In this piece of news,
|61st Mayor of Houston,
Assumed office 1/2/2010. Wikipedia.
The city of Houston has issued subpoenas demanding a group of pastors turn over any sermons dealing with homosexuality, gender identity or Annise Parker, the city’s first openly lesbian mayor. And those ministers who fail to comply could be held in contempt of court.
The subpoenas are just the latest twist in an ongoing saga over the Houston’s new non-discrimination ordinance. The law, among other things, would allow men to use the ladies room and vice versa. The city council approved the law in June.
The Houston Chronicle reported opponents of the ordinance launched a petition drive that generated more than 50,000 signatures – far more than the 17,269 needed to put a referendum on the ballot.
However, the city threw out the petition in August over alleged irregularities. After opponents of the bathroom bill filed a lawsuit the city’s attorneys responded by issuing the subpoenas against the pastors. Mayor Parker will not explain why she wants to inspect the sermons. I contacted City Hall for a comment and received a terse reply from the mayor’s director of communications. “We don’t comment on litigation,” said Janice Evans.
Among those slapped with a subpoena is Steve Riggle, the senior pastor of Grace Community Church. He was ordered to produce all speeches and sermons related to Mayor Annise Parker, homosexuality and gender identity. The mega-church pastor was also ordered to hand over “all communications with members of your congregation” regarding the non-discrimination law.
[Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council said] This is the moment I wrote about in my book, “God Less America.” I predicted that the government would one day try to silence American pastors. I warned that under the guise of “tolerance and diversity” elected officials would attempt to deconstruct religious liberty. Sadly, that day arrived sooner than even I expected
We know that the way that society is going here in America that this day would arrive. I believe we have all seen a dramatic acceleration in soft hostility against Western Christianity in just the last few years. That the State would begin to bully Christians in a harder persecution would not be long in coming. I personally believe this act from the Houston Mayor is a kind of bridge step in going from soft pressure to hard persecution.
Russell Moore, speaking on behalf of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, wrote yesterday,
Reports coming out of Houston today indicate that city attorneys have issued subpoenas to pastors who have been vocal in opposition to the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO), a measure which deals with gender identity and sexuality in public accommodations. The subpoenas, issued to several pastors, seek “all speeches, presentations, or sermons related to HERO, the Petition, Mayor Annise Parker, homosexuality, or gender identity prepared by, delivered by, revised by, or approved by you or in your possession.”
I am simply stunned by the sheer audacity of this.
The preaching of sermons in the pulpits of churches is of no concern to any government bureaucrat at all. This country settled, a long time ago, with a First Amendment that the government would not supervise, license, or bully religious institutions. That right wasn’t handed out by the government, as a kind of temporary restraining order. It was recognition of a self-evident truth.
The churches, and pastors, of Houston ought to respond to this sort of government order with the same kind of defiance the Apostle Paul showed the magistrates in Philippi…
MORE AT LINK, please read. It is good and it’s not long.
|Dr Steve Riggle|
Dr. Steve Riggle of Grace Community Church of Houston was mentioned by name in the article. Here is Dr Riggle speaking two years ago of the need for pastors to be the moral, prophetic voice in their communities and about the reason pastors need to continue speaking of these cultural issues. The excerpt below is from the 6-minute clip below:
If I don’t speak up for the people at Grace, then who are they listening to? Because what other voice is out there? And the voices that they’re being inundated by all around them are not the voices of righteousness nor are of a stance that adheres to biblical fidelity. It’s imperative for me because I’m trying to to shape their worldview in a biblical sense. If I don’t speak out on issues like homosexuality – what the bible really says – in a way where why God said ‘no’ is seasoned with mercy and grace for the person, but not countenancing the sin, then how do they know that? Because who else is going to say it? … We raise up authentic followers of Christ who walk in righteousness and see themselves as salt in the culture. And to do that, they have to have a solid biblical foundation.
He speaks on the need for pastors to stand with each other. In seminary, regardless of the degree level a seminarian is at, the legal complexities are not taught, Riggle said. It can be overwhelming for a shepherd to be confronted with legal complexities and legal pressure from the worldly culture.
He also speaks of the difference between pastors who respond to their work as a calling and pastors who see their job as a vocation. Pastors who are in a calling will do anything to further the cause. The difference is that one is a leader and another is not. One will speak up and the other will not.
In an interesting turnabout, two years ago during an earlier contretemps with Dr Riggle, Mayor Parker said,
“…it’s her duty “to uphold the state Constitution and the U.S. Constitution. I swore an oath to that. I take that oath very seriously, but I have my First Amendment rights to free speech. We all have the right to do that and I’m sorry that they [Riggle and his supporters] don’t understand the Constitution. I’m going to continue to follow my oath of office, lead the city well but speak out on issues that I care about.”
It might be wise for Ms Parker to remember that freedom of speech to promote ‘issues that she cares about’ goes both ways in this Constitution she cited two years ago when it suited her.
Pastors need prayer. Even if the Houston Mayor backs down, this shot across the bow has opened the Pandora’s Box for all manner of evil to come flying out. Once the demand has been made, it cannot be unmade. Other towns and cities will follow suit in Houston’s precedent, and quickly too. One of those times, the demand will stick. Pastors, are you prepared to go to jail? THE QUESTION IS NOT RHETORICAL in the US any longer!
However, in the mythological Pandora’s Box, when all the other evil had flooded the world after being released, what remained behind? Hope. In real life, not myths, Jesus tells us that we always have His hope.
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13)
He IS hope. He gives us His hope AND His power so that we may overflow in it. In John 16:32 Jesus said the hour was coming when all will scatter and He will be left alone. He concluded by saying,
The Father is with us all. Unite in prayer and like-mindedness so that the Houston pastors are emboldened, energized by the Spirit as they abound in hope. The Houston Mayor is not the enemy. We all have a common enemy and he is satan. But this enemy has already been defeated. Let’s pray for the Mayor, her cohorts, as we should be praying for our leaders. And always remember that against the Father, who can stand?