My name is Rev. Garrick Sinclair Beckett, and I am a pastor at Zion Lutheran Church in Mount Pleasant, Michigan as well as the campus pastor at Christ the King Lutheran Chapel at Central Michigan University. My church body belongs to the Lutheran Church Missouri—Synod (LCMS). I am writing this open letter out of concern over the litigations concerning the Equality Act. I am writing to caution you against voting for the passing of this act as it will cause a lot of harm to Christian citizens in my flock, my entire church body, and all orthodox Christians around the country. What follows in this letter is my reasoning why it will do more harm than good to my fellow Christian citizens.
The president of our Synod, Rev. Matthew Harrison, recently wrote his own statement about the Equality Act for all LCMS members to read. My letter follows a similar format to his. He opened with words from the Apostle Peter that apply to us now:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to His great mercy, He has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved through various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it it tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honour at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen Him, you love Him. Though you do not now see Him, you believe in Him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory.1 Peter 1:3-8
In the LCMS, we believe the church’s task is not political. Rather, our task is the proclamation of the Gospel where Jesus Christ delivers the free forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation in His death and resurrection (1 Corinthians 1:23; John 18:36). As our Lutheran Confessions say in the Book of Concord, the church “is the assembly of all believers among whom the Gospel is purely preached and holy sacraments are administered according to the Gospel” (AC VII, 1). The Equality Act threatens the church’s ability to do just this.
We believe, teach, and confess that God rules His church by His infallible and inerrant Word, the Holy Scriptures (John 17:17; 2 Timothy 3:15-16). While we obey God’s Word above all else, we also believe God rules the State through His divine law, natural law, and even State law for the sake of the common good. Thus, we believe, “Concerning public order and secular government it is taught that all political authority, orderly government, laws, and good order in the world are created and instituted by God” (AC XVI, 1; cf. Romans 13:1-7). As such, we believe, teach, and confess that the church should not interfere with government affairs, especially concerning matters that God’s Word is silent on (e.g., how healthcare is provided).
The First Amendment of our U.S. Constitution says as much. “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances” (emphasis mine).
Again, we believe, teach, and confess that Christians “are obliged to be subject to political authority and to obey its commands and laws in all that may be done without sin” (emphasis mine). However, “if a command of the political authority cannot be followed without sin, one must obey God rather than any human beings (Acts 5[:29])” (AC XVI, 6-7; cf. 1 Peter 2:13-14). Even the Apostle Paul utilised his legal right as a Roman citizen (Acts 25:11). Thus, we believe, teach, and confess that although Christ’s kingdom is not of this civil realm, He nevertheless “permits us to make outward use of legitimate political ordinances of whatever nation in which we live, just as [His kingdom] permits us to make use of medicine or architecture or food, drink, and air” (Ap XVI, 2).
Our Confessions also commend social justice. “Public redress, which is made through the office of the judge, is not forbidden but is commanded and is a work of God according to Paul in Romans 13” (Ap XVI, 7). Therefore, Christians have the God-given right to act as citizens. Hence why I am writing this letter.
The “Equality Act” sounds innocent. After all, who in their right mind would be against equality? I am certainly not. As a veteran of the U.S. Army, I made an oath to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, both foreign and domestic… So help me God.” Yet by elevating sexual orientation to a protected class, the Equality Act will bring rapid changes to the current laws in our nation doing the greatest damage to the religious and constitutional freedoms of our churches, institutions, schools, and people who are faithful to the Holy Word of God.
If the Equality Act is passed, it will be an easy road toward punishing our churches, institutions, and so forth that are bound by God’s Word to the truth of marriage being only between a man and a woman (Genesis 2:24), that there are only two genders which God created in the beginning (male and female; Genesis 1:27), and that sex outside of marriage is contrary to God’s Word (1 Corinthians 7:2). The government would punish Christians for remaining faithful and steadfast to the Word of God as we remain consistent with our ancient Christian beliefs. The Equality Act effectively outlaws orthodox Christianity, specifically the Word of God itself, the doctrine of Creation, and the First Article of the Nicene Creed (which we’ve been confessing since AD 325).
Churches and religious schools (K-12 and universities) are also prime targets of the Equality Act, which if passed will make it virtually impossible for Christian citizens such as students, faculty, and staff to conduct a peaceably Christian life in the United States. It will forbid college students who believe, teach, and confess what the Holy Scriptures say about marriage, sexual orientation, and gender identity from acquiring federal tuition assistance at schools that also maintain the same orthodox confessions.
It will also eliminate sex-specific facilities and female-only spaces; thus, the women of our country are also targets of the so-called “Equality” Act. Biological males will have the “right” to compete in female sports, thus deposing women from fair, athletic competitions, and prohibiting the due reward for their arduous accomplishments. The Equality Act will overturn the protections granted to church and religious institutions in the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) that Congress passed and signed into law in 1993. In the cases of overzealous government officials, such as those who desire to pass the Equality Act, the RFRA protects our rights to the “free exercise of religion.” The Equality Act would see this protection and these freedoms eliminated.
Neither does the Equality Act protect the consciences of those medical professionals who refuse to perform abortions, whether for religious reasons or even reasons according to natural law. The Equality Act furthermore threatens Christian hospitals with eliminating funding for them for refusing to provide so-called “health” services including abortion and genital mutilation. This will only further negatively impact our citizens with receiving healthcare, Christian or not.
To succinctly summarise, the Equality Act puts before individual citizens, religious non-profit organisations, food banks, schools, charities, adoption agencies, and more the ultimatum: “Change your faith-based practices or face government punishment.” This is not freedom and it is certainly not “equality”; it is outright tyranny by forcing subjugation despite our religious consciences and freedoms guaranteed in the First Amendment of the Constitution.
If the Equality Act is to be passed, it would hinder the church’s task of proclaiming the Gospel and rightly administering the Sacraments. The Equality Act will prohibit our free exercise of religion and, therefore, is unconstitutional. This is one of the many constitutional rights I fought for as a U.S. Army veteran, which the Equality Act not only threatens but even seeks to eliminate. If the Equality Act is to be passed, the United States of America would cease to remain the country I once fought for.
While my words in this letter are strong exhortations toward doing what is truly right for our citizens but also, more importantly, before the eyes of God Almighty, I do not want to leave you encumbered with negative feelings toward Christians like myself. I and my fellow pastors in the LCMS are strongly encouraging our flocks to do the following:
- Love the Lord your God above all else, but just as importantly, love your neighbour as yourself (Matthew 22:37-39).
- Exercise the fruit of the Spirit toward those in disagreement with our Christian confession, which are “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, [and] self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23).
- Consider your role as Christian citizens and make your voice known to your elected officials in a respectable manner.
- Do this and all things with the love of Christ, lest your voice become as vain and vexatious as a clanging cymbal (1 Corinthians 13:1-3).
I opened this letter by quoting St. Peter. Thus, I will follow suit with Rev. Harrison and also close with St. Peter to leave you with the same exhortation we pastors are using to exhort our flocks, which is what guided my words in this letter:
Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing… Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honour Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defence to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behaviour in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.1 Peter 3:8-9, 13-17
In Christ’s Service,
Rev. Garrick Sinclair Beckett