Sunday, November 02, 2014

The 3 - November 2, 2014

On this week's edition of "The 3," my week-in-review blog feature, I take a look at North Carolina judges who would rather resign than to perform same-sex marriage ceremonies.   Also, the institution of traditional marriage in a culture that has been more accepting of homosexual behavior and same-sex unions was upheld in a conference attracting church leaders to Nashville.  And, the top story involves the mayor of Houston withdrawing subpoenas for a variety of types of their communication.

3 - Judges resign rather than perform gay "marriage" ceremonies

With the U.S. Supreme Court refusing, at least temporarily, to get involved in appeals court decisions against marriage laws in a variety of states, that has led to a number of states seeing their laws upholding traditional marriage being nullified.  North Carolina is one. reports that at least 6 North Carolina magistrates are resigning from their roles after gay marriage was legalized there.  Reportedly, those resigning include: Rockingham County magistrate John Kallam Jr., Gaston County magistrate Bill Stevenson, Graham County magistrate Tommy Holland, Union County magistrate Gayle Myrick and Jackson County magistrate Jeff Powell.  Also, Swain County magistrate Gilbert Breedlove had resigned from his post last week.

These officials have said they do not believe in marrying same-sex couples and that is a violation of their faith.

Stevenson, from Gaston County, told WCNC-TV that, “It was something I had to do out of conscience. I felt like to perform same sex unions would be in violation of the Lord’s commands so I couldn’t do that.”  He added, "I hate to wax so biblical, but it says what good is it for a man to gain the whole world but lost his own soul, so that’s the stakes I put on this."

Myrick, from Union County, said, “For me to do what the state said I had to do, under penalty of law, I would have to go against my convictions, and I was not willing to do that. I want to honor what the word says.”

2 - Conference in Nashville highlights the sanctity of marriage in the midst of culture

The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention held an event in Nashville this week entitled "The Gospel, Homosexuality and the Future of Marriage," intended to, as Baptist Press put it, help "a capacity crowd of more than 1,300 people bolster marriage within the church and protect marriage outside it."

Another Baptist Press article quoted Dr. Russell Moore, ERLC President, as saying that evangelicals cannot repeat the "same old mistakes" in which they "slowly adapted to a sexual revolution that is now ravaging our churches and our culture."

He said that instead, "we contend for marriage and we contend for family and we contend for holiness, but we do this in the context of the Gospel of Jesus Christ." If evangelicals make the same mistakes, Moore told attendees, "we won't just lose a marriage culture; we will lose the Gospel itself."

Other speakers included International Mission Board President David Platt, who pointed attendees to the missiological implications of marriage and singleness. He said that both portray the gospel: "The purpose of marriage is for the display of the gospel and a demonstration of the glory of our God." He added that, "Today's cultural climate provides a huge opportunity for gospel witness."

Jim Daly, president of Focus on the Family, urged the audience to follow the New Testament directives for Christians to love and act kindly toward those who oppose them on the marriage issue. He is quoted as saying, "If you want to fight the culture, you're not going to win the culture. You've got to persuade the culture." He added, "We are soaked in an ocean of His grace, and we don't want to give a cup to anybody."

According to another Baptist Press report, speakers on the final day included J.D. Greear, lead pastor of The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, NC.  Greear related that Christians need not adopt the two-option narrative -- "affirmation or alienation" -- offered by American culture in regards to homosexuality. He said that Jesus provides another alternative -- "full of grace and truth" – that calls for courageous proclamation of God's Word and compassionate outreach to human beings.

Dennis Rainey, president of FamilyLife, told attendees the church has "an unprecedented opportunity" at this cultural moment. He said that Christians need the rallying cry of "a family reformation."  He is quoted as saying, [F]or many Americans, the unmet thirst for a good marriage, a solid family represents a need we must address as followers of Jesus Christ."  He added that in order to have a family reformation, the church must "set its sights on becoming the marriage and family equipping center in their community."

1 - Houston mayor retracts subpoenas, Christian leaders express continued concerns

Another development took place this week in the ongoing story involving Houston pastors who had a variety of forms of their communication subpoenaed regarding a lawsuit filed by proponents of a petition drive to get the city's controversial gay rights ordinance put on the ballot for a referendum vote.  Christianity Today reported that Houston mayor Annise Parker announced Wednesday morning that she was directing city officials to rescind subpoenas issued to five local pastors.

She had met with Houston pastors and clergy leaders from across the country who have defended the subpoenaed pastors’ religious freedom. She is quoted as saying, "It was never our intention to interfere with clergy and their congregants...I don't want to have a national debate on freedom of religion when my purpose is to defend ... a city ordinance."

According to Parker, the subpoenas—once modified to exclude sermons—are “legal, valid, and appropriate," but unintentionally pushed the city into a broader religious debate that wasn’t good for the city or its efforts to defend its new ordinance. She said, “This is not about silencing my critics; this is about doing the right thing."

Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Legal Counsel Erik Stanley responded, saying: "We are gratified that the First Amendment rights of the pastors have triumphed over government overreach and intimidation. The First Amendment protects the right of pastors to be free from government intimidation and coercion of this sort."

But he went on to say that, "...the subpoenas were only one element of this disgraceful episode. The scandal began with another abuse of power when the city of Houston arbitrarily threw out the valid signatures of thousands of voters. The city did this all because it is bent on pushing through its deeply unpopular ordinance at any cost."

Grace Church in Houston, pastored by Steve Riggle, who was one of the 5 Houston pastors receiving subpoenas, was scheduled to be the sight of the "I Stand Sunday" national simulcast on Sunday night, November 2nd, sponsored in part by the Family Research Council. 

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