects any notion that holding to “historic Christian teaching on marriage and sexuality constitutes ‘homophobia,’ an irrational fear and hatred of people with same-gender orientation.” LCC’s leaders refuse to defend those who take a threatening or insulting approach to the issue, but instead “repent of such sin and ask God to help His people overcome it wherever it occurs.”

After noting that there are Lutheran Christians in Canada “still deeply committed to the Bible as the authoritative Word of God and still dedicated to its clear witness on human sexuality, marriage and standards for ministry,” the leaders pledge prayers for those within the ELCIC for whom their church body’s decision is troubling.