Just today I opened a letter (dated April 2014) from Lutheran Child and Family Services of Illinois, with the expectation that it might be an appeal for donations, a blurb encouraging awareness of LCFS, or some such ordinary communication as we pastors tend to receive from organizations that serve the LCMS.
It was not.
The letter has to do with the new Religious Freedom and Civil Union Act and Marriage Fairness Act passed in Illinois, which prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. These new ordinances arose in Illinois following a controversy in 2010 when an application was made to LCFS in Illinois for a foster parent license by someone identified as openly gay. The applicant was referred to another agency, but made a complaint of discrimination to the Illinois Attorney General. All this ultimately contributed to this legislation. In essence, the new laws forced the LCFS to choose between compliance and closing their doors altogether.
The LCFS chose to comply. This resulted in the revocation of RSO status, by the LCMS, in March of this year. If you have trouble with the alphabet soup, that's the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod officially revoking the status of a Religious Service Organization, essentially saying it can not longer be an auxiliary of the Synod. The Synod Secretary Raymond Hartwig dutifully informed LCFS that, due to its new policy allowing gays to serve a foster parents, the Missouri Synod could no longer endorse it or recognize it as and RSO.
This brings me to the letter sitting on my desk. LCFS is hoping that "our congregational partners will continue to support us in our mission," that is, in spite of the LCMS's withdrawal of RSO status.
Their reasoning has to do with the plethora of adoptions, foster homes, placements, and good things that LCFS has done for youths, parents, veterans, and so forth. "The issue," they admit, "is a complex one that invites ongoing discussion."
So, let's discuss. If memory serves, weren't Catholic Charities forced to close not very long ago because of this very thing? Were they not served with an ultimatum, and, in identical circumstances, did they not say, we will not compromise what we believe, no matter how much good might otherwise be served?
Further, the revocation of RSO status by the Synod is not without reason. In fact the Synod is to be commended for taking this difficult step; this attempt by LCFS to solicit funds while having newly lost RSO status is essentially making the LCMS leadership look like the bad guys, when in fact, they are the ones who, like Catholic Charities, are following conscience.
But of course, we needn't let the Synodical leadership or the Roman Catholic Church be our guides. This is not really a tough decision ethically, because the bending or compromising of principles is never a good thing to do, no matter what good might come of it.
To be sure, it's all truly sad, and the loss of so much good is heartbreaking. But our legal losses in the state legislatures these days do have, and will have, severe ramifications. How much more severe will they be if we lose conscience because of them?