I thought this was a piece of satire when I first read it. But it’s true!
The Houston Chronicle reported that Houston Mayor Annise Parker signed off on subpoenas issued to five local preachers.
And what did the city and the Mayor want from the preachers?
The subpoenas sought “all speeches, presentations, or sermons related to HERO, the Petition, Mayor Parker, homosexuality, or gender identity prepared by, delivered by, revised by, or approved by you or in your possession.”
This all began on 28 May 2014, when Parker, the first openly lesbian Mayor of a major US city, signed the controversial Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO) into law. The Chronicle described the ordinance:
“The measure bans discrimination based not just on sexual orientation and gender identity but also, as federal laws do, sex, race, color, ethnicity, national origin, age, religion, disability, pregnancy and genetic information, as well as family, martial or military status.”
Opponents, lead by the five Houston preachers, sought to repeal the ordinance. Reportedly they have gathered over 50,000 signatures, calling for a vote in the November election.
When a group of Christians sued the city, the attorneys responded by issuing subpoenas to the five preachers during the discovery phase, although the preachers were not involved in the lawsuit.
The question is: Were the preachers using the pulpit for political purposes or proclaiming their religious beliefs?
I don’t know. I don’t know the facts of this specific case. Or the motives of the preachers. Or the content of their sermons. But here’s what I do know. Preachers are duty bound to preach the Truth. The apostle Paul commanded Timothy and all of us who preach:
“Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage — with great patience and careful instruction.” (2 Tim. 4;1-2)
Paul didn’t tell Timothy to rail against Rome, but to rebuke rebellion against God. The purpose of first century preachers was not to condemn Caesar, but to reprove wrong-doing, condemn sin, and correct error.
At times there may seem to be a fine line. However, the preacher’s role in the pulpit is to center the message on Christ and not the Constitution. To point people to the Bible and not the Bill of Rights. To call sinners into the fellowship of God’s people, and not a particular political party.
That said, we must not fear confronting our corrupt culture. While it may not be politically correct to condemn abortion, homosexuality and same-sex marriage, the Bible does. And we should too!
We live in an age described in 2 Timothy 4:3-5. Paul’s warning and exhortation to Timothy is appropriate for preachers today.
“For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.”
Finally, I would offer these five suggestion to spiritual leaders:
- Remain faithful to the moral standard of God’s Word. Live “soberly, righteously and godly in this present world.” Be the Good News before you share the Good News
- Unashamedly stand firm for truth. Don’t be ashamed of the Gospel. Of Jesus. Of old-fashioned Bible-based morality.
- Preach the truth, preachers! Shepherd the souls of the flock, pastors! Let the leaders of our church family speak up and speak out.
- Be loving and kind to those with whom you disagree. Jesus loved sinners. He cared for them. Be kind. Compassionate. Caring.
- Seek the conversion of the lost. And that includes homosexuals. The Bible says to the Corinthian Christians, “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.” (1 Cor 6:9-10)
Paul’s words serve as both a warning and a comforting promise. God will judge the sinner. But thanks be to Jesus for his cleansing blood. And they remind us, we are not here to conform to culture, but to change culture through the Gospel of Christ.
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman