Stay up to date with the latest wedding ceremony trends, script writing inspiration, tips and advice for first-time officiants, and news that matters to couples and wedding ministers.

Lutheran Commission warns Pastors against officiating without a marriage license

Published Wednesday, Nov. 24th, 2021

The Lutheran Commission on Theology and Church Relations concludes marriage is both ‘sacred and secular,’ and asks Pastors to sign marriage licenses and respect the government’s current marriage laws.



An intense debate within the Lutheran Church that began when same-sex marriage was first legalized may finally be resolved… at least on paper. 


For years, Pastors opposed to same-sex marriage have refused to sign state-issued marriage licenses in order to protest the 2015 federal legalization of same-sex marriage (Obergefell v Hodges). Signing licenses, they say, would make them ‘agents of the state’ for a government that’s definition of marriage disagrees with their own. 


Now, Lutheran leaders have released a clear message on the issue: Pastors should sign marriage licenses and respect the government’s marriage laws, even if they don’t agree with them.


In a report titled Marriage Between Church and State: A Report on Clergy Serving as ‘Agents of the State,’ the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod (LCMS) Commission on Theology and Church Relations (CTCR) writes that: 



“Marriage truly does stand between church and state. It is both sacred and secular. It is God’s institution and holy work, but one that He enacts by means of earthly authorities and instruments such as laws and customs. Marriage, by God’s own created design, is subject to earthly laws and customs, even though human laws and customs sometimes undermine or even abrogate God’s good purposes for marriage.”


Basically -- Pastors and lay members of the Lutheran Church don’t have to agree with ‘earthly’ marriage laws, but they should respect and adhere to them. Clergy members can decline to participate in same-sex marriage ceremonies, but they shouldn’t refuse to sign marriage licenses for ceremonies they do perform. 


Marriage is sacred within the Lutheran Church, the CTCR explains, but it's also a secular institution protected by law. 


(And rightly so!)


You can view the CTCR’s full report here. 


Read more details in Erik M. Lunsford’s article for the Reporter.





This is sure to make some waves! 


And it’s (mostly) good news. Although a marriage rite can be a part of many people’s spiritual lives, marriage is ultimately a secular contract -- at least that’s the way the law sees it. 


The Constitution protects an individual’s right to enter into the institution of marriage on their own terms. This means that all people have the right to marry and receive the benefits of marriage, regardless of their race, gender, ability, sexual identity, or faith.


To honor this right for everyone, religion must be left out of the law. 


Still, the Lutheran Church isn’t alone in this debate -- nearly all faith organizations have faced passionate discussions and intense disagreements between members over same-sex marriage in recent years. The United Methodist Church (UMC), the Catholic Church, and even The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints have been asked to reconsider their policies and doctrine. Some organizations, such as the UMC, may simply split over the issue.


(This is why AMM is so passionate and vocal about marriage equality.


As calls for inclusivity within faith organizations increase, organizations will either adapt, or, as recent polls show, many members will leave in search of more accepting spaces. 


In the meantime… American Marriage Ministries will always advocate for marriage equality, celebrate love, and offer minister ordinations for free online to all adults.



Get ordained online with AMM here. 




You might also like: 







Jessica Levey
Jessica Levey

Lead Staff Writer & Illustrator

Jessica loves exploring the history and magic of ritual, the connections between people and places, and sharing true stories about love and commitment. She's an advocate for marriage equality, LGBTQ+ rights, and individuality, and is an ordained Minister with AMM. When she’s not writing or illustrating for AMM, she enjoys city hikes, fantasy novels, comics, and traveling.

How To Officiate By State

Will You Marry Us? Gift Package

Who Will Officiate Your Wedding?

Choose Your Officiant with our "Will You Marry Us?" Gift Package.

Signature Wedding Officiant Package

Signature Wedding Officiant Package

Our premiere package contains everyting you need to officiate like a pro.

The Book of Wedding Vows and Ceremonies

The Book of Wedding Vows and Ceremonies

It's finally here! Timeless scripts and heartfelt vow inspiration to bring life to your ceremony.

Professional Wedding Officiant Certification Course

Learn from the Pros to Officiate with Confidence!

Wedding Officiant Training

Wedding Officiant Training

Everything you need to know to officiate.

Read our sample wedding ceremony scripts online

Sample Wedding Ceremony Scripts

Need inspiration? Check out our free ceremony scripts!

Subscribe To Our Newsletter!


Become a Wedding Officiant with Our Free Online Ordination!