With church splitting over same-sex marriage, pastor quits

Rev. Steve Berntson, a pastor at Messiah Lutheran Church in north Fargo, has quit his job to protest a Supreme Court decision on same-sex marriage.

WDAY says Berntson is blaming the 5-to-4 Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage for quitting, even though it doesn’t force him to perform same-sex weddings.


And the the most current Evangelical Lutheran Church in America social statement doesn’t force him to, either. It takes no position and leaves it up to individual congregations. That apparently is the problem, as Berntson sees it.

WDAY says some parishioners support same-sex marriage. And others, according to Berntson, quit Messiah in protest of his position.

“As a pastor bound to uphold the word of God, I couldn’t go in a different direction,” he told the TV station.

The bishop of the synod said losing a conservative voice makes for less of a church “when we don’t have those differing opinions and different ways of approaching Scripture.”

  • MrE85

    More proof that God works in mysterious ways.

  • ec99

    Marriage is both a secular contract and a religious sacrament. I’m not sure why he opted for this decision given that no one would force him to break with his beliefs and marry a same-sex couple. Hope he has a good investment portfolio or another job lined up.

    • Dan

      I thought it was clear. The ELCA leaves the decision of gay marriage up to the individual churches. He decided his church wouldn’t perform gay marriages based on his reading of scripture. That decision upset enough people in his congregation (to the point of them leaving, or threatening to leave), that he thought it better to step down and go somewhere else. Maybe Missouri Synod or something. I’m sure he’ll easily find another job as a pastor somewhere else.

  • This pretty much sums it up:

  • jon

    Remember when the church divided over transubstantiation and consubstantiation?
    Or when they church divided over predestination and freewill?
    Or any of the dozens of other times the church divided?

    “The church” as a monolith has been dividing since eastern orthodox broke away from catholicism. It is in essence no different from social media, where every 4 years when election seasons rolls around a series “unfriending” happens that allows conservatives/liberals to be with their own kind. Enforcing their own ideals, over and over again in a feedback loop.

    I do believe that we’d all be better off if we stopped to consider a different point of view daily, if we tried to hold a duality of opinions simultaneously, but the world insists that it’s wrong headed and both sides can’t be right, and if we aren’t militantly in favor of something then we are militantly opposed to it.

    • ec99

      “”The church” as a monolith has been dividing since eastern orthodox broke away from catholicism.”

      Probably before that: Arianism, Docetism, and a whole bunch of other -isms. Christianity has been a divided mess from the second generation of believers onward.

  • Jason Mock

    I think Emo Phillips summed it up best…

    Once I saw this guy on a bridge about to jump. I said, “Don’t do it!” He said, “Nobody loves me.” I said, “God loves you. Do you believe in God?”

    He said, “Yes.” I said, “Are you a Christian or a Jew?” He said, “A Christian.” I said, “Me, too! Protestant or Catholic?” He said, “Protestant.” I said, “Me, too! What franchise?” He said, “Baptist.” I said, “Me, too! Northern Baptist or Southern Baptist?” He said, “Northern Baptist.” I said, “Me, too! Northern Conservative Baptist or Northern Liberal Baptist?”

    He said, “Northern Conservative Baptist.” I said, “Me, too! Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region, or Northern Conservative Baptist Eastern Region?” He said, “Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region.” I said, “Me, too!”

    Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1879, or Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1912?” He said, “Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1912.” I said, “Die, heretic!” And I pushed him over.

    • JDB

      love it…

  • JDB

    Thanks for your service..and also for openning doors for new thought and equity within your religion…God may better breathe by you actions .. thoughtfulness and willingness to move on and relax in retirement…

  • crystals

    Don’t let the door hit ya where the good Lord split ya.

    (Couldn’t resist.)

  • kennedy

    This has little to do with the supreme court or ELCA policy. The splitting of the church refers to conflict in the local congregation. There is a difference of opinion among the parishioners. A time of group conflict seems like a time for leadership to step up, not abandon ship. Or it could be that the congregation is settling on a position that differs from the pastor. That would be a good reason to leave.

  • Nightowl

    This reminds me why I don’t live anywhere west of Minnesota, except for the left coast.

  • jjgrandisland

    This is usually what happens to dinosaurs which cannot evolve. They just go into the dustbin of history.

  • wayne

    I commend the pastor. We do not live in a theocracy and no one forces him or any other priest or minister to marry anyone, anytime.