Same sex marriage is legal, but causing controversy in a local Lutheran church. The Senior Pastor at Messiah Lutheran in north Fargo just resigned after feeling pressure from his parishioners for not performing same sex marriages.
Messiah Lutheran is a part of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). The ELCA does not condone nor endorse same sex marriage, instead they leave the decision up to each individual church.
Messiah Lutheran Pastor Steve Berntson told his church on Sunday he would be resigning after months of difficulty since the legalization of same sex marriage. Berntson stated his views in June to his nearly 1,000 worshippers at Messiah.
"Based on what the scripture says about God's design for marriage I would not be able to participate or officiate same gender weddings," said Steve Berntson.
Berntson says he decided to step down since his view differed and he wasn't feeling support from the congregation he would like.
The Eastern North Dakota Synod's Bishop Terry Brandt said the following in a statement;
"Each congregation of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America has made or will make a decision on whether the congregation will or will not conduct same sex weddings. This conversation requires prayerful and respectful conversation. The majority of our congregations are navigating these difficult conversations quite well; however, it is most difficult in settings where the pastor and congregation members find themselves at odds with one another. I am deeply saddened this is the case at Messiah Lutheran. That being said, we believe in a God who is present with us in the most uncertain of times. God will not abandon this group of faithful who seek to follow God's will."
Pastor Berntson says there has been a cultural change within the church and that he now falls into the minority view regarding same sex marriage. He thinks this situation and experience will teach everyone a valuable lesson: to be more tolerant.
"It does strike me sometimes how little tolerance in certain circles there are for people with biblical views. That has kind of struck me in the midst of all of this," said Berntson.
Berntson has three Sundays left at Messiah Lutheran and says only God knows what is next.
Valley News Live reached out to Messiah Lutheran for a statement regarding the Pastor Berntson resignation. We had not received a comment when this story aired on Monday, but have since received one. You can read their statement by clicking on the link to the right of this story.