The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Married in the 'state of grace'

As several U.S. cities began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, a few ELCA members and congregations didn't wait for the dust to settle on the ongoing religious and legal controversies over same-sex marriage.

Michael Nelson and his partner, Dale Von Seggern, did what some 3,000 other gay and lesbian couples did in February: They went to San Francisco City Hall to get married.

Nelson and Von Seggern were couple number #187 to marry just before noon, Feb. 16. They were right behind their friends Dan Hooper and Carl Hunter. All four are ELCA members. The latter worship at Hollywood [Calif.] Lutheran Church.

Nelson and Von Seggern, together 18 years, are members of St. Paul Lutheran Church, Santa Monica, Calif. The following Sunday, St. Paul's pastor, James Boline, invited them to come forward to the baptismal font where worshipers surrounded them for prayers of blessing.

The congregation presented the couple with a marriage certificate signed by Boline that included their names, the date and place of marriage, and declaring them married "in accordance with the laws of the state of grace."

"The congregation erupted in joyous, thunderous applause," Boline said. "It was a glimpse of glory. [We were] doing what every congregation is called to do [for all members]: to rejoice with those who rejoice and affirm God's presence with them in all seasons of their lives.'"


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