Leader of Fargo's Messiah Lutheran church to resign over gay marriage


A disagreement over same-sex marriage is behind Rev. Steve Berntson's decision to step down as senior pastor of Fargo's Messiah Evangelical Lutheran Church.

However, it seems that disagreement is not with the U.S. Supreme Court over its recent decision to legalize gay marriage, but rather with the flock he leads in worship.

According to Valley News Live, Berntson's sharp disagreement with the court ruling caused a rift between him and his congregation in the months following the ruling.

The pastor, who announced his retirement during Sunday services, told the station there's been a "cultural change within the church" and that his views on gay marriage now put him in the minority.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), meanwhile, has not come out for or against same-sex unions, but does allow "individual ministers and their congregations" to decide for themselves whether to marry gay couples, according to the Human Rights Campaign.

Still, Berntsen "sees the the church eventually endorsing same-sex marriage," the Forum reports.

His last day as pastor will be Oct. 25, notes the paper, which says Berntson was ordained in 1988.

How other church leaders feel

When the Supreme Court announced their same-sex marriage decision in June, it stirred fierce debate in the country, with some of America's most prominent religious leaders voicing their opposition to the ruling.

Among them was Franklin Graham, son of the legendary evangelist Billy Graham, who in a Facebook announcement bashed the lighting of the White House in rainbow colors as "outrageous," reported the Blaze, which also noted the reactions of several other prominent Christian figures.

However, shortly after the Supreme Court's ruling in June, around 100 evangelical pastors lent their signatures to an online letter supporting the decision, the Huffington Post wrote.

"As evangelical pastors and leaders," the letter stated, "we call on our fellow evangelical Christians around the country to lift our voices on behalf of our LGBTQ brothers and sisters, working to make our...churches welcoming and inclusive spaces for all people."

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