What is the Lutheran Church's Position on Homosexuality?

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Lutherans have a diversity of views on homosexuality. There is no one worldwide body of all Lutherans, and the largest federation of Lutheran churches has member organizations that have opposing views.

Within Lutheran denominations in the United States, there have been changing attitudes. Some large denominations recognize and perform same-sex marriage and the ordination of clergy who are in same-sex relationships. But some denominations have reaffirmed a more traditional view of sexuality and marriage, viewing same-sex behavior as sinful and marriage reserved to one man and one woman.

Evangelical Lutherans and Homosexuality

There is a clear difference between Evangelical Lutheran movements and more traditional Lutheran churches. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) is the largest Lutheran church body in the U.S. They call Christians to respect all people, regardless of sexual orientation. The 2009 "Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust" document adopted by the ELCA Churchwide Assembly acknowledges the diversity of opinion among Lutherans in regards to sexuality and same-sex marriage. Congregations were allowed to recognize and perform same-sex marriages but are not required to do so.

The ELCA allowed for the ordination of homosexuals to be ministers, but until 2009 they were expected to abstain from homosexual sexual relationships. However, that is no longer the case, and a bishop was installed in 2013 in the Southwest California Synod who was in a longstanding gay partnership.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada permits clergy in committed same-sex partnerships and allows the blessing of same-sex unions as of 2011.

Note that not all Evangelical Lutheran denominations share the beliefs of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. There are several with Evangelical in their names that are more restrictive. In response to the 2009 decisions, hundreds of congregations left the ELCA in protest.

Other Lutheran Denominations

Other Lutheran churches make a distinction between homosexual orientation and homosexual behavior. For instance, the Lutheran Church of Australia believes that sexual orientation is not controlled by the individual, but denies a genetic propensity. The church does not condemn nor judge homosexuality and claims the Bible is silent on homosexual orientation. Homosexuals are welcomed into the congregation.

The Lutheran Church Missouri Synod has adopted the belief that homosexuality is contrary to Bible teaching, and encourages members to minister to homosexuals. It does not state that homosexual orientation is a conscious choice but still contends that homosexual behavior is sinful. Same-sex marriage is not performed in churches in the Missouri Synod.

Ecumenical Affirmation on Marriage

In 2013, the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), Lutheran Church–Canada (LCC), The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod (LCMS), and the North American Lutheran Church (NALC) issued "An Affirmation of Marriage." It begins, "The Sacred Scriptures teach that in the beginning the blessed Trinity instituted marriage to be the life-long union of one man and one woman (Gen 2:24; Matt 19:4-6), to be held in honor by all and kept pure (Heb 13:4; 1 Thess 4:2-5)." It discusses why marriage is "not simply a social contract or convenience," and calls for discipline in human desires outside of marriage.