Statement on homosexuality
WELS does not have an official statement on these issues, but our public teaching and practice is based on what the Bible teaches concerning homosexuality.
There are currently a number of hotly debated issues that may lead people to ask, “What is WELS’s stance on homosexuality? Is homosexuality an inborn disposition or a free choice? Should states outlaw or endorse same sex marriages? Should gays be ordained to the Holy Ministry? Should churches bless same sex marriages?”
The best place to begin a discussion of the issue is with 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, because this passage emphasizes both the law and the gospel elements of addressing this issue:
“Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders , nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”
On the basis of this and other passages of Scripture we must draw the following conclusions about homosexuality.
Scripture declares that homosexuality is a sin, which is contrary to God’s intention in creating man and woman. Sinful resistance to the revealed will of God is a factor in this sin. People may become slaves to this sin (Romans 1:18-31, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10).
Many factors contribute to individual acts of sin: the sinful nature we are born with, the weaknesses of our bodies, evil influences in our environment, temptations and encouragement from other sinners, and our own sinful choice join together to lead us into sin. All of these factors contribute to homosexual sin. The proportionate role of these various factors may vary from case to case.
We must warn the impenitent that homosexuality, like all sins, excludes people from eternal life (1 Corinthians 6:9-10). The church, therefore, must not, bless same-sex marriages or unions, since these are contrary to the will of God. The church must not place into nor retain in the public ministry of the Word people who defend, condone, or persist in words or actions that are contrary to God’s law.
We are happy to assure the repentant who are struggling against this sin that they have complete forgiveness through the blood of Christ. When Christ died for all of the sins of the whole world, he gained forgiveness for homosexual deeds, for homosexual desires, and for the inborn sinful nature that produces these sins (1 Corinthians 6:11).
We should sympathize with all who are struggling against this sin, remembering that we too have “pet sins” that may have a strong hold on us. We warn against a “selective morality” that harshly condemns homosexuality or other sins that we observe in others while regarding those sins which are present in our own lives more lightly (Matthew 7:1-5). We should be impartial and unbiased in warning against all sins.
We all look forward to the resurrection of the body. Then all the weaknesses of body and soul which now lead us into sin will disappear forever. Then all of us will be able to serve God perfectly and purely in everything we do.
Note on homosexuality as innate or chosen
Some advocates of legal and religious tolerance of homosexuality claim that homosexuality has a genetic cause. Some reports claim that some homosexual men share a particular pattern in the X sex-chromosome that they received from their mother. Other researchers have claimed the existence of other types of biological similarities between homosexual men. These researchers acknowledge that their discoveries cannot account for all homosexuality and may merely be associated with homosexuality rather than being a direct cause of it. Most researchers conclude that the origins of homosexuality are complex and varied and may never be fully understood.
How should we evaluate such claims in the light of the biblical teaching of sin? Is homosexuality a free choice or an inborn tendency?
Like many such either-or questions, this question poses a false dilemma. Every sin is both a choice of the will and the expression of an inborn tendency to sin. Our sinful will is guilty of consent whenever we sin in thought, word, or deed. As a result of our sinful nature we take pleasure in our sins and defend them. This universal tendency is apparent also in the efforts of gay rights activists to condone their homosexuality and to deny that anything is wrong with it.
Although the consent of our sinful will is present in every sin, it is also true that we are born as slaves of sin. We may also yield to a particular sin so often that we no longer control the sin, but the sin controls us. We may find ourselves yielding to sin even when we don’t want to.
Sin infects both our body and our soul. The body we now have is not the perfect body that God created for Adam and Eve. It has been contaminated by the effects of sin. There is no reason to maintain that the specific effects of sin have been identical in each one of us or that we are all equally susceptible to every sin. Our individual degree of susceptibility to some specific sins may be due in part to differences in our bodies. Abuse of alcohol and a hot temper are just two examples of sins that may be affected by the chemistry of our bodies. Few would deny that the pressure to sexual sin is greater at 18 than it is at 8 or at 88 and that a primary reason for this is the changing chemistry of our bodies. It may well be that a person’s susceptibility to homosexuality or to certain other sins depends in part on bodily differences.
Even though the weakness of our own body may be one factor that leads us to sin, God holds us responsible for all of our sins, even those sins that enslave us and those sins that we are not aware of. We need God’s forgiveness even for those sinful desires that we resist and do not act upon. These desires too are sin. (Read Romans 7 for a treatment of slavery to sin.) Christ’s forgiveness covers every form of every sin for the repentant.
Note on Christians and civil laws pertaining to homosexuality
How should Christians respond to campaigns to pass laws either protecting homosexuality as a civil right or laws restricting it? Are opposing laws that grant status of homosexuality as a civil right or supporting laws that restrict homosexual practice an attempt to force our religion on others by means of the law?
We must distinguish between our duties as members of the church and our duties as citizens, though the first may have an effect on how we carry out the second.
Our Christian duty toward homosexuals (and toward the sexually immoral, thieves, swindlers, murderers, slanderers, and drunkards, and any violators of God’s will) is clear—to confront the impenitent with God’s law, which condemns their sin, and to comfort the penitent with the gospel, which offers forgiveness.
As good neighbors and citizens, our duty is not to pressure people to accept and practice our religious beliefs, but to promote laws that protect individuals and society from harm. If reason, evidence, and the natural knowledge of God’s law, which remains in people even after the Fall, all testify that stealing, murder, drug abuse, sexual immorality, abortion, and homosexuality or condoning of same sex marriage are harmful to individuals or to society, we as citizens should work for laws that oppose those evils. We do this not to force our religious beliefs on others, but rather to work together with other people who share a natural knowledge of God’s law in order to protect society from actions that are harmful to society. The fact that stealing is forbidden by the Seventh Commandment and murder by the Fifth Commandment does not mean that we as Christians cannot support laws against stealing or murder. The recognition that these acts are wrong and harmful is not peculiar to Lutheranism nor to Christianity. It is based on a natural knowledge of God’s law and on experience. This knowledge, therefore, is common to all people, except where sinners have suppressed this knowledge. (Read Romans 1:18-32.)
As Christian citizens we should work for laws that will protect society from the harmful consequences of sin. As citizens we promote such laws on the basis of reason and natural knowledge of the law. If the state tolerates moral evils, which violate God’s law, we will continue to oppose them on the basis of God’s Word.
As a member of the church my goal is to win people’s hearts and guide their lives by God’s Word. As a citizen my goal is to regulate people’s conduct so they do not harm themselves or others. Many of the moral principles of God’s law are relevant to both goals and may be used in both spheres, but for different purposes. As a member of the church I use all of God’s law as a mirror, a curb, and a rule. As a citizen I use parts of God’s law as a curb against conduct that reason and natural knowledge of the law recognize as harmful to society.