Though there are many religions and cultures that require or place a high preference on marriage within the community, Lutherans do allow inter-faith relationships and marriages. The three major synods: The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), The Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod (LCMS) and the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS) vary somewhat on their levels of acceptance, but do not have specific policies in place.
The Importance of Marriage in the Lutheran Church
During the Protestant Reformation of the early 14th century, Martin Luther advocated strongly for the marriage of the clergy. He quoted verses from the book of Genesis to maintain that God did not want man to live alone. Luther believed that marriage was a natural state, created for the purposes of companionship and procreation. Modern Lutheran congregants are encouraged to marry, rather than co-habit. Having children out of wedlock is considered a sin, but is not unforgivable.
All three synods of the Lutheran chuch have governing bodies that determine the synod's stance on particular issues. However, each congregation may choose to interpret and enforce these issues in their own way. The LCMS writes: "The LCMS has no official position or "policy" regarding interdenominational marriages, but entrusts to its pastors the responsibility of counseling couples regarding issues such as this. A pastor in this situation may well want to discuss the serious issue of the spiritual nurture of children in such a "mixed marriage" and the complications and challenges involved, but the LCMS as such does not require that a member make specific "promises" in this regard."
Like many other religious organizations, the Lutheran church requires that a couple wishing to be married in the church attend a series of counseling sessions with the presiding minister. In these sessions, the minister may encourage the bride and groom to discuss their viewpoints on child-rearing and their personal relationships with God. Compatibility tests may be administered to determine whether or not two different faiths may be a problem in the future.
Additional Marriage Policies in the Lutheran Church
Lutherans are encouraged to abstain from sexual intercourse until marriage and to take a husband or wife as a partner for life. Divorce is recognized by the church, but it is taught that it should only be pursued by members of the congregation in cases of adultery or abuse. Neither the ELCA, the LCMS or the WELS will recognize homosexual marriage, though gay and lesbian clergy are welcome within certain congregations of the ELCA.
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