Mark G. Schroeder
As Americans, we have enjoyed the blessing of freedom to practice our religion according to our beliefs and conscience. The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution states that, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” The double intent of those words was to prevent the government from establishing an official state religion and to prevent the government from restricting the right of Americans to worship and believe according to their conscience.
The Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod is deeply thankful for this constitutional protection of our religious liberty. The freedom to believe and to proclaim what the Scriptures teach without fear of restriction or retribution has been a precious blessing to us.
When that liberty is threatened by government laws and policies or curtailed by a hostile culture, our synod will continue to insist on our constitutional freedom to practice our religion in keeping with our beliefs. If anyone attempts to restrict or limit that freedom in any way, to silence our message through threat or accusation, or to impose penalties, we will continue to hold to the truths of God’s Word without compromise. Like the apostle Paul who appealed to Caesar, we will seek to have our freedom protected through legal means. But if we are ultimately placed in the position of making a choice, we will echo the words of the apostles who said in the face of pressure to be silent, “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29 ESV).
We will hold to our beliefs because we are convinced that they are rooted in the Word of God himself. The principles and values that God has established do not change with society or culture, nor are they shaped by human law. God’s truths remain unchanging and constant, and we will not depart from those truths. We also will hold to our beliefs because that Word of God reveals the only solution to what human beings need most: the saving good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. To fail to hold to all the truths of God’s Word would be a shameful and unloving abandonment of fellow sinners who need to know God’s love and forgiveness in Christ. Far from being hateful or bigoted (those accusations have already been made), holding to the truths of God’s Word and sharing those truths is the ultimate expression of love and concern.
The Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod believes that every person is a sinner in need of God’s forgiveness in Christ. We believe that every person needs to hear God’s call to repentance for every sin, regardless of the type or nature of that sin. We also believe that sinners, once they have realized their sin and come to know God’s forgiveness in Christ, will strive to turn from those sins and live their lives in keeping with the values and principles that God has established in his Word. We will teach God’s values in our churches and schools and will welcome all who desire to be instructed in those values and to adopt those values as their own.
We are confident that one of the founding principles of our country is the right of all religions to practice their beliefs without constraint imposed by a hostile culture or by governmental authority. But even if those freedoms are taken away, the gospel of Jesus Christ will continue to be proclaimed and confessed boldly and faithfully as he has promised.
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Author: Mark G. Schroeder
Volume 103, Number 8
Issue: August 2016
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