Thursday, February 23, 2017

Anti-Gay Protester Interrupts UCC Worship Service in Portland, OR

I led another worship service this past weekend at Faith United Church of Christ this past weekend. Our church has a shared ministry program where individual members fill in for our pastor once monthly by organizing worship or bringing somebody else in to do it. This weekend's sermon focused on Matthew 5: 38-48 and using the Christ's message to reflect God's love in practical ways.

All that's to say that I wasn't watching the worship services at Parkrose Community UCC from Portland, OR, online -- at least not until this evening. While I was doing my service and interacting with my church family, the pastor and membership at Parkrose Community UCC were tested by an anti-gay protester, who objected to the church's openly gay pastor and it's gay affirming status.

The church membership had just watched a video on diversity and reverse racism. Immediately after the video ended, the protester began clapping loudly and walked up front alongside the Pastor Don Frueh and began calling out the following message:
Listen up! I'm here to tell you that homosexuality is wrong. And what you're doing is wrong. And that's wrong and that's a lie.
To which Pastor Frueh replied:
Okay. Thank you very much.
The protester then told Pastor Frueh to sit down before going on:
Homosexuality is an abomination to God. There's a reason. In the Bible, God says that he made male and female. You are here because a man and a woman had sex. Okay? You're not here because two guys had sex. You're not here because two girls had sex. It is wrong. It has no place in God's house. It has no place in God's house.
People from the congregation then stood around the man, seemingly to protect the pastor or to step in if something bad happened, but also to embrace him and eventually embrace him and lead him out:

You say out there that I'm welcome. Then embrace me! Then embrace me and the message.
It went on for until the pastor told the protester that he's welcome to stay. Otherwise, he'd had his say and it was time to leave. While leaving, the protester observed, "Yeah, you're puffed up on pride. That's why I can't find a wife in this town!"

Pastor Frueh then prayed for the protester and assisted the church membership with processing the situation and transitioning back into worship:
Gracious and loving God: We ask you to be with our friend who came here today and who is hurting obviously. Find a way for his hurt to heal. And if there's any way that we can be part of that healing, please let us be that healing. Amen.

We can't just go on. We can't just go on. We have to understand that we live in a time where there's lots of differences that create anger. We are not people of anger. We are people of love. That does not mean that we have to set ourselves up for abuse. But it means that we have to remember what Jesus taught us -- and you're going to see a lot about that this very morning. In a way, I couldn't have arranged for that to happen that way for the discussion that we're going to have on Sunday. And I did not! But I want you to understand and I want to thank you -- everybody who helped us deal with this situation in a way that was as respectful as possible without allowing us to be abused.
Pastor Frueh took a stressful and upsetting situation and helped guide the congregation back into a sense of calm and transition. Bravo!

You can watch the entire worship service as this link and this link.

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