Church goers faced protesters as they exited the Mars Hill Church in Southeast Portland Sunday, due to anger over the church’s position on homosexuality, according to The Oregonian.
Carrying banners and shouting, the group of about 20 protesters referred to church members as homophobes and bigots, and some declared that the worshipers were unwelcomed at the recently acquired location at 3210 S.E. Taylor St., which was purchased by Mars Hill Church in August for $1.25 million.
Brad Salyers, first-time visitor to the church from Wilsonville, who attended Sunday service with his wife and two children, commented on biblical teaching which says that homosexuality is a sin, but added that everyone is a sinner and Christians love sinners.
Mars Hill Church had originally scheduled its first service for Sept. 10, but canceled in order to prevent a conflict with that day’s Belmont Street Fair.
Founded over 15 years ago by Pastor Mark Driscoll, Mars Hill Church operates multiple campuses, mostly in Seattle. Driscoll, who preaches against homosexuality, once told his followers that yoga is "demonic."
Mars Hill Church's decision to open a new campus in Portland drew protests from some who opposed the church’s teachings on homosexuality A kiss-in was organized for Sept. 10, but was canceled after the premiere church service was canceled.
The Mars Hill Portland church's lead pastor Tim Smith admitted that he had expected some form of demonstration for the first service, although he was unsure to what degree.
According to reports, some of the protesters hid their faces with kerchiefs while shouting profanities at adults and children.
Smith expressed disagreement with the conduct of protestors, but expressed defense of their right to free speech.
Don Wallace, a resident of the community who lives next door to the church, admitted to being embarrassed and angry over the demonstration, but also defended protesters right to believe what they want to believe.
Mars Hill Portland commented on the protest Sunday, tweeting: "Encouraged this evening after our first Sunday gathering as @MarsHillPDX. We had a bit of a protest but it didn't overshadow a great day."