Question & Answer
Faith Related Q and A

» We are going to have Wine, Women and the Word meetings in church. Is there a recommendation that discourages alcohol use (other than Communion wine) in a church dedicated to the Lord?
Your question is one that the Bible does not address directly. Because that is the case, congregations will want to ask and answer questions like the following: How can we best use our Christian freedom? (1 Corinthians 10:24) If a practice is permissible, would it be wise and constructive to adopt and implement it? (1 Corinthians 10:23) Might the exercise of our Christian freedom cause confusion and/or lead people to stumble in their faith? (1 Corinthians 8:9) Will our actions bring glory to God? (1 Corinthians 10:31) Congregations determine and implement facility usage policies such as the one in your question. God grant wisdom and love to your congregation.

» I am aware that the Bible lays out different leadership responsibilities for men and women. However, I feel like this is taken too far in the WELS. There is no biblical basis for women not to be allowed to vote in congregational meetings. If a single woman is expected to give her money to the church, it is not fair that she has no say in how that money is used. It also feels as though the leadership roles women are allowed to take up are cherry-picked. A woman leading the congregation in song as an organist or cantor is in much more of a leadership role than passing the offering plate. So my question is, since the biblical basis for women not having any leadership in the church is not strictly followed in the WELS (women having leadership as organists, Sunday school teachers, choir directors, cantors, altar guild, etc.), why are women kept from other positions where their talents could be used to further God's message?
Our church body makes these confessions in This We Believe: “We believe that every Christian is a priest before God (1 Peter 2:9). All believers have direct and equal access to the throne of grace through Christ, the mediator (Ephesians 2:17, 18). God has given the means of grace to all believers. All Christians are to declare the praises of him who called them out of darkness into his wonderful light (1 Peter 2:9). In this sense all Christians are ministers, or servants, of the gospel. God wants all Christians to share the message of salvation with other people (Matthew 28:19, 20; 10:32). “We believe that women may participate in offices and activities of the public ministry except where that work involves authority over men (1 Timothy 2:11, 12). This means that women may not serve as pastors nor participate in assemblies of the church in ways that exercise authority over men (1 Corinthians 11:3; 14: 33-35). Women can certainly exercise leadership roles in the church in relation to other women and youth. Congregations do well to encourage women to use their gifts and talents in keeping with the biblical principles listed above. You may find value in reading Male and Female He Created Them: A Bible study on God’s loving gift of the interdependent and complementary partnership of male and female. I commend it to you for your reading.

» Scripture indicates the only allowable reasons for divorce are infidelity and abandonment/malicious desertion (Matthew 5 and I Corinthians 7).  However, what would be the Lutheran view of situations where the spouses were pressured into getting married by their parents or other authority figure, or situations where the couple married in desperation, such as cases of premarital pregnancy or to get away from an abusive parent?  I am also aware of situations where one spouse deceived the other, either directly or by lying through omission, about important issues like a large debt or a prior STD, and the deceived spouse would not have married the other spouse if they knew all the information before they got married.    I Corinthians 7:15 mentions abandonment by an unbeliever as grounds for divorce and I Corinthians 7:39 seems to indicate that we have free will in choosing whom to marry, but I am wondering about cases where there was either dishonesty or manipulation by one of the spouses prior to marriage, or serious pressure to marry from parents or elders.  Would you be able to recommend some Scripture passages or biblical principles that could be applied in such cases?  Thank you.
I have to say that you would be better served by asking specific questions of one of our pastors. That face-to-face forum would enable you to provide context and additional information for your questions. What I can do is pass along general information on some of the issues you mentioned. This information is from The Shepherd Under Christ: A Textbook for Pastoral Theology. “Inherent in a valid promise [marriage vow] is that it is given willingly. Although Scripture does not address itself to this point directly, it is evident that the leaving of father and mother and cleaving to one’s spouse according to Genesis 2:24 is a voluntary action. Rebekah was asked about her willingness to leave her homeland and family in order to marry Isaac (Gn 24:58). A pastor will not solemnize a marriage where coercion is in evidence. State laws permit an annulment of a marriage if force or coercion were present at the time of the marriage ‘unless the marriage has been confirmed by the acts of the injured party.’ Whoever subsequent to the coercion that forced him into a marriage practices marital privileges voluntarily is viewed as thereby giving his willing consent. What constitutes coercion the state laws may well determine. When coercion can be proved, the church too can acknowledge this as evidence that no valid marriage bond came into existence. “Deception, or fraud, is an impediment to a valid marriage promise. Such deception may involve the essence of marriage itself (e.g., known impotence or known sterility) or related matters (e.g., claiming a particular social or financial status). What turns out to be a mistaken judgment about a spouse’s wealth or beauty or desirable qualities cannot subsequently be called fraud. “…Since fraud used in securing a promise nullifies one’s obligation to it, state laws permit the annulment of marriages that came into existence through deception. The church may acknowledge such an annulment without expressly requiring it. Continued voluntary practice of marital rights after discovering the fraud validates the marriage vows and removes the right to annulment.” (Pages 268-269) Again, your best course of action would be to ask one of our pastors to respond to your specific questions.

» Could you help me understand the context and past reason for Leviticus 21:9?
The immediate context for the verse in question (“If a priest’s daughter defiles herself by becoming a prostitute, she disgraces her father; she must be burned in the fire.”) concerns God’s will for those who would serve as his representatives as priests. While the Lord instructed all the people of Israel to be holy and to distance themselves from sin (Leviticus 11:44-45), that instruction applied especially to priests (Leviticus 21:6). The first six verses of Leviticus 21 detail specific ways in which a priest could keep himself ceremonially clean. The next two verses address the ceremonially uncleanness of a priest by way of his relationship to his wife. Finally, verse nine explains how the daughter of a priest could negatively impact a priest and his ministry by her sinful living. The verse lays out the penalty for such behavior. The verse illustrates how serious God considered sin—especially when it involved people who were representing him in the priesthood. While that law is no longer in effect for New Testament followers of the Lord, the Bible still places appropriate emphasis on the behavior of called workers and their families. “He [an overseer] must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him, and he must do so in a manner worthy of full respect. (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?)” (1 Timothy 3:4-5) “An elder must be blameless, faithful to his wife, a man whose children believe and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient” (Titus 1:6). There are high standards for those who, today, represent God in the public ministry.

» What do we tell others regarding the subject of the rapture?
We want to tell others what the Bible does and does not teach. The Bible does not teach that there will be a secret resurrection of Christians or that Christians who are alive on the earth will be whisked out of this world to heaven prior to the Last Day. People who believe in the rapture usually look to 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 for support for their belief. That section of the Bible, however, describes what will take place on the Last Day. The Bible teaches that on the Last Day, Jesus will return visibly to this world, raise the dead and gather to himself the Christians who are still alive on the earth at his return. Being “caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air” (1 Thessalonians 4:17) is what will take place on the Last Day not prior to the Last Day. There is nothing in the context of that portion of Scripture to remove that event from the events of the Last Day. If you would like more information on what the Bible does and does not teach about the Last Day, you will find value in reading this chapter of This We Believe, a statement of belief of our church body.

» I have been a member at our WELS church for 5 years now. I have strived to talk to all kinds of people at church in order to gain that strong community within our church. I know that God's word and truth is the most important thing at church, but I think Christian friendship/community is also important. Our church speaks truth but the community is lacking. My husband is super involved with church. He is spiritually fed. I struggle because I am raising my young children and can't quite gain those Christian friendships that I am craving. I noticed other churches in our area emphasize community. How do I know when to seek another church? I also read that children can sense when you don't want to be at church. I want to love my church but I don't. I am really struggling and wonder how to manage this when my husband has a completely different experience. I don't want to be a stumbling block to others because of my experience within our church. I have an amazing Christian community with a women's ministry I am involved in but I'm craving this at my own church.
You have a good understanding of how all-important Scripture is and how important Christian friendships are. Christian fellowship is certainly a blessing from God (Psalm 133:1). I would encourage you to speak to your husband about your concerns (if you have not already done so) and also your pastor. Your pastor and other church leaders will want to be aware of ministry needs and opportunities. The history of the Christian Church shows that some ministries expanded, involving and including more people, when there was input from congregational members (Acts 6:1-7). By speaking with your pastor and other church leaders, your congregation can be in a position to assess the needs and viability of a moms’ group, for example. Hopefully, having conversations like the ones suggested above will enable you to feel more at home in your congregation. Enjoying friendships with other Christian women is also a blessing. There can even be additional blessings by benefiting from the ministries of their WELS churches. God’s blessings to you and your family!

» Can a home church celebrate Holy Communion?
I do not know how you might be defining home church, so what I can do is pass along a response to a similar question. The response contained information from the March 24, 2020 Together newsletter. “Since restrictions on gatherings vary from place to place, the celebration of the Lord’s Supper will in some places need to be modified, depending on government restrictions and medical guidelines. Some congregations, if allowed by state and local authorities, are gathering in small groups and taking great care to practice good hygiene and recommended ‘social distancing.’ “In other places, even small gatherings are not allowed. There have been questions about how we should proceed when it comes to the celebration of the Lord’s Supper when members cannot gather at church. “Regardless of the specific situation in which your congregation finds itself, here are a couple of things to remember. First, while Christians desire to be strengthened and comforted by the Lord’s Supper, we also recognize that there are times when the normal celebration of Communion is not possible. For Christians serving in a war zone, for church members who are in a medically induced coma, for believers who are home-bound because of sickness or infirmity, the normal celebration of the Lord’s Supper with other believers may not be an option. But in those cases we take comfort in knowing that we have the means of grace in two forms—Word and sacrament. The forgiveness conveyed and assured by the written or spoken Word of God is no less powerful and effective than the sacrament. In some cases, private Communion may certainly be available. “Second, we also recognize that there is no scriptural definition or requirement for how frequently Christians should celebrate the Lord’s Supper. Jesus simply encourages us to receive the Lord’s Supper regularly and often. There may be times such as this that, temporarily, the Lord’s Supper may not be available as often as we would like or desire. For that reason, the Conference of Presidents is urging patience with the following advice: “We encourage our congregations at this time to reserve the distribution of the Lord’s Supper for its regular and normal use within the gathering of the body of believers (realizing that some changes in procedure may be made) or distributed privately by the pastor to individuals in need, as is the customary practice. We urge congregations to refrain from initiating novel approaches for celebration of the sacrament.” Click here to subscribe to Together newsletters.

» I have a friend who is a Free Mason. I know there is a reason we are not to be. Could you please explain?
In short, Freemasonry teaches work righteousness; it denies the Trinity and the deity of Jesus Christ. Anyone who tries to reach heaven by following the work righteous teachings of Freemasonry will fall short. The Bible teaches that we cannot save ourselves. We cannot be perfect as God demands (Matthew 5:48). We fall short of God’s demands of perfection (Romans 3:23). There is salvation through Jesus Christ alone (Acts 4:12). Membership in a church or an organization implies that the person is committed to the teachings and practices of that church or organization. A person’s stated reason for joining Freemasonry might be business networking or friendship building, but membership still sends the signal to others that there is an acceptance of what the lodge stands for and teaches. Having membership in a Christian congregation (where Jesus Christ is confessed as Savior) and having membership in a Masonic lodge (where Jesus Christ is denied) is contradictory. Jesus’ words are so important in this regard: “Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven” (Matthew 10:32-33). While a confession of Christian faith in the heart is connected to eternal joys, denial of Jesus has sad, tragic and eternal consequences.

» Martin Luther College (MLC) has been teaching Critical Race Theory. Has this become an official position of WELS? I'm looking for a straight answer, not rationalization. I feel terrible about the Synod having been possibly compromised.
While I teach at the college you mention, I thought it would be best if the President of the college provided the response. Here is his response to your question and concern. “Critical Race Theory is ‘taught’ at MLC only in regard to making students aware of its assumptions and presuppositions. In keeping with what Paul urges in 2 Corinthians 10:5 (‘Take captive every thought and make it obedient to Christ’), such study helps our students analyze this theory in light of Scripture. It is no different from how we ‘teach’ evolution at MLC. Our students need to be aware of such human theories so that they can analyze them thoughtfully and biblically in light of the gospel.”

» I am a member of a WELS church. Can I be an associate member at another synod Lutheran Church while keeping my membership intact at my WELS church?
No. Such a situation is not workable. With church membership, people commit themselves to the doctrine and practice of that church. If multiple memberships were allowed, people would be committing themselves to different doctrines and practices. Membership in more than one church presents many challenges. One of the most practical and serious deals with the spiritual care of the individual, especially if church discipline were involved (Matthew 18:15-20). Confusion and/or disagreement over which pastor is the primary shepherd of the individual would be a natural result.

Jesus said, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." ~ Matthew 11:28