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An affirmation of marriage

June 3, 2013 7 Comments


DALLAS, Texas – In May, representatives of the Anglican Church in North America, Lutheran Church–Canada, The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, and the North American Lutheran Church held a summit on biblical marriage and sexuality. The results of that summit was the joint “Affirmation of Marriage” which appears below. Approved by the heads of all four church bodies, the statement is a strong example of biblical ecumenicism at work. The statement is also available for download as a pdf here.

An Affirmation of Marriage

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). God’s Word assures us that each time one man and one woman join themselves together in the union of the marriage commitment and relationship, God himself has joined them as one. It is important to see that marriage is not only a grace-filled institution of the church, but part of the very fabric of God’s creation which extends to every time and place on earth and includes every man and woman who are joined together in this “one flesh” commitment and bond. Marriage is created by God and is not simply a social contract or convenience.

Flowing from the gift of marriage is another precious gift of God, the gift of children. “Be fruitful and multiply” (Gen 1:28) is as much a word of divine blessing as it is a command. Children are the most obvious, distinctive, and natural gift of marriage, for the child is in every sense the “one flesh” of the mother and father. Marriage lived out according to God’s purpose is therefore also, just as naturally, the optimal setting for the child. Within the gift of marriage children receive the blessing of a father and mother who nurture and care for them, modeling a life in which the distinctive uniqueness and created differences of male and female serve to complement one another.

Part of the tragedy of contemporary cultural perspectives in Europe and North America is a growing bifurcation of marriage and child-bearing. Growing numbers of men avoid or abdicate fatherly responsibility. Growing numbers of women choose to have and/or raise children apart from marriage. Just as frequently encountered is the pervasive assumption of married couples that postponing or purposefully rejecting children is compatible with the marriage bond. In these different ways, children appear to have value only to the extent they fulfill parental desires.

While the gift of procreation is a profound and beautiful testimony of the blessedness of marriage and reveals one of marriage’s most fundamental purposes, marital goodness is not limited by procreation. Where procreation is not possible, many couples choose to adopt a child into their family and, regardless of intention, also reflect the divine love which leads God to adopt us as His own (Rom 8:15; Gal 4:5).

So also, a childless couple exhibits, richly and beautifully, the blessings and goodness of man and woman living in complementarity. Although as an individual male and an individual female they are different, even to the point of often seeming to be alien to the other, their sexual and emotional bond enacts a life of self-giving openness to each other, protected by the bond of faithfulness. The committed love of marriage always reveals God’s intention that individuals are called into community, since marriage takes us beyond our individual identities so that we give ourselves to another who is distinctively different from us.

The beauty and significance of marriage go beyond its earthly effects—as rich and wonderful as they are. God gave marriage as a picture of the relationship between Christ and His bride, the church. In sustained and exalted language, Ephesians 5:21-33 connects godly marriage with the glorious relationship of Christ and His church. As a man and woman relate to one another with rich love and profound respect, their one flesh union hints of and is intended to signify the union of Christ and His bride, the church. But Christ and His bride also indicate the fullness of divine intention for marriage. Speaking of Christ as bridegroom and church as bride, the apostle notes that husbands are called to sacrificial love toward their wives and wives to a willing respect for their husbands.

In responding to the bitter reality of divorce, the Word made flesh, our Lord Jesus, reaffirms the gift of marriage and then reminds us of an obvious implication: “Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate” (see Matt 19:3b-6). His warning is necessary because the beautiful gift of marriage—like all of God’s created goodness—can be and is marred by sin, which Jesus describes as “hardness of heart” (Matt 19:8). Yet, sin does not have ultimate power. Christians recognize that marriage is lived under the cross. Husbands and wives are not exempt from the suffering that comes with faithfulness in marriage. Rather, trusting in the promises of Christ Jesus and clinging to each other in love, marriage is the arena for husband and wife to live together in repentance and faith.

God’s intention for marriage is also skewed when it is spurned as unimportant for human well-being, or repudiated as a godly gift, or twisted into forms that no longer correspond to the gift God has intended. Rather, God gives marriage to humanity for its wellbeing. He commends Biblical marriage for couples to make a deep commitment to one another before God for a life time of giving to each other.

In faithfulness to Christ and in recognition of God’s desire to continue to bless men and women in the gift of holy marriage, the church through the ages has sought to encourage godly, joyful, faithful preparation for marriage according to God’s plan and work. This is in obedience to the Scriptures, which call men and women to an appropriate discipline of desire. Our human inclination is one of self satisfaction, but God’s Word calls us to a higher purpose—serving God and others (see Rom 6:12-14; 1 John 4:20). To serve the other requires the discipline of our bodies, which obviously includes sexual desires (see Rom 13:13). Therefore both biblical and wider human traditions of most cultures have emphasized the importance of chaste relationships which reserve sexual intimacy for marriage.

In such ways Scripture holds forth a vision of human life as male and female—one which invites us to see that as embodied creatures, our Creator intends great joy for us. Joyful, fulfilled life as men and women requires a paradox, however, for it demands the discipline of our bodies so that our desires do not rule us. This is so because the source of deepest human joy comes as our lives reflect their highest purpose in serving God and our neighbor (Matt 22:38-39).

May 2013

Approved by:

The Reverend John F. Bradosky, Bishop
The North American Lutheran Church

The Reverend Robert Bugbee, President
Lutheran Church–Canada

The Most Reverend Robert Duncan, Archbishop
The Anglican Church in North America

The Reverend Dr. Matthew C. Harrison, President
The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod

Official participants in the ACNA-LCMS-LCC-NALC “Marriage Summit” (May 3-5, 2013, Dallas, Texas):

The Anglican Church in North America
The Very Reverend Dr. Jonathan S. Riches
The Rt. Reverend Dr. Ray R. Sutton

The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod
The Reverend Dr. Frederic W. Baue
The Reverend Dr. Joel D. Lehenbauer
The Reverend John T. Pless
The Reverend Larry M. Vogel

Lutheran Church–Canada
The Reverend Dr. John R. Stephenson

 The North American Lutheran Church
The Reverend Mark C. Chavez
The Reverend Dr. David Wendel



  • John J Flanagan said:

    Amen. We live at a time when it is very important for God’s people to speak out, speak boldly, speak often, speak without ambiguity, speak courageously, and be unrelenting in the defense of the faith.

  • Canadian Lutheran Online » Blog Archive » Anglicans and Lutherans hold summit on biblical marriage and sexuality said:

    […] UPDATE: The joint “Affirmation on marriage,” signed by participants at the summit and by the heads of all four church bodies, click here. […]

  • J said:

    How sad that Christians must make a declaration to counter those made by the infiltration.

    So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.’”

  • reddog44 said:

    The enemy knows no bounds, and will attack at will. We need to stand firm and united in these vital issues, and let the battle scars of the past be healed between us.

  • President Harrison, the LCMS, and Ecumenical Dialogue » First Thoughts | A First Things Blog said:

    […] and LCMS) recently met together for an ecumenical summit on marriage and sexuality, publishing a joint affirmation on marriage (signed by the heads of all four churches) shortly […]

  • Concordia Theology » Ecumenical Witness said:

    […] [2] http://www.canadianlutheran.ca/an-affirmation-of-marriage/ […]

  • Canadian Lutheran Online » Blog Archive » Anglican Church of Canada votes to allow same-sex marriage said:

    […] (LCMS), has been a dialogue partner of ACNA for several years, finding initial common ground on issues like marriage. Earlier this year, the churches released an interim report reporting wide-ranging agreement on a […]

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