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Home Arts & Culture Concordia Nebraska hosts over 50 students at 2024 Lutherans for Life Y4Life...

Over 50 college and high school students, Lutherans for Life staff members, and Concordia professors gathered at Concordia University, Nebraska for the Y4Life Summit on Feb. 16-18. 

Photo credit: Lutherans for Life

By Nora Betts


Students from the seven Concordia universities, Faith Lutheran High School in Plano, Texas, and homeschooled students spent several days this month learning about the life issues of abortion, in vitro fertilization and surrogacy, marriage and birth control, gender and sexuality and bioethics at the end of life at the Y4Life Summit hosted by CUNE and Lutherans for Life.

Lutherans for Life is a national organization affiliated with the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod that “exists to equip Lutherans and their neighbors to be Gospel-motivated voices for life,” according to its mission statement. Y4Life is the youth branch of LFL that focuses on high school and college students.

Participants heard presentations from LFL leaders and Concordia faculty, put together 1,000 homeless kits for a Lincoln nonprofit, and attended three worship services throughout the summit.

The Y4Life Summit is hosted by a different Concordia each year; this year’s drew more than 50 participants to campus, triple the number at last year’s summit at Concordia University Ann Arbor.

All costs for the summit were covered by LFL, including travel costs for two people each from Concordia University Chicago, Concordia University Ann Arbor, Concordia University Wisconsin, Concordia University Irvine, Concordia University Texas, and Concordia University, St. Paul.

Session 1: Gospel-Motivated Voices on Life Issues

The first presentation stressed the importance of balancing God’s Law with the Gospel and recognizing that all human life is important, valuable and meaningful.

The Rev. Scott Licht, LFL chief financial officer and chief operating officer, said that American society pushes a narrative of “death as a friend” that exacerbates life issues like abortion and physician-assisted suicide.

Licht gave the example that using the law to say abortion is wrong is necessary to the pro-life argument. However, he said that the Gospel message must exist to the same extent so that people can celebrate life and receive forgiveness for abortion.

Licht said that all life is important, valuable and meaningful, citing Bible passages like Psalms 139:13-14: “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.”

He said that a common slogan used by LFL is “created, redeemed, called,” which illustrates how God values each person and creates the foundation for addressing life issues.

“God the Father created us,” said Licht. “God the Son redeemed us by giving His life on the cross. The Holy Spirit calls us into a relationship with Him through the waters of holy baptism. Created, redeemed, called. Whenever you think about ‘how do I process this new life issue?’ or ‘is it a life issue?’ think about how [these statements] fit into the narrative.”

Session 2: IVF, Infertility, and Surrogacy

The Rev. Dr. Scott Steigemeyer, an assistant professor teaching theology, church history, and bioethics at Concordia University Irvine, gave the second presentation about the life issues of in vitro fertilization and surrogacy. He also outlined the practical and theological challenges to these means of conception.

Steigemeyer said that while Christians do not usually like to talk about sex, it is a God-given blessing that deserves discussion.

“We should not be ashamed to discuss what God was not ashamed to create,” said Steigemeyer.

He said that while the desire for children is a godly impulse, some things should be off-limits for couples, even if their motivation is right.

Steigemeyer explained how IVF and surrogacy work and explored the Christian response to those issues.

IVF is the conception of a child outside of a mother’s womb, usually in a petri dish in a laboratory setting. The process for IVF usually consists of harvesting several egg cells from a mother, fertilizing them with sperm, grading and doing genetic testing on the new human embryos, and implanting several embryos while freezing or discarding those remaining.

Steigemeyer said that there are practical challenges that raise concern about IVF such as cost, time consumption, increased health risks for mothers, and low rates of successful implantation and live birth. He also said that a Christian should object to IVF because it views children as projects or means of self-fulfillment, rather than as gifts from God.

Surrogacy is where a woman is not genetically related to the child she carries, which also involves IVF to create an embryo and implant it in her uterus. Steigemeyer said that Christians should oppose surrogacy because it commodifies children and exploits women.

He said that many Christians and feminists agree that surrogacy labels women as “baby factories” and takes advantage of their bodies. He said that since surrogate mothers are usually hired for large amounts of money, surrogacy exploits primarily poor women.

Steigemeyer said that while God’s design for procreation is better than human technology, children conceived through IVF or surrogacy are still created and loved by God.

“Every child is a glorious creation,” said Steigemeyer. “There’s no such thing as an ‘unnatural’ baby.”

Session 3: Marriage, Birth Control, and Families

Michelle Bauman, director of Y4Life, explained the gifts of marriage and contrasted birth control methods as contraceptives versus abortifacients in the summit’s third session.

Bauman said that the “godly gifts” of marriage and family existed before the fall of mankind and that humans are designed for marriage. She said that marriage gives a couple connectedness through sacrificial love and service, sexual and spiritual union, and the procreation of children.

“We desire marriage,” said Bauman. “We want to have a relationship, an intimate relationship with someone. We were made for those relationships, to be loved and to love others, to have a family, to be connected, and that is very much how God has formed us.”

She said the gifts of marriage must shape the conversation on birth control.

Bauman contrasted what she called true contraceptives and possible abortifacients, both of which are commonly advertised as birth control.

Bauman said that true contraceptives prevent fertilization, meaning that sperm cannot reach an egg to create a new child. Contraceptives include barrier methods like condoms, natural family planning or cycle tracking, and spermicides, she said. If a true contraceptive fails, the child will still implant in the uterus, said Bauman.

She said that abortifacients prevent implantation in the uterus, meaning it may kill an already-existing child. Probable abortifacients include emergency contraceptives like Plan B pills, birth control pills, long-term hormonal implants/injections, and intrauterine devices. She said abortifacient methods often thin the lining of the uterus to create a hostile environment for a baby.

Bauman said that Christian couples should discuss birth control methods but should only choose from the category of true contraceptives.

“Remember that not all methods are equal,” said Bauman.

She said that a Christian couple should decide on a method of contraception “that’s based on the best way to serve in your vocation, to serve God pleasingly, your spouse, and your family.”

Session 4: Gender and Sexuality

The Rev. Michael Salemink, executive director of LFL, gave the fourth presentation about gender and sexuality in the context of God’s design for love.

Salemink said that Christian conversations about sex tend to focus on the command to not have premarital sex. However, he said that God only says no to something when he says yes to something better, that is, sex within God’s design for marriage.

“If we can not just say ‘don’t eat those dumpster scraps,’ but if we can say ‘because God has set you a banquet table,’ I think it’s going to prove much more encouraging for us and the people that God calls us to serve,” said Salemink.

He said that God’s design for love is the union of male and female in marriage.

“This is why [God] makes us male and female: so that we can become united, more than one now existing as one,” he said.

He said that wrongful perspectives about love focus inward instead of outward and serve oneself instead of others.

“Love is not a feeling,” said Salemink. “Love is a doing. Love is giving of oneself for the benefit of somebody else. When I say I love my children, I love my spouse, I love you, I’m making a promise. I’m saying here is a schedule, an inventory of actions that I am going to take for your benefit. That’s what love means from the divine perspective.”

Salemink said that the condition of sin makes the world broken, which causes life issues dealing with sexuality and gender and distorts sexuality within marriage.

“It is not just those who struggle with same-sex attraction and gender dysphoria who experience sexual brokenness,” he said. “We all do.”

Salemink said an example of a sinful view of sexuality within marriage is viewing one’s spouse with lust, which is “committing adultery within [your] own marriage.”

He said that God’s love and proper design of marriage is the ultimate remedy to all forms of sexual sin.

“Sexual brokenness is the problem and the love of God is the way out,” said Salemink.

Session 5: Bioethics and the End of Life

The Rev. Dr. Russ Sommerfeld, professor emeritus at Concordia University, Nebraska, gave the final presentation on bioethics at the end of life and how end-of-life care should aim for a patient’s comfort and pain relief rather than death.

He said that medicine should serve human life despite the sin and suffering of the world. Sommerfeld said that Christians should object to physician-assisted suicide and other actions that intend to end human life.

Bioethics are “ethics and moral concerns due to technology and the human body,” one issue of which is physician-assisted suicide, Sommerfeld said.

He said that only God should determine a life’s beginning and end. He said that though people suffer as a result of the fall into sin, God empowers them amidst their suffering and encourages everyone to bear his neighbor’s burdens.

“When we suffer, we are given opportunities, real opportunities to really show who it is that we have trust in and who it is that will carry us all the way into eternal life,” said Sommerfeld. “In addition to that, we have the opportunity to bear the burdens of one another when we suffer.”

Sommerfeld said that end-of-life decisions are complicated, but that not all medical treatments need to be accepted. He said that someone may refuse dangerous, difficult, or excessive means to keep a person alive and refuse further treatment when a person is irretrievably dying. However, he said that quality of life and terminal illness are not good reasons to end a life.

Sommerfeld emphasized the fact that God works in people’s lives even during times of suffering.

“It’s so important for us to think about what God can do in the midst of things that have even gone horribly wrong in His creation,” said Sommerfeld. “He can even make good come out of evil.”

Service and Worship Opportunities

Summit participants on Saturday put together 1,000 homeless kits for Matt Talbot Kitchen & Outreach in Lincoln thanks to donations from churches, individuals, and LFL.

The kits for homeless men include a water bottle, bar of soap, pair of socks, toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, deodorant, snack, and a handwritten note of encouragement. Similar kits for women include a water bottle, bar of soap, toothbrush, toothpaste, feminine hygiene product, comb, nail clipper, snack, and a handwritten note.

The 1,000 kits will be distributed by Matt Talbot volunteers through their street outreach program.

Participants also attended worship services in the Borland Center for Music and Theatre’s recital hall on Friday and Saturday nights. Many participants attended Sunday morning worship at St. John Lutheran Church in Seward before traveling back to their respective homes or campuses.

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