When the Mars Hill Church expanded into Portland last fall, Sunday worshipers encountered protesters who objected to the Seattle-based church’s stance on homosexuality. The church also met with some concern from the Sunnyside neighborhood. Neighbors were apprehensive about logistical issues like parking as well as bigger questions about acceptance and tolerance. Tensions seemed to have settled a bit until this month when vandals broke nine stained glass windows in the church. An anonymous message was sent to local media outlets claiming the damage was done in the name of gay rights.
Other members of the gay community have been quick to say, from the beginning, that they’re open to dialogue with the church. A September Oregonian article about the church included a quote from Q Center public relations manager, Logan Lynn. He told the newspaper, “We’ll be respectful of them and try to make friends.” Lead pastor Tim Smith took Lynn up on the offer. He met with Q Center staff and took a tour of their North Portland headquarters shortly after the article ran. Smith and Lynn struck up an unlikely friendship and convened a group of 18 people from each of their respective communities to meet regularly. They’ve agreed not to discuss the content of the meetings with the media, but each of them says they’ve shifted their thinking as a result of the discussions.
Do you live in the Sunnyside neighborhood? Are you a member of the Mars Hill Church and/or Portland’s LGBT community? Have these ongoing discussions impacted you? What experience do you have relating to people whose views seem at first to be diametrically opposed to your own?
- Tim Smith: Lead pastor at Mars Hill Church Portland
- Logan Lynn: Public relations and innovations manager for Q Center
- Reuben Deumling: President of the Sunnyside Neighborhood Association