Wednesday, October 15, 2014

15 October 2014

Presbyterians Week Headlines

[1] Dr. Joel McDurmon Says City of Houston Demand for Sermon Transcripts Is Basic Court Procedure Only for Ministers Involved in a Specific Lawsuit’s Pretrial Discovery

[2] Church of Scotland Lewis Presbytery Votes against Ministers in Same-Sex Relationships

[3] Regarding Marriage

[4] Why I Will No Longer Sign Charleston County [South Carolina] Marriage Licenses


[1] Dr. Joel McDurmon Says City of Houston Demand for Sermon Transcripts Is Basic Court Procedure Only for Ministers Involved in Specific Lawsuit’s Pretrial Discovery

Recent news stories from Fox News, WND, and others have raised alarm about the City of Houston, Texas’ demand for sermon transcripts of pastors involved in a lawsuit against the city, and some of the news stories have implied that the city is looking to have oversight of all pastors’ sermons.

Dr. Joel McDurmon of American Vision has written a 15 October 2014 article titled “Is Houston Demanding Oversight of Pastors’ Sermons? No.” that clarifies the reasons for the demand of the sermon transcripts and other information from pastors involved in the lawsuit:

Unlike American Vision, the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) says that Houston’s demands to see what these pastors were preaching from the pulpit and to examine the pastors’ communications with their church members and others concerning the city council’s actions are a legal overreach, especially for the pastors not directly involved in the lawsuit, saying.

“City council members are supposed to be public servants, not ‘Big Brother’ overlords who will tolerate no dissent or challenge,” said ADF Senior Legal Counsel Erik Stanley. “In this case, they have embarked upon a witch-hunt, and we are asking the court to put a stop to it.”

“The city’s subpoena of sermons and other pastoral communications is both needless and unprecedented,” said ADF Litigation Counsel Christiana Holcomb. “The city council and its attorneys are engaging in an inquisition designed to stifle any critique of its actions. Political and social commentary is not a crime; it is protected by the First Amendment.”

In his 14 October 2014 Acton Power Blog article titled “City of Houston to Pastors: Show Us Your Sermons”, Joe Carter says:

“Texas law makes it clear that the discovery process in a legal proceeding “may not be used as a fishing expedition.” Houston’s city attorneys are certainly aware of this fact, so why are they seeking the sermons and communications of pastors who aren’t even involved in the lawsuit?”

“The apparent answer, as ADF notes, is that the Houston city government “has embarked upon a witchhunt.” They are trying to send a message to area pastors that criticism of city policies from the pulpit can result in their being dragged into court. This is a despicable display of government overreach and an attempt to stifle both religious freedom and political speech. If this violation of citizens rights isn’t checked in Houston, other cities will get the message that irrelevant legal actions can be used to harass church leaders who dare to challenge our “public servants.””

+ American Vision, 3150-A Florence Road, Suite 2, Powder Springs, Georgia 30127, 800-628-9460, Fax: 770-222-7269,

+ Fox News, 1211 Avenue of the Americas, New York, New York 10036, 888-369-4762, Fax: 212-462-6127,

+ WND, 2020 Pennsylvania Avenue Northwest, #351, Washington DC 20006, Contact Page

+ Alliance Defending Freedom, 15100 North 90th Street, Scottsdale, Arizona 85260, 800-835-5233, Fax: 480-444-0025

+ The Acton Institute, 161 Ottawa Avenue Northwest, Suite 301, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49503, 616-454-3080, Fax: 616-454-9454,

[2] Church of Scotland Lewis Presbytery Votes against Ministers in Same-Sex Relationships

A 15 October 2014 Stornoway Gazette article titled “Church of Scotland Lewis Presbytery Vote against Ministers in Same-Sex Relationships” reports that the Church of Scotland’s Lewis Presbytery has unanimously voted against the proposal from the General Assembly of the Kirk that would have permitted people in same sex partnerships to become Ministers in the church.

The Lewis Presbytery additionally advised the Kirk General Assembly that the Overture, if passed by the Kirk presbyteries would lead to members who base their beliefs on the Bible feeling their views were being excluded from the Church of Scotland.

+ Stornoway Gazette, 10 Francis Street, Stornoway, Isle of Lewis HS12XE, Scotland, 01851-702-687,

+ Church of Scotland, 121 George Street, Edinburgh EH2 4YN, Scotland, 0131-225-5722

[3] Regarding Marriage

By the Rev. Dr. Michael Milton

Alfred Austin (1835-1914), the Poet Laureate of England, who followed Alfred, Lord Tennyson, wrote, “Creeds were to them but chains to break; No formulas their thirst could slake.”{1}

There are many, today, who see “creeds and theological formulae” scattered, broken in pieces on the steps of courthouses through the land as the highest courts preferred the apparent safety of judicious silence over the clear precedent of world history, the great religions, and English law regarding marriage. Their silence was like thunder.

Hearts are broken that a nation has succumbed to the puerile demands of pitiable, but deceived boys and girls who cry for approval of those acts that are heretofore unspeakable. In our hasty decision to abandon the unambiguous testimony of Creation—and are we to be stoned for, also, adding that we are blatantly defying the God of that creation?—we have launched out into a dark and foreboding place, in which there is no turning back and no going forward. We have lost our way. The judicial hardening of hearts and self-induced searing of a national conscience will always seal the citizens’ exile from that Edenic land where once they ran freely through the sunlit uplands. Those who pass that way are consigned to the darkness they choose.

It is getting dark, now, little children.

One can put no positive “well, at least . . .” preacher-speak on this tragedy. Sin is exceedingly sinful. Shame is irreducibly shameful. Like being a witness to a horrific tragedy in our own home, we can only whisper a Doxology in the darkness, “God, have mercy. Christ have mercy.”

But it has been dark before. God’s mercy is greater than all of my sins.

“And all the wickedness in this world that man might work or think
Is no more to the mercy of God than a live coal in the sea.”{2}
Jesus of Nazareth, the God-Man, is, surely, now—if believers ever trusted in other powers to save us—the undiluted, singular, supernatural gift of light for our world, regarding marriage and all matters of faith and life.

Shall the institution of marriage that has lasted five thousand years endure? Or shall it be covered over by this fast-growing, freely-spreading breed of wild rose, a rose with no fragrance, made from its cutting?

“Let not the roses lie
Too thickly tangled round my tomb,
Lest fleecy clouds that skim the summer sky,
Flinging their faint soft shadows, pass it by,
And know not over whom.”{3}

{1} Alfred Austin. Soliloquies in Song. MacMillan and Company, 1882. Accessed October 07, 2014. “Poets’ Corner,” page 126.

{2} Donald Davie, “William Langland (1130-1400),” in The New Oxford Book of Christian Verse (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1981), 12.

{3} Alfred Austin. Alfred Austin: Poems. “A Last Request.”, 2012. Accessed October 7, 2014.

+ Faith for Living, 3122 Fincher Farm Road, Suite 100, Box 552, Matthews, North Carolina 28105

[4] Why I Will No Longer Sign Charleston County [South Carolina] Marriage Licenses

With the news today that Charleston County Probate Judge Irvin Condon will issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, I have decided that I will no longer sign marriage licenses issued by his office. Although I actually live in Berkeley County, where the authorities are not unilaterally defying the Constitution of South Carolina, the parish that I serve is located in Charleston County.

When I read of his decision I seriously considered engaging in civil disobedience -- of officiating at weddings regardless of whether or not the couple had a license or not. While some clergy will include phrases like "By the authority vested in me by the State of South Carolina..." when pronouncing a new couple man and wife, I've never done so in the marriages at which I have officiated in South Carolina, North Carolina, and Texas, for several reasons, among them: 1. I am a Minister of the Gospel and get my authority from the Church, not from the State; and 2. Those words are not contained in the Book of Common Prayer. A cursory check of the Book of Common Prayer and the various Constitutions and Canons to which I am accountable revealed the following:

The Book of Common Prayer of the Reformed Episcopal Church contains the following, identical to the 1928 Book of Common Prayer:

¶ The laws respecting Matrimony, whether by publishing the Banns in churches, or by License, being different in the several States, every Minister is left to the direction of those laws, in every thing that regards the civil contract between the parties.

¶ And when the Banns are published, it shall be in the following form:

I publish the Banns of Marriage between N. of ___, and N. of ___. If any of you know cause, or just impediment, why these two persons should not be joined together in holy Matrimony, ye are to declare it. This is the first (second or third) time of asking. -- Rubrics at the end of the form for the Solemnization of Holy Matrimony

The Constitution and Canons of the Reformed Episcopal Church read as follows:

Ministers of this Church shall be careful to observe the law of the State or Province governing the civil contract of marriage in the place where the service shall be performed, and they shall conform to the laws of this Church governing the solemnization of Holy Matrimony. -- Canon 34, Section 1

The Constitution and Canons of the Anglican Church in North America read as follows:

The Clergy shall ascertain that the man and woman, parties to the marriage, have a valid marriage license. -- Title III, Canon 7, Section 3, Article 4

I am a priest under authority and while the extent to which I care whether or not the government of Charleston County has licensed a marriage that I officiate has been dramatically diminished by this foolhardiness, I have to respect the law of the Church. It's worth noting that even if I were inclined to conduct a same-sex union -- and I'm not -- I am forbidden to do so by the Canons of both the Reformed Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church in North America and, in fact, my Diocese unanimous passed a resolution clarifying that just last month.

I won't sign licenses issued by Charleston County because of what happens when a clergyman does so -- something of which few people are aware. When I officiate a wedding I do so as an officer of the Church, but when the service is over and I gather with the newly married couple and witnesses and sign the license I have actually taken off my clerical hat (my Canterbury cap?) and donned that of an ex officio marriage registrar, performing duties authorized as a courtesy by the State. My fear -- and I don't think it unreasonable in light of some court decisions in recent litigation -- is that I could potentially be opening myself up to action if I refused to perform that duty for same-sex couples. Because of that, I'll require couples in Charleston County and any other jurisdictions that have granted same-sex marriage licenses to provide me a copy of a license signed by a judge, notary public, or some other civil official before I'll officiate at the religious service.

Alan Wilson, the Attorney General of South Carolina has announced his intentions to seek a stay from the South Carolina Supreme Court to prevent Judge Condon from issuing these licenses; I hope that he is successful -- the coming days will certainly be interesting to watch as this plays out.

Drew Collins is the Vicar of the Church of the Atonement, a Reformed Episcopal parish in the Anglican Church in North America in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina. His roots in the Carolinas run deep as he was educated at Georgia Military College, Coastal Carolina University, and Erskine Theological Seminary.

+ Drew’s Views

+ Anglican Church in North America, 1001 Merchant Street, Ambridge, Pennsylvania 15003, 724-266-9400,