On Wednesday, January 8, while preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ on High Street in Dundee, Scotland, I was arrested. The charge: a violation of 38(1) of the Scotland Criminal Justice and Licensing Act of 2010, with an aggravation of alleged homophobic hate speech. If I am found guilty as charged when I return to Scotland to stand trial in April, the sentence could range from a fine, to a maximum of five years in prison, or both.
Although it is alleged that I told a woman who claimed her son is a homosexual that all homosexuals are of the devil and going to hell, and that I told her she is a bad mother because her son is a homosexual, what I actually said was this. I explained to those within the sound of my voice that everyone knows that all forms of sexual immorality are wrong, whether homosexual or heterosexual, because everyone knows that God is faithful.
When the police arrived they interviewed complainants and witnesses, but they did not ask for my account of what happened. Neither did they review either the video or audio we had captured of the entire incident. They simply took the word of the complainant and arrested me. It’s chilling that in Scotland, as well as England–countries that profess to have freedom of speech–a person’s freedom can be taken away simply because another person says they didn’t like what the other person allegedly said.
I spent a total of 28 hours in custody, which included less than five minutes before the Sheriff of Dundee (the judge). There, a solicitor assigned to my case for my arraignment, entered a plea on my behalf, before I ever entered the courtroom–before I entered handcuffed to a very nice lady jailer several years my senior. I had multiple face-to-face meetings with my solicitor prior to my court appearance, during which I made it very clear I would plead “not guilty.”
I spoke not a word as I stood before the Sheriff of Dundee. I stood silent, heart pounding, as the Prosecutor Fiscal, my solicitor, and the Sheriff discussed the issue of my release on bail and the conditions of the same. Up until about an hour before my court appearance, it was uncertain I would be allowed to return to the United States before my trial. All parties participating in the judicial proceeding spoke quietly in their beautiful, Scottish-English. This made it difficult for me to hear all that was being said. The only reason I knew the hearing was over was because the lady jailer nudged me and pointed to the staircase, indicating it was time for me to walk back down the stairs to the 6′ x 6′ holding cell. There, I waited a short time before I was released from custody.
As expected, reaction to my arrest has been frequent and mixed. Dozens of articles, blog posts, Facebook posts, and tweets have been written to express everything from shock, to consternation, to outrage, to advice, to support, to opinion, to editorial. Most of the written responses to my arrest have been very positive and supportive (like this one). Some of the responses…not so much.
One Dundee pastor wrote an online article in which he expressed his misgivings about my open-air preaching in Dundee. He based both his analysis of and conclusions regarding the incident surrounding my arrest on unfactual information he either received or developed on his own to support his presuppositions. So far afield was his written account of the incident, brief as it was, one thing is certain. He wasn’t there.
My Unbiblical Responses
I must admit and confess I did not respond biblically to the pastor who wrote the negative article. I made an emotion-driven, ad hominem attack against the pastor. I made it publicly, and I apologized publicly.
And please, I must urge those who continue to attack the pastor to stop. He has not spoken so much as a mere fraction negatively about me as what is being levied against him. Please only follow me to the extent I follow Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1). No Christian’s salvation should ever be questioned if they disagree with open-air preaching. No Christian’s salvation should ever be questioned for no other reason than suggesting I erred by open-air preaching in Dundee. Such rhetoric will not help further the gospel in Dundee, the rest of Scotland, or around the world. Such rhetoric is sinful. I should know.
So poor has my behavior been that I even got defensive with Dr. James White when all he did was mention the Dundee pastor’s negative article on his radio show, and then asked thoughtful questions from different perspectives, without drawing any conclusions. I responded poorly to a man of God from whose ministry I have learned and have been encouraged much over the years. I did it publicly and I apologized publicly.
There is yet another group of people to which I have responded well. The group is comprised of Christians who are counseling me to not return to Scotland–some going as far as to rebuke me for being determined to return to stand trial, face my accusers, and put forth an affirmative defense that I hope will bring glory to Christ and attention to His gospel. The rebukes from some people have cut deep. I’ve been called “selfish and “prideful.” Some have suggested that to return to Scotland would be to neglect my family and show no care for them. Most (if not all) of those providing insult-laced counsel do not know me or my family beyond Facebook, Twitter, or being an uninvolved third party while watching one of my YouTube videos.
As un-Christian as some of the above-mentioned behavior has been, no insult, no matter how hurtful, justifies responding in kind (Proverbs 12:16; Matthew 5:22; 2 Corinthians 12:10; 1 Peter 2:23). I did it publicly. Here, therefore, I apologize publicly. I’ve questioned the devotion to Christ and the understanding of God’s’ Word, of those who have suggested I jump bail and not live up to my written and signed promise to appear. Anyone who suggests I not return to Scotland to stand trial is wrong. But I’ve responded to these unbiblical suggestions without charity, patience, and love. To those I have thusly offended, please forgive me. I am sorry.
In order to avoid stumbling in the before-mentioned ways again, and in order to do my best to prevent others from stumbling, I have deleted (as many as I could find) videos, Facebook posts, and tweets related to my arrest–content I determined might inadvertently bring about such stumbling. I will talk about my arrest during a scheduled radio interview this Friday. And I will speak to the Cross Encounters Radio listening audience this Sunday. After that, I will try to limit my public communication about my arrest to positive, devotional thoughts on this blog.
Why I Must Return to Scotland to Stand Trial
I feel I must address those who have suggested I not return to Scotland to stand trial. But this time I will do so with less anger, bitterness, or editorial. Rather, I will try to address what I believe is an unbiblical position and those who hold it with care for my brothers and sisters in Christ.
First: to not return to Scotland would be a catastrophic breach of integrity. I signed a promise to appear. I gave the Sheriff of Dundee, the Prosecutor Fiscal, my legal defense team, and the people of Scotland–friend and foe alike–my word. To not honor such a solemn commitment, to not let my “yes” be yes and my “no” be no (James 5:12), would make me an untrustworthy liar. I cannot and I will not bring such a scandalous reproach upon Jesus Christ and His gospel.
Second: to not return to Scotland would be an unloving thing to do to my Christian brethren in Scotland. It would break any bond of unity I have developed with my Scotland brothers and sisters. I went to Scotland to love the Church, support the Church, edify the Church, and to assist pastors in equipping the Church for the purpose of gospel ministry. To not return to Scotland would be to say to my Christian brethren that I will do whatever I can to help, so long as it doesn’t cost me anything. I cannot and will not bring such a scandalous reproach upon Jesus Christ and His gospel.
Third: to not return to Scotland would serve as validation for those who are engaged in the sin of homosexuality (Romans 1:24-27; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10; 1 Timothy 1:10) and for those who give hearty approval to the sin (Romans 1:32). It would be the most unloving thing I could do for homosexuals and their supporters in Scotland–to give them even the slightest hint that they are right and the Bible is wrong. Fighting for their freedom in Christ is more important to me than maintaining my freedom in the United States. Homosexuality, like every other sin, is a blight on every society and every life it touches. The loving thing to do is to continue to call homosexuals and their supporters to repent and believe the gospel. To do otherwise is to act cowardly. I cannot and I will not bring such a scandalous reproach upon Jesus Christ and His gospel.
Fourth: to not return to Scotland would bring immediate criticism and maybe even false accusations of obstruction of justice upon the godly men and women who serve under the leadership of Andrea Williams, at Christian Concern. Andrea and her team provided me with legal assistance after my arrest last year in Wimbledon, and they did not hesitate to immediately step up to help me following my arrest in Dundee. These wonderful people fight hard, every day, for the rights and freedom of Christians and unborn children. They have not turned their back on me and I will not turn my back on them. I cannot and I will not bring such a scandalous reproach upon Jesus Christ and His gospel.
Fifth: to not return to Scotland would be to lose the honor, respect, and trust of my wife and three daughters. While, needless to say, my family doesn’t want me to be away from them for five days, let alone a possible maximum sentence of five years; my family loves me enough to never expect me to sacrifice integrity, duty, honor, and faith to make life easier and safer for all of us. And I’ve discipled my wife and I have raised and discipled my daughters to understand that Jesus meant exactly what He said:
“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 10:34-39).
I love Mahria, Michelle, Marissa, and Amanda more than I could love anyone else on this earth. They love me, too. But the five of us know, no matter how costly or painful it may one-day be, we must love Jesus more than we love each other. While I have never been nor ever will be the perfect husband and father, and while my four ladies do not want me to go to prison and be away from them, they would be more disappointed in me if I didn’t keep my word, stand tall, and face whatever the Lord may allow and intend for my life. I cannot and I will not bring such a scandalous reproach upon Jesus Christ and His gospel.
Finally: to not return to Scotland would be to take my eyes off Christ and His cross and put those same eyes on me. To not return to Scotland would be an act of cowardice (Revelation 21:8), faithlessness (Romans 1:31), selfishness (James 3:14-16). To not return to Scotland would be to deny Jesus before men (Mathew 10:33; John 18:25). To not return to Scotland would be a refusal to deny myself, take up my cross, and follow Jesus (Luke 9:23). To not return to Scotland would be to put my hand to the plow and then look back (Luke 9:62). To not return to Scotland would be to deny my faith (Hebrews 11:6). Knowing it is right to return to Scotland to stand trial, to not return to Scotland would be to sin against God (Psalm 51:3-6) and conscience (James 4:17).
My hope is that the Prosecutor Fiscal in Dundee will decide to review my video tape and audio tape of my open-air–the sermon that led to my arrest. They have yet to review it. My hope is that once they’ve take the time to review the physical evidence, cooler more reasonable heads will prevail and the charges will be dropped. I also realize it could very well be the Lord’s will for me to go to prison. If God allows me to go to prison, He will remain as He has always been–good, faithful, true, loving, righteous, just, and holy. If God allows me to go to prison, then I will preach His glorious gospel and the whole counsel of His Word to my fellow prisoners and the guards charged with our care, for as long as He keeps me in that mission field.
Again, on behalf of Mahria and the girls, I want to thank everyone who has encouraged us with emails, notes, and cards. I want to thank those of you who have already made donations to help cover the costs for Mahria and I to travel to Scotland. Your love, care, and support mean a great deal to all of us. Thank you.