A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life

A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life
I do not seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand. For this also I believe, –that unless I believed, I should not understand.-- St. Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109)

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Government Doesn't Have to Subpoena My Sermons. I Will Gladly Give Them Copies.

In an unprecedented move, the city government of Houston, Texas has subpoenaed sermons preached by some pastors in Houston who have spoken out publicly against a recently passed city ordinance on equal rights. Sarah Pulliam Bailey for the Religion News Service writes,
City attorneys issued subpoenas last month during the case's discovery phase, seeking "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," according to the Houston Chronicle.
I'm not interested in this post to discuss the controversial issues surrounding human sexuality. It seems as if sex is all we United Methodists focus on anymore. Rather, I want to reflect on what I think is a very troubling move by city officials in Houston-- and yes, it is a troubling move. The problem is that Christians are generally responding to this event in typical Christendom ways arguing over separation of church and state, freedom of religious expression, and government authority. I have some different thoughts on the matter.

If I were one of those pastors, my sermons would not have to be subpoenaed; I would gladly give city officials copies if asked. First, of all I don't preach on nation state politics from the pulpit because it takes the focus off the gospel of Jesus Christ and draws attention away from his lordship. As I have said before, the church is my nation; the church is my politic. God's kingdom holds my citizenship. But the reality is that what I say from the pulpit I have no trouble saying out on the streets. In my preaching, I am accountable to God and to the church. I am not accountable to the emperor or his or her minions in state government. If they want to scrutinize what I say in the pulpit they are welcome to read every sermon I've ever preached.

And when it comes to my preaching, like Martin Luther my conscience is captive to the Word of God, not some elected official who is going to die, be buried, and forgotten-- and I don't care what their politics happens to be.

And if they throw me in jail or punish me in some other way for something I say, so be it. I will count myself in good company-- Jesus, Paul, Peter, Clement, Polycarp....


Anonymous said...

My first thought yesterday when I read this story: wow, what an opportunity to preach to people who wouldn't ordinarily hear you, Like Felix, Festus and Agrippa. Send tapes, not transcripts so they have to listen to the whole message.

Allan R. Bevere said...


Good point.