Houston area churches were justifiably concerned. A number of them banded together and began a campaign to repeal HERO. They collected signatures on a petition and provided guidance to their congregations as to how they might go about getting the issue on the ballot for election in November.
Therein lies the problem.
The petitions were thrown out for lack of following detailed procedures in collecting signatures. As tensions mounted, those in support of repealing the ordinance filed a lawsuit against Mayor Parker and the City of Houston. This element of the story has largely been ignored. They claimed their petition was unfairly disqualified. They wanted their day in court.
Well, they're getting it.
The city subpoenaed those pastors involved in the petition effort (not all pastors in the Houston area) to provide manuscripts of all sermons and correspondence involving
their instructions to their congregations on how to go about the appeal process. The original subpoena also asked for the details on any communication opposing the Mayor or anything speaking out against the whole LBGT movement.
The Mayor's office was quick to admit the original subpoena was far too broad in its scope and was in violation of the 1st Amendment rights of the Pastors. The Mayor claimed this was the result of her legal team's (a group of pro bono lawyers) lack of understanding the complexity of the issue and was unintentional. The subpoena has been reworded. But, it should be noted, as the case rises up in the courts, the City Council does have the legal right to examine those manuscripts to see if, during the course of directing their congregations, while sermonizing or otherwise, legally mandated procedures were followed. The Pastors are legally obligated to respond. This is what is known as the discovery phase of a hearing.
This, IMO, is where the church begins to stumble.
The whole issue went viral. Accusations based on half-truths and outright misrepresentations began to fly. Nearly all the conservative media failed to mention the suit filed by the pastors, focusing on the rights issue. Likewise, most of the liberal media put the spotlight on the holier-than-thou church. The issue became muddled and over-sensationalized. Here are just a few of the types of things that began to appear in the media:
- Houston's Lesbian Mayor Turns Tyrant
- Democrats Demand Oversight of Sermons
- Houston, We Have a 1st Amendment Problem
the horizon. The environment we operate in is becoming increasingly hostile. Events are happening at a lightning speed and seem to be gaining momentum. The question, hanging out there like a beacon in the night is this, "How will the church respond?" How do we respond to this new type of hostility toward the things we believe in and the things the church stands for? How does the church function in an atmosphere that is no longer tolerant of its message? That's an issue the modern church has been struggling with since the early 80's, when it looked like we were going to be in the driver's seat. Somewhere along the way, we seem to have driven off the road.
- Instead of preaching they protested. Instead of using their pulpits to spread the gospel, they promoted a political cause. We can dress this up any way we like, but the bottom line is they took the fight into the politicians' corner, used political tactics and methods hoping to get political results. They hoped to garner the support of the public, who, BTW, elected the very politicians the church was opposing. Isaiah had something to say about adopting worldly tactics (Is 31:1&3).
- Instead of praying they preyed. They filed a lawsuit. They became the aggressors. They demanded a legal hearing and a judicial determination. The initiated and subjected themselves to the court of man's law. Then the court made a decision, and they now want to oppose it! Do they hand over the sermons? Take a quick look at Matt 5:39-42, "But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you."
start a lobby, etc, etc, etc. We can do all the things that have been so spectacularly unsuccessful in the past. In other words, we can employ worldly tactics in trying to accomplish our goals. But...that leads to another question...or at least it should. "What are our goals?" Are we here to reform the culture? Are we here to make things right, make sure people act in a holy manner, agree with us? What is the church charged with?
justice will reign!"...all of which is true. Indeed, we are to seek justice (Is 1:17), But, when wielded in anger and self-righteousness, that quest defeats the primary goal of our calling. Much of the mainstream Christian media that is following the Houston story is designed to raise anger, to produce indignation or, even worse, fear and paranoia.
them? Is it even possible to win them over with love without compromising our holiness? The answers to these questions are not easy to come by. We have to strike a balance between reaching out and making practical decisions about holiness, truth, sanctification and what we can accept in our church families. Much prayer is needed. A deep commitment to knowing the word of God is needed. An even deeper commitment to appropriating it into our lives is needed as well.