Hardly a day goes by without some new public policy-related development on either the state, national, or international level. While many of these developments involve issues that the Church holds no particular expertise on or opinion of, there are an increasing number of issues that benefit from and, in fact, call for a biblically-informed, Christian input.
It is in these instances that our baptismal calling to show love for our neighbor moves us, both as individuals and as a Church body, to step into the public square and share the counsel of God's Word. What follows is a brief summary of recent issues and opportunities that I see as most in need of our attention and effort.
Suggested Education Emphases
There are currently three issues that, I believe, pastors should focus their educational efforts on in order to give their members the information they will need to steward their citizenship:
the important religious liberty implications stemming from the Trinity Lutheran Supreme Court ruling last summer
the significant theological and practical dangers related to the current push to legalize physician-assisted suicide
the critical nature of the coming 2018 elections, particularly the Minnesota governor's race
In order to provide assistance in these three areas, we’ve developed two presentations with the Iowa districts that I am happy to share with you and your members in person. The first is entitled After Trinity, which is now also available on YouTube and embedded on our District website. This would be great for an adult class setting. The second is a presentation entitled Remembering Hope at Life's End, focusing on physician-assisted suicide.
In addition, in the early part of the summer, we will distribute a newly-updated 2018 Lutheran Voters' Guide. This resource was originally created to aid pastors in leading discussions aimed at helping members identify the specific public policy issues to ask candidates about and inform their own voting decisions. This revision will be especially important as we prepare to elect a new governor this fall, as our key public policy issues primarily play out on the state level.
Before the end of June, there will be several Supreme Court decisions rendered that will have a significant impact, either directly or indirectly, on religious liberty. These include the Masterpiece Cakes decision, the NIFLA decision, and the Janus decision. In addition, the 7th Circuit Appeals Court will decide a case related to the status of the Clergy Housing Allowance in the tax code. Once the respective courts hand down these decisions, it will be important for pastors and other leaders to make their members aware of them and help them understand their significance. I will certainly help by providing guidance on these issues.
State of Minnesota Legislative Matters
The Minnesota Legislature is scheduled to end its session by May 20. As we approach this deadline, we are closely watching several bills, including:
Two proposals designed to give all parents, regardless of where they choose to send their children, greater choice and access to state monetary resources for their children’s education. These proposals both involve the granting of tax credits. In one case, these credits would go to persons who have donated to scholarship granting organizations. In the other, the benefit would go directly to parents for out-of-pocket education expenses, which, for the first time, would include tuition expenses.
The Surrogacy Abuse Prevention Act (HF 2994 / SF 2740), which is intended to prevent the commodification of human beings, a byproduct of legalized for-profit surrogacy
The Pornography and Human Trafficking Act (HF 2967 / SF 2554), which seeks to publicly acknowledge the cause-and-effect relationship and destructive impact of these activities
The Abortion Ultrasound Act (HF 3194 / SF 2849), which would require that all abortion-seeking women be given the opportunity to see the ultrasound images of their child prior to the procedure
Legislative Matters in Other States
Currently, the State of California is considering legislation (Assembly Bill 2943) which would prevent any person from providing any paid service that would attempt to change another person’s sexual orientation. In essence, under the guise of preventing fraudulent trade practices, this measure would make it illegal for any adult, including pastors, to provide such counseling even when it is requested by the adult receiving the counsel. In effect, it outlaws politically disfavored religious instruction and severely limits religious freedom.
Minnesota North and South District Conventions
The MN North District has already passed, and the MN South District will be asked to pass, a resolution opposing the legalization of physician-assisted suicide in Minnesota. Here is the text of this resolution. We hope you will support it and act on its recommendations.
I highly recommend two recently released books:
Love Thy Body by Nancy Pearcey. It offers a superb analysis of the Gnostic heresy that serves as the common root from which the vast majority of our current cultural corruptions (e.g. same-sex marriage, transgenderism, etc.) spring. It’s an easily understood book and very helpful in informing your preaching and teaching.
When Harry Became Sally by Ryan T. Anderson. As the title indicates, its topic is the transgender movement. Again, it offers an easily-accessible, Gospel-centered understanding of the issue and how Christians should respond to it. Any time invested with these books will be amply rewarded.