(Photo: Minutemen United)
One of Ohio's largest churches, Vineyard Columbus, went to court Tuesday to stop protesters from a Christian group called Minutemen United from picketing outside its building over how it handles hot-button issues such as abortion and homosexuality – even though both groups are on the same side in terms of opinion on the issues.
At the court hearing, the judge granted the Minutemen request to postpone the hearing until August and maintained that the protestors and their church signs must continue to stay off church property.
Minutemen United has been holding weekly Sunday morning protests since last October. After months of face-to-face sit-downs between the Vineyard Columbus leadership staff and Minutemen members, the church has sought an injunction against the protestors to keep them from marching near church property.
Spearheading the Minutemen United's effort is Jim Harrison, who seeks to convince the Ohio megachurch that the "U.S. is in pretty bad shape" and that to restore their country, the church must more "actively engage in the culture war."
On the Minutemen website, it states the group's philosophy is "sharing the love, hope and truth of Jesus Christ…regardless of the consequences."
"Our goal is not to shake the church up but to get [Vineyard Columbus senior pastor] Rich Nathan to see what is happening in America, stop being passive and convince other pastors," Harrison told The Christian Post on Tuesday.
According to Harrison, he felt God's call to speak this message almost ten years ago, but refused to act on it.
"I kept trying to get other people to lead this and got very frustrated when they didn't do it," said Harrison. "Finally, I said, Jim Harrison if you see the need, that's your calling."
In order to stir up awareness, Harrison has led a group of three to 15 protestors toting five-by-eight-foot signs to Vineyard Columbus' property, displaying messages like "Please help us end abortion," "Please help us defend marriage," and "Men of God / America needs you now."
In a recent blog post, the Minutemen discussed why they decided to picket Vineyard Columbus, explaining that the primary reason for the "moral decline" of the country was "that the Church of Jesus Christ has not been the salt and light in the world that Christ commanded it to be."
The blog also slammed Vineyard Columbus' church leadership for not showing openness to their message.
"Unfortunately, for the time being, Pastor Nathan, and many pastors like him across the nation, chooses to be more annoyed by signs in his church's front yard sounding the alarm of moral decline than by the moral decline itself, vividly represented by the abortion clinic just down the street from his church," it said.
But Bill Christenson, associate pastor at Vineyard Columbus, told CP that the Minutemen's convictions ought to be expressed outside the church's property.
"We do not have any issue of first amendment or with the right to express whatever they want to express, but our issue is doing it on our property," said Christenson. "We have had several interactions with them since they started doing this, tried to speak with them, encourage them to remove their signs."
Christenson feels that the failed negotiations have left the church with few options for reconciliation.
"After eight months of trying to reason with them or asking them to move and trying other means, we felt we had no other choice but to take this action," said Christenson.
Despite the church's frustration, Harrison makes no apologies for his convictions and actions.
"I don't know when things will have done more harm than good. I leave that up to God. He has told us to go there, when to go, what to do. We aren't going to do more harm than is already being done in the culture war," he said. "Our intent is not to harm anybody, intent is to save nation through the church."
Christenson feels that the existing signs may already have complicated the message that the Vineyard Columbus has sought to send to the community.
"We do not agree with many of these confusing messages that they have on signs," said Christenson. "Our church wants to communicate a message that everyone no matter race, political persuasion, background, we sincerely want you to discover the life that Jesus offers."