Homosexual marriage: where are our judges' pastors...

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In response to my post yesterday condemning Judge Tanya Walton Pratt for her religious commitment to the slaughter of babies, a Christian attorney I'm close to wrote, 

The sad fact is that the federal Constitution, as defined by SCOTUS, gives any woman the right to kill her baby.... So a judge has no choice but to apply that rule... I don’t think you can fault a judge for applying even a terrible law. She has sworn to do that.

The lawyer and I both come from a long line of Presbyterians, so his remonstrance yesterday popped into my mind when, today, I read this headline about Mississippi's judicial battle over the protection of religious freedom:

The Latest: No judges sought recusal from doing gay weddings

Seriously? No judge—not even one? (And only one clerk.) 

So what does this have to do with Presbyterian pastors?

I was under the impression that First Presbyterian Church of Jackson owns the money and leadership of this small capital city (only twice the size of Bloomington, IN) of this small southern state. In fact, what about all the churches in Mississippi...

that hold institutional membership in the religious corporation, the Presbyterian Church in America?  Don't any of these congregation's pastors or elders know any judges in Mississippi? Couldn't any of them convince a single judge to recuse himself from performing homosexual weddings? The law allowing them to recuse themselves was due to go into effect yesterday, yet no judge filed "prior written notice to the Administrative Office of Courts," as the law allowed:

Any person employed or acting on behalf of the state government who has authority to perform or solemnize marriages, including, but not limited to, judges, magistrates,  justices of the peace or their deputies, may seek recusal from performing or solemnizing lawful marriages based upon or in a manner consistent with a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction described in Section 2 of this act. Any person making  such recusal shall provide prior written notice to the Administrative Office of Courts, and the state government shall not take any discriminatory action against that person wholly or partially on the basis of such recusal. (HB 1523)

The national media crow over their victory and who can help wondering where PCA judges are hiding and what kind of work their pastors and elders have done with them over the past many years? Again:

The Latest: No judges sought recusal from doing gay weddings

OK, you're huffing and puffing right now in defense of these churches and their pastors, right? It's not their fault. They are ministers in Christ's Church, not civil magistrates. How can anyone hold them accountable for judges who don't recuse themselves? The judges are responsible—not their pastors or elders. You can lead a horse to water but you can't make him drink.

It might as well be he who leads fat oxen should himself be flat.1

Every church has members who hold authority in the public realm. In the churches I've served pastorally, two of which were named "First Presbyterian Church," we've had public university profs and administrators, a county supervisor, a top state administrator, a superintendent of schools, several principals, an appellate judge, a clerk to an appellate judge, the union steward for a school system, several state and federal prison guards, doctors, military and national guard officers, law enforcement officers, a federal superfund site hit man, and many others I don't presently recall.

What does the pastor of First Presbyterian Church owe these souls as he pastors them? Should he exhort them concerning their work? Should he rebuke them concerning their work? Should he counsel them concerning their work? Should he even teach them concerning their work?

When he's talking to his judge, should he exhort him to rule and write opinions from the fear of God? Should he exhort him to rule in accordance with the truth of God's Word? Specifically, should he command his judge in the Name of the Righteous One Who hates the shedding of the blood of the innocent, to defend the unborn? Should he demand that his judge rule in favor of laws protecting the populace from sexual perversion?

When he's preaching to his congregation filled with those holding authority in the civil realm, should First Presbyterian Church's pastor command his congregants in the Name of the Living God to live an integrated life, not setting their Christian faith on the kitchen counter as they open the door to the garage and climb into their car Monday mornings? Should First Presbyterian's pastor teach all the lawyers, profs, doctors, state administrators, lieutenant governors, teachers, and judges in his congregation that they must abhor their temptation to have a split personality and double heart, allowing them to avoid public scrutiny and the loss of their job?

In this evil day, those of us who are pastors have an extremely weighty responsibility. We are to command our congregants to take up their cross and follow Jesus, and then having given them this command, we are to point out and rebuke them for their words and actions which betray their Lord. If we fail to declare a judge's Christian duty to him Sunday morning or Wednesday evening, we bear the responsibility for his cowardice on the bench when he hides behind Two-Kingdom theology to rule in favor of a thirteen-year-old girl who wants an abortion and doesn't want to have to get her parents' permission. We bear the responsibility for his bloodshed of innocents when he cowers behind stare decisis as he issues an injunction against the newly passed state law prohibiting mothers from murdering their unborn child because the baby is black or has a handicap.

Sure, I'm aware of all the excuses that can be given. The law hadn't gone into effect yet, so the absence of any judge recusing himself or herself is meaningless. The reason the judges didn't recuse themselves is that they knew the injunction would be issued, so why bother just for the sake of grandstanding? There's no sense taking a stand until you absolutely have to... And so on.

Our Lord commanded us to "go" and "make disciples of all the nations, baptizing [and] teaching them to observe all that I commanded you." He laid the foundation for His command by declaring, "all authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth."

When lawyers and judges who are members of First Presbyterian Church whine about professional ethics requiring them to honor stare decisis, their soul depends upon having a pastor who will command them to remember Jesus' higher authority. No judge who is a confessing Christian should ever subordinate God's authority and commands to his profession's code of ethics or precedents. And no judge who is a confessing Christian should ever be lacking a faithful pastor who is known for never stopping his warnings given to every member of his congregation house to house, day and night, with tears.

After all, our Lord gave us this wonderful assurance: "lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

  • 1. Of course, as every pastor aware of his greed knows, this is a quote of Samuel Johnson recorded by Boswell in his Life of Johnson.
Tim Bayly

Tim serves Clearnote Church, Bloomington, Indiana. He and Mary Lee have five children and big lots of grandchildren.

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