Thursday, October 16, 2014

City of Houston Subpoenas Pastors Sermons

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The city of Houston,Texas has issued a subpoena demanding 5 pastors turn over their sermons and various other communications with their congregation that deal with homosexuality, gender identification or Annise Parker, the city's openly lesbian mayor.

Alliance Defending Freedom has now stepped in to defend these and other pastors who could be held in contempt of court resulting in fines or confinement (jail) or both.

Are we now walking down the path toward criminalizing the pulpit if the message is not acceptable to government officials?

What about the secular progressive's "Great Wall of Separation" that supposedly exists between church and state? It appears the "wall" is only a wall when used to lock the church out from speaking to the cultural issues, while a boulevard for the state to invade the business of the church.

Could something like this happen in Seattle with its openly homosexual mayor?

Here's how it all started.

This is the latest twist in an ongoing saga over Houston's new non-discrimination ordinance.

The law, among other things, allows men to use women's bathrooms and vice versa.

A coalition of about 400 Houston area churches opposed to the new ordinance, and to the general direction of the city under openly lesbian Mayor Annise Parker, launched a petition drive to place a referendum on the ballot for a vote of the people on the matter of the bathrooms.

While only 17,269 signatures were required, the coalition of churches gathered over 50,000 signatures.

However, the Houston Chronicle reported that executives in the Mayor's office reviewed the signatures and threw out thousands of them, eliminating the referendum from the ballot.

Opponents of the "bathroom bill" then filed a lawsuit against the city and the mayor.

The city then responded with subpoenas demanding 5 pastors turn over all their sermons and communications to their congregation regarding homosexuality, gender identity and Mayor Annise Parker.

The 5 pastors subpoenaed were not actually part of the lawsuit, although they support it.

The coalition of 400 churches represent a number of faith groups from Southern Baptist to non denominational churches.

Steve Riggle is one of the pastors who received a subpoena. He was ordered to turn over "all his speeches and sermons related to Mayor Annise Parker, homosexuality and gender identity."

The mega church pastor was also ordered to hand over "all communication with members of your congregation" regarding the non-discrimination law.

Riggle says, "The mayor would like to silence our voice. She's a bully."

Pastor Dave Welch is the executive director of the Texas Pastor's Council. He too received a subpoena asking for the same things.

He too says he will not be intimidated by the mayor.

Several of the pastors who were served subpoenas---perhaps all of them, have said they will "not" comply with the order. This, of course, puts them in a position where they can be deemed in contempt of the court and be fined or confined (jail) or both.

A number of pastors and Christian leaders have been expressing concern that something like this could be on the horizon.

Wallace Henley is one who has been expressing these concerns. Henely is the senior associate pastor at Second Baptist Church in Houston and a former journalist and aid at the White House. He is also a professor.

He calls this process the "Criminalization of the Pulpit."

In his article directed to this matter, he recalls a personal experience he had while preaching in a former Soviet Block country where he was alerted that a government official would likely infiltrate the services where he was speaking, looking for something with which to charge him.

I too have had similar experiences, particularly when I was preaching in Poland at First Baptist Church in Warsaw and an Assembly of God church in Krakow during the years when Russia had its heavy hand on the people, particularly the church in Poland.

This matter in Houston is all too parallel to what has happened in Eastern Europe and particularly in Germany during the rise of Hitler.

As Pastor Martin Niemoeller and others awoke to the very real circumstances in their country as Hitler rose to power, they began to speak to the issues from their pulpits with consequences.

Yale Professor Harry S. Stout has written extensively, documenting how pastors and preachers in the colonies spoke to the issues of their times. In fact, he has documented that often there were as many as 2,000 sermons per week explaining the deeper implications of parliamentary dominance and abuse.

They also put a light on the larger issues of the authority of Scripture and the destiny they believed New England had been given in the proclamation of the gospel. They believed and advocated in the spiritual destiny of this country.

They understood the power of the King's abuses. They understood that when human regimes clash with the eternal Kingdom, it was their calling to address it.

There are even deeper issues now---the disdain toward the Constitution and elevating homosexual behavior as a right that trumps religious freedom, setting a path to criminalizing the pulpit if preachers don't conform.

While I do not personally believe pastors or preachers should work to inflame anger or incite violence among certain groups as some do, I firmly believe our culture is where it is today because too many pastors and preachers have chosen to remain silent, not making waves, while our country has lost its way for lack of a moral compass.

Some pastors seem to put their career before their calling.

Now we have this.

Mayor Parker's actions are not a new tactic.

Read Amos chapter 7.

When the prophet Amos would not adjust his message to suit King Jeroboam, the king's lackey Amaziah ordered Amos "not to prophesy any more at Jeroboam's sanctuary and house."

Slowly and surely the anti-church, anti-Bible movement is seeking to either redefine Scripture by controlling pastors and preachers, intimidate them to silence or simply criminalize the pulpit here in America---with criminal consequences to follow.

May God give every pastor and preacher the courage to speak the truth, and give every person of Christian faith the will to pray for them and support those who do.

This is a watershed moment for the church in America.

God help us.