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November 26, 2005
Column #1,265

                  Equipping Churches to Engage Culture

EDEN PRARIE, MINN. - The Minnesota Family Council hosted a "Minnesota Pastors' Summit" recently attracting 300 pastors and priests. Its theme was "Equipping Churches to Engage Culture."

In a clergy invitation, Gary Borgendale asserted, "The impact of the Church upon our culture is rapidly losing ground. Hardly a day goes by without another story celebrating the cleansing of faith from the public square.

"As pastors, you are on the forefront of this cultural conflict. Activist judges, political leaders and secular media are trying to dictate faith's role in society. However, we can reverse that trend through a unified commitment to biblical principles in our communities."

Need some examples?

1. By a 4-3 vote, judges in Massachusetts redefined marriage for the state.

2. Gays have similar suits before state supreme courts in New Jersey and Washington, which could legalize gay marriage in those states. Yet only 45 U.S. Senators supported a Federal Marriage Amendment last year because few constituents bothered to urge passage.

3. A Federal Appeals Court declared the phrase "under God" unconstitutional in the Pledge of Allegiance.

Catholic Bishop Frederick Henry of Calgary, Alberta, told Minnesota clergy that Canada legalized same-sex marriages "without an electoral mandate, without the benefit of social science research, without adequate democratic deliberation" as a consequence of an aggressive judiciary, who declared that traditional marriage was a "discriminatory institution.".

The Bishop wrote a pastoral letter decrying the law, and presented the Catholic case for marriage being between a man and a woman. The result? "I have been dealing with hate mail and death threats. The Alberta Human Rights Commission, which is the thought police for dealing with allegations of discrimination, tried to intimidate me....The law is now impacting the curriculum in our schools, which will have to teach homosexual sex, and a systematic presentation of `queer history and queer role models.' The views of pastors are being suppressed and that of parents to the detriment of our children."

Therefore, Bishop Henry praised the pastors attending the summit to learn how to fight for a Minnesota amendment to the state constitution in 2006. (A recent column detailed deceptive tactics used by Texas gays to fight against a similar state amendment, but it passed with a 75% margin.)

The most electrifying speaker was David Barton of Wallbuilders, an historian who has focused on the remarkable impact of clergy among America's founding fathers. A surprising number of the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence were pastors such as John Witherspoon, an evangelist responsible for two translations of the Bible, and Francis Hopkinson who produced the first truly American hymn book.

Barton told of Rev. John Peter Muhlenberg, pastor of both a German-speaking Lutheran church and an English-speaking Episcopal church, who was meeting as a member of the state legislature in Williamsburg. In January, 1776, British troops "marched in and started taking private possessions. He thought people needed to know about this so he hopped on horseback and rode 220 miles across the state to get back to his community.

"He arrived in time to preach at his own church service, Sunday, January 21, 1776.  He preached on Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 that `there is a time for war and a time for peace.' Brethren, this is no longer a time of peace. It is a time for war." The congregation was alarmed, well aware that America had no army or navy at that time, and could be decimated by the British.

Muhlenberg climbed down from the pulpit and removed his clerical robe in front of his shocked congregation, to reveal that underneath he was wearing a full dress uniform of an officer of the Continental Army. He marched down the aisle, continuing to preach. "Brethren, we came to this country to practice our liberties. If we don't get involved, we will lose our liberties."

He led 300 men from that church as Virginia's 8th Brigade and became a Major General.

Clergy today are hesitant to even speak out on political issues, fearing it might jeopardize their IRS tax status. For 300 years, this was not a problem. Clergy regularly gave Election Day sermons on which candidates they thought were the most Biblical. In 1954 Sen. Lyndon Johnson attached a one sentence amendment to a bill that silenced clergy's political voice.

Rep. Walter Jones has proposed H.R. 235 that would remove LBJ's amendment, the Houses of Worship Free Speech Restoration Act. It has been bottled up in the House Ways and Means Committee. 

That bill should be passed, as should the Marriage Protection Amendment.

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