Marriage and Family
A Series of Statements of the Augustana Lutheran Church, 1939, 1954, 1957
1939: Minutes p. 264
Whereas, the significance of the marriage relationship needs to
be emphasized, as indicated by the high divorce rate, and most of
our congregations contain members who have been divorced, and
members of our Synod are subjected to harmful influences in
reference to marriage and divorce, and
Whereas, the chief causes of divorce, desertion, adultery,
incompatibility, cruelty, nonsupport and drunkenness, also obtain
among the members of our churches,
Therefore be it resolved that:
- Recognizing the home as a basic institution
for the welfare of human society, the Synod urges its pastors and
educators to carry on an educational program with respect to the
marriage relationship and its significance. We request that the
Board of Parish Education and Literature supply suitable material
for this purpose, setting forth the causes of divorce; the peril of
hasty marriages; the conditions in the structure of society which
make for the instability of the home; the deceitfulness of relying
upon mere physical attraction as a bond of union for husband and
wife; the obligations of this sacred bond; the significance of high
moral ideals, right spiritual attitudes and mutual confessional
loyalties for the highest type of family life; the propriety and
desirability of seeking the blessing of the Church for the marriage
ceremony and of making the marriage ceremony a dignified, solemn
and Christian rite.
- Marriage is a holy estate instituted by God
himself and a covenant which cannot be set aside by men at will.
According to the will of God and the ideal for marriage set forth
by Jesus, marriage is a union for life. The Synod deplores the
alarming divorce rate and condemns divorce as a violation of the
Christian ideal. Whenever divorce occurs it is due to sin. We urge
our members to seek the counsel and meditation of their pastors
before resorting to divorce to the end that every possible
influence may be exerted to prevent marriage from becoming a
failure. When, because of the hardness of men's hearts, divorce has
taken place, it is the duty of the Church to exercise its
disciplinary powers according to the congregational constitution,
in the interest of the temporal and spiritual welfare of the
- The Synod forbids its pastors to officiate
at the marriage of persons concerning whom they do not have a
satisfactory assurance that they accept and have a sincere purpose
to abide by the Christian ideal of marriage.
- We favor the enactment of uniform marriage
and divorce laws for the nation, requiring among other matters a
medical certificate for marriage and providing for a period of at
least five days between the application for a license and
1954: Minutes, p. 229
- Scripture teaches that children are a
gracious gift from God (Genesis 33:5), "a heritage from the Lord"
(Psalm 127:3), who may bring much joy but who may also cause much
heaviness of heart to their parents (Proverbs 10:1).
- A married couple normally expects to have
children as a fruit of their marriage. This is in fulfillment of
God's blessing first given in the Garden of Eden and renewed to
Noah and his sons, "Be fruitful and multiply" (Genesis 1:28;
- Because children are intended by God as a
blessing and a reward (Psalm 127:3) every child may justly expect
love, care and nurture from its parents. To be unloved or rejected
by its parents is a cruel tragedy which may forever mar the child's
personality and may subject the parents to the dangers of the
millstone the Savior described (Matthew 18:6).
- To enable them the more thankfully to
receive God's blessing and reward, a married couple should plan and
govern their sexual relations that any child born to their union
will be desired both for itself and in relation to the time of its
- The means which a married pair uses to
determine the numbers and the spacing of the births of their
children are a matter for them to decide with their own
consciences, on the basis of competent medical advice and in a
sense of accountability of God.
- So long as it causes no harm to those
involved, either immediately or over an extended period, none of
the methods for controlling the number and spacing of the births of
children has any special moral merit or demerit. It is the spirit
in which the means is used rather, than whether it is "natural" or
"artificial," which defines its "righteous" or "wrongness."
"Whatever you do, do all to the glory of God" (1 Corinthians 10:31)
is a principle pertinent to the use of the God-given reproductive
- Scripture recognizes that a couple may wish
for a limited period to practice marital continence as a religious
expression, but cautions against its prolonged practice (1
Corinthians 7:15). Continence in the marriage relationship,
however, when its sole purpose is the selfish avoidance of
pregnancy, is equally as wrong as is the use of contraception
toward this same selfish goal.
- An unrestrained production of children
without realistic regard to God-given responsibilities involved in
bringing up "in the discipline and instruction of the Lord"
(Ephesians 6:4) may be as sinful and as selfish as indulgence of
the lusts of the flesh as is the complete avoidance of parenthood.
God does not expect a couple to produce offspring at the maximum
biological capacity. The power to reproduce is His blessing, not a
penalty upon the sexual relationship in marriage.
- In planning their family a married couple
would wisely heed the Psalmist who pointed out the special
blessings that may accrue to large families and the rich joys from
children born in one's youth (Psalm 127:4-5). They are then more
likely also to experience the. truth that "Grandchildren are the
crown of the aged" (Proverbs 17: 6).
- Having children is a venture in faith,
requiring a measure of courage and confidence in God's goodness. A
married couple should accept parenthood without a rigorous
calculation of all the cost involved. Income and standards of
living, pressures for advancement in one's work, concern over the
maternity process and over the health of the mother or of the
child, and the uncertainties of the times or of social conditions
should not be given undue consideration in determining a couple's
acceptance of parental responsibilities.
- Should an unexpected pregnancy occur, the
Christian couple will accept the responsibility involved,
prayerfully seek the blessing God offers, and be ready to accord
the new child the love due him. Except as a medical measure to save
the mother's life, abortion will not be resorted to by Christians,
in obedience to the commandment, "Thou shalt not kill."
- A married couple desirous of children but
seemingly unable to have any of their own should seek competent
medical counsel. In their desire for help they will not neglect the
resource of prayer to which Rachel and Hannah, among the company of
noted women, turned in their barrenness. Perhaps it will come true
for them as it is recorded for Rachel: "And God hearkened to her
and opened her womb. She conceived and bore a son..." (Genesis
- In those cases where both husband and wife
are shown to be fertile but are unable to initiate pregnancy, the
artificial insemination of the wife with her husband's semen,
performed under the administration of a competent medical
practitioner, may be justified.
- Because of its moral implications as well
as its clouded legal, social, biological and psychological aspects,
the conscientious Christian will avoid participation in the process
of artificial insemination wherein the semen of a man other than
the wife's husband is used. In this process the united of "The
twain" is jeopardized by an unknown person intangibly realistically
present in the child he has sired.
- Sex relations outside of marriage, whether
before an intended marriage or outside an established marriage
bond, are a violation of God's will. The use of contraceptives by
the unmarried can indeed reduce the risk of an illegitimate child,
but this changes the character of premarital relationships just as
little as the fact that one party to adultery may be sterile
changes the nature of adultery.
- The Christian couple anxious for but unable
to have children of their own have other courses open to them.
Perhaps they can adopt children through legitimate channels which
safeguard the interests both of prospective parents and of
children. Perhaps they can find constructive outlets for their
interests in direct child-serving occupations or in community
services for the welfare of children, thus reflecting the Master's
concern for children (Mark 10:13-16).
- Much as they may regret their inability to
have children, the Christian couple will come to accept this fact
as God's way of directing them to some other sphere of useful
service in His kingdom. Their personal fruitfulness and the fruit
of their faith can show itself in works of love and kindness to the
least of His brethren. In so accepting their role and selflessly
yielding themselves to God in Christian service to man, they may
even find Him adding His blessings in the form of the long-desired
child of their own.
- Any planning for the number and spacing of
the births of their children must be practiced prayerfully in
accord with the fruits of the Spirit rather than in indulgence of
the lusts of the flesh, and in the full freedom of the redeemed
believer who feels his stewardship responsibility to his Lord. When
so practiced it can bring the conscientious Christian husband and
wife a deep appreciation for God's gracious blessings, a greater
joy in the responsibility which parenthood brings, and a richer
satisfaction over their partnership with God in His creation of
each new life entrusted to them.
Note: All Scripture quotations in the above are from the Revised
1957: Minutes, p. 200
Whereas, the spiritual nurture of children Is a primary duty of
Be it resolved, that it be the official position of the Church
that no Lutheran should enter into an agreement Imposed by Roman
Catholic Canon Law, where the promise is made to rear the children
in a faith that he himself cannot accept.