Megachurch seeks to reassure new Portland neighbors

September 9, 2011

PORTLAND, Ore. (RNS) The pastor of a conservative Christian church that
recently moved into the heart of liberal southeast Portland sought to
reassure his new neighbors Thursday (Sept. 8) about the church's
philosophy.

Pastor Tim Smith said the Mars Hill Church wants to learn about its
neighbors and work with them.

"If someone wants to hear about Jesus along the way that is great,"
Smith wrote on the church's blog. "If not, we will not force it down
anyone's throat and have never gone around knocking on people's doors."

Last month, the Seattle-based evangelical church bought a vacant
building in the middle of the Sunnyside neighborhood.

Smith also posted a Twitter message on Wednesday, saying he had "a
great meeting" with Reuben Deumling, the president of the Sunnyside
Neighborhood Association.

Mars Hill, which prides itself on opposing aspects of mainstream
culture, including the growing acceptance of homosexuality, has prompted
calls for a protest by some in the gay community.

A Facebook page was created to express opposition to the church and
to urge a "kiss-in" at Mars Hill during its first service on Saturday
morning.

But that service has been postponed, Smith has said, because it
conflicted with Saturday's Belmont Street Fair. Smith urged church
members to volunteer to work at the fair.

"We exist to tell people about Jesus and invite them to follow him,"
Smith wrote. "Outside of that core mission, we want to be good neighbors
and seek the common good of the city of Portland."