Dear Catholic Bishops of Minnesota,
I am writing in response to an open letter addressed to you by Bishop Herbert Chilstrom, a former bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), in which he expressed his support for the homosexual lifestyle and for same-sex marriage, and in which he challenged your stand against the same.
As a Lutheran pastor I want to make clear Bishop Chilstrom’s opinions regarding these matters do not reflect the beliefs of Bible-believing Lutherans, nor does the counsel he gave you reflect the clear teachings of God’s Word. Most of all, I express my profound regret that a former ELCA bishop has advised you under the banner of Lutheranism to set aside the clear teachings of the Scripture and accept, instead, the opinions of men.
In his letter Bishop Chilstrom challenged you to find time for an extended visit with 15 homosexuals, and afterwards spend a quiet hour reflecting on a single question— “As I understand the heart of my Savior Jesus, how would he treat these sons and daughters of my church?” The former bishop seems to believe that if only you spent more time getting to know homosexuals, your opposition to their agenda will fade away.
Regrettably, while Bishop Chilstrom asked you to spend time pondering what homosexuals might say, he did not ask you to spend time with God’s Word or read its unequivocal statements that identify homosexual behavior as sinful. Instead, he asked you to restructure your beliefs according to the misguided reasoning and beliefs of the homosexual community. Extended visits with homosexuals could reap a harvest for God’s kingdom, if both law and gospel were rightly presented to them and if repentance of sin ensued. However, without a true presentation of God’s Word, such visits would be futile.
In his letter Bishop Chilstrom did not offer a single verse of Scripture for your consideration; instead, he asked you to draw conclusions from your own reasoning about “how Jesus would treat these sons and daughters of my church.” The sad fact is this— the ELCA long ago exchanged the authority of Scriptures for the opinions of men. Yet, apart from Scripture it is impossible to know the heart of Christ or discern His will regarding the issues of life.
Because Jesus loves homosexuals and all sinners, He directs us to speak His truth in love and bid them to “go, and sin no more,” just as He said to the woman caught in the act of adultery (John 8:11). According to Jesus, “Scripture can never be broken” (John 10:35). Thus, we may be certain that the incarnate Son of God would never go against His own divine revelation by accepting the sinful lifestyle of homosexuals or sanctioning same-sex marriages!
God’s Word declares, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His Word is not in us” (1 John 1:9-10). Nowhere in the Scriptures are we instructed to accept the homosexuals’ chosen life of sin and shame. However, the Bible does direct us to witness both law and gospel to them, calling them to repentance and faith in Christ. Homosexuals, like all of us sinners, must come to Christ, repent, and receive by faith the One who died for them. Those who do so will not only be saved, they will be set free from the bondage of sin and their lives will be forever transformed.
The good news of Christ’s gospel is this—Our Lord is able to change and transform lives, and the Holy Spirit is able to empower them to walk in true obedience to His Word. Paul writes, “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:9-11).
Finally, I applaud your stand against abortion, homosexual acts, same-sex marriage, as well as the adoption of children by same-sex couples. I especially applaud your support of Minnesota’s proposed “Marriage Amendment.” As bishops, it is your duty to uphold the teachings of the Bible on these matters, which is precisely what you are doing. Such a stand is worthy of commendation, not condemnation. I encourage you to hold the blood-bought ground and lift high God’s Word, that people will hear the truth from bishops whose God-given responsibility it is to uphold truth!
Sincerely in Christ,Pastor David R. Barnhart,
Director, Abiding Word Ministries