Portland Christians protect members of LGBT community from anti-gay Westboro … – OregonLive.com
The rainbow is a symbol of gay pride. For Christians, it is also a sign of God’s covenant with all life on earth.
On Saturday morning, a bright bow in the sky united both communities.
It was the second full day of the Gay Christian Network Conference in Portland, which drew roughly 1,300 lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Christians and supporters to the Oregon Convention Center.
By 8 a.m., a handful of Westboro Baptist Church members had gathered at the corner of Northeast Holladay Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard with signs declaring gays must “repent or perish.” The small, unaffiliated Kansas congregation is known for its anti-gay protests around the country.
But the Kansans were far outnumbered by Portland Christians and LGBT supporters holding very different signs.
“Welcome to Portland,” the locals said as conference-goers arrived. “We’re glad you’re here.”
They blocked the Westboro protesters with signs of their own proclaiming, “God loves you.”
It was Christians protecting Christians from Christians.
“I’m not comfortable with hate of any kind in my city,” said Tony Kriz, an evangelical author who showed up Saturday morning to support conference-goers. “It has nothing to do with what you believe morally. Everybody needs to know they are loved.
“It saddens me that my extended family is this dysfunctional,” he said, gazing from the cheering local Christians and conference-attendees to the Westboro protesters. “These are all my people.”
Kriz was among the roughly 100 people who formed a tunnel separating conference-goers from the protesters. On Twitter, Westboro later referred to it as a “wall of hatred for God.” Local Christians called it a “wall of love.”
“I cried the moment I saw it,” said Marg Herder, a 53-year-old from Indianapolis, Indiana, in town for conference. “For many of us who are older, we remember the only thing we heard from Christians being that we would die.
“For them to make it their business to support us is emotionally overwhelming,” she said. “I don’t think we thought we’d see this in our lifetime.”
Conference organizer Susan Shopland was standing out in the rain with a photographer when she noticed the rainbow. The photographer had been so busy taking pictures of the people, she said, that he hadn’t noticed the bright symbol in the sky.
“That’s such a powerful metaphor,” Shopland said. “We can be so focused on what’s happening on the ground, and meanwhile God is ever-so-quietly making his presence known.”
By 9 a.m., the Westboro protesters were gone and the conference’s morning meeting was under way, but local Christians stayed to welcome the last conference attendees in song.
“We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord,” the crowd sang.
“And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love. Yes, they’ll know we are Christians by our love.”
— Melissa Binder