Our Response to the Weekend Demonstrators

 

What are Vineyard Columbus’ commitments?

Vineyard Columbus is committed to biblical orthodoxy.  Our Statement of Faith can be found here.  We are committed to evangelism, world missions, church planting, discipleship and the transformation of our world through love and good deeds.  We are also committed to be the best friend our city ever had.  So we go out of our way to love and serve our city’s leaders, our city’s schools, and all of our city’s people. We pay particular attention to the poor, the vulnerable, the hurting, the immigrant, single moms and their children. 

Who are the demonstrators holding signs in front of our church building?

The demonstrators call themselves “Minutemen,” and by their own words, have declared war on our culture. We have discovered that this is a multi-state effort with individuals coming from other states to join the protest. They have primarily focused on the issue of abortion with large signs containing images of aborted children. Their philosophy seems to be “unless you do exactly what we’re doing, and approach issues the same way we do, then we judge you to be pagans.” In fact, they have held up a huge sign accusing Vineyard Columbus of being “pagan.”

Why is Vineyard Columbus being criticized by the demonstrators?

Whenever a church or an individual chooses to not play it safe and to reach people that other people stay away from, that church or person will be criticized.  Vineyard Columbus is a church that has chosen to make a real difference in our community.  We take risks by building bridges to the irreligious whose viewpoints and lifestyles are condemned by the demonstrators. The demonstrators misunderstand our approach. They think that our loving concern and outreach to the irreligious means that we affirm everyone’s viewpoints or lifestyles.  We believe that it is possible to welcome and love people and still call people to radical followership of Jesus.  Apart from our outreach efforts, it may be that Vineyard Columbus was targeted because we are the largest church in Central Ohio. But we are not alone. The demonstrators have decided to target other great Christian churches (even other pro-life churches) with their tactics. 

What do the demonstrators want?

Essentially they think we are not doing what we should be doing. So, for example, when we have explained to the demonstrators what our pro-life approach is to the issue of abortion, and how our Value Life Ministry has helped hundreds of abortion-vulnerable mothers, they have replied: “That’s not enough and we’re going to protest outside your church until you join us.” They believe declaring war on our society is the approach God wants all Christians to take.

What does Vineyard Columbus believe about abortion? 

Vineyard Columbus stands squarely on the side of life and our position on abortion and sanctity of the unborn life has not changed in the past 30 years. We are both pro-women and pro-child. The approach we take is to support mothers and their unborn children.  We assist women who face unintended pregnancies with material support such as assistance with employment, baby furniture, diapers, and baby clothes, etc.  We also assist women with spiritual and emotional support through prayer, mentoring, and counseling.  

But our approach to mothers and their children doesn’t end with a child’s birth.  We continue to provide material and spiritual support for mothers as their children grow.  Last year we helped support more than 300 women who faced unintended pregnancies.  Over the past few years we have extended help to over 1000 women who were abortion-vulnerable.  We have found that most women want to choose life for their babies. Some feel that they have no choice except to abort because of difficult economic or relational circumstances. Vineyard Columbus empowers women to make the choice of life that many of them already want to make!  We believe we are doing infinitely more by coming alongside of women than are the demonstrators, who heckle and berate abortion-vulnerable women and the churches that assist them. 

Here is the vision of our Value Life Ministry:

Believing that every life – both the mother’s and the unborn baby’s – is precious and that this notion is planted within every person by the Creator, Vineyard Columbus strives to empower women facing unintended pregnancies with support and choices that allow them to both preserve the life of their unborn baby and enjoy a healthy future for themselves.

What concerns do we have regarding the demonstrators?

We have a number of concerns regarding the demonstration at our main campus:

  1. The demonstration is a traffic hazard because people are distracted as they pull in and out of our parking lot. Cooper Road is dangerous, even under the best of circumstances. Distracting pictures of aborted babies definitely increase the risk of an accident as people enter and leave our property.  We’ve had at least one traffic accident caused by the distracting images.

  1. Our neighbors have become very upset by the demonstrators and have asked Vineyard Columbus to do whatever we can to remove them.

  1. Many parents in our church have been extremely upset by the exposure of their small children to gruesome pictures of aborted babies.

  1. People in our church have become confused regarding Vineyard Columbus' perspective on unborn life. We have fielded dozens of questions in the last few months basically asking: “I always thought Vineyard Columbus was prolife.  Don’t we have a ministry to protect life?  Why are these people protesting us?” The demonstrators’ presence is sowing confusion.

  1. Unfortunately, one of our church members got into a physical altercation with one of the demonstrators.  A young church member became incensed because the demonstrators were filming cars on their way in and out of the parking lot.  We have no idea why they’re filming, other than as a tactic of intimidation. 

Why does Vineyard Columbus tolerate the demonstrators on our property?

The same First Amendment that gives Christians the right to share our faith and to petition our government also gives Neo-Nazis the right to march through Jewish neighborhoods in Skokie, Illinois and may give demonstrators outside of our church the right to stand on an easement on our property and hold up gruesome pictures of aborted babies. We are grateful for our First Amendment liberties.  Of course, there are limits to any constitutional right.  We are particularly concerned about the traffic and safety hazards posed by the demonstrators’ distracting tactics. We are examining legal remedies to remove the demonstrators.  At all times, we are called by Jesus to love people regardless of whether we like them, or whether we like their methods or their message. 

What should you do if a demonstrator harasses you or a family member?

Immediately contact one of our pastors in our church building and allow us to handle the matter with police officers, who are always present at our weekend services. Do not get into verbal or physical confrontations with the demonstrators.  Not only would this be unsafe, but it would be a poor witness to our Lord, who calls us to love people regardless of how they treat us.  We are committed to your safety and the safety of your family. 

What can you do?

Just ignore them!  Pray for a peaceful resolution to this demonstration!  Pray that people will not be confused and our witness of Christ will not be harmed by this. Post messages on our Facebook page letting us (and the world) know how Vineyard Columbus has helped you or made a difference in the life of someone you love.