For the past six months, Minutemen United has maintained a presence outside the gates of the Vineyard Church of Westerville, Ohio, in hopes that we might be able to ally ourselves with one of the largest Christian churches in the Midwest. Our desire was (and actually still is) to encourage their congregation as well as their pastoral staff to be more actively engaged in the culture war that has been declared on Christians in America. We know that in order for this nation to survive, the Church MUST be willing to stand for the truth… NOW!
In return for our efforts to communicate with the Vineyard, we have been assailed by one of their congregants, arrested by a police officer acting on behalf of the church, and summarily dismissed and chided by church constituents. We have as well been accused of slander, had our signs run over, stolen or torn down by church members and had our cars broken into and/or vandalized. As these rather unfortunate, un-Christian events unfurled, the leadership of Vineyard have either encouraged or stood idly by and watched as these incidents took place. Then, when the smoke cleared, the Vineyard saw fit to file an injunction against us for trespassing. Yes, Christians being told by other Christians to remove themselves from God’s property. (“and the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me”. Matthew 25:40)
Their purpose in filing the injunction was quite clear: the Vineyard Church in Columbus, Ohio has been unable to ignore God’s message, and as such, they want us out of their sight and silenced in the process. This is such a clear attempt to suppress our first amendment rights that in their previous message, the church leadership preemptively denied this -possibility in hopes that no one would try to put two and two together. Unfortunately the simple truth is that if the Vineyard Church is successful in court next month, the suppression of our first amendment rights is exactly what will result.
So with all of this in mind, we felt that it might be helpful to those folks who have taken an active interest in the events at Vineyard to hear “our side” of the story -although in their announcement, the leadership of the Vineyard recommended that their members not respond (heaven forbid that they have any questions or want to discern for themselves) to the so-called demonstrators. Congregants were encouraged to simply pray that the situation would be ended amicably. Wait a minute! Amicably? This coming from a management team that has filed trespassing charges against citizens in the public right of way, free-speech zone?
In their “Response to the Demonstrators “ (interesting term), Vineyard states that “The mission of Vineyard Columbus could not be more different than that of the Minutemen (ain’t going to use the “Ds” word here). So what exactly is our life’s work? Minutemen United’s mission is to create an environment where Christian thoughts, ideals and leadership can once again get traction in the marketplace of ideas. In other words, we believe that God, not man, should be the measure of all things. We do this simply by sharing the love, hope, and truth of Jesus Christ regardless of the consequences. Apparently, this is something Vineyard has a problem with. Or rather, they don’t know our mission because they ignore us, or they don’t understand this mission statement of ours, or worse, they disagree with it completely.
Words Mean Things
In their “Response”, Vineyard claims that they have met with us on numerous occasions. Webster defines numerous as “consisting of great numbers of units”. Which is very interesting, because at last count, the Minutemen had met personally with a few Vineyard staff on just two occasions. One was an unofficial “get to know you session” and the other “official meeting” included a couple of Vineyard pastors and lasted approximately two and a half hours. That’s it folks. Two meetings and neither one was attended by Vineyard CEO Rich Nathan, who we have found to be as difficult to pin down and talk with as the Governor of our great state of Ohio. And that, folks, constitutes their claim of “their best effort”?
A couple of times doesn’t even meet the definition of few, but then again it looks a lot better if you justify your actions to others by indicating that you have tried several times and failed versus a “couple” and then quickly call in the barristers to clean up the mess. Man is a creature of habit, as it were. Given that the head of the Vineyard organization is a former lawyer and “several” (speaking in Vineyard terms) of his subordinates are as well, one should not be surprised that the use of courts occurred to them rather quickly in the process.
Speaking of the Law: Acts 5:34-42
Vineyard claims that the Minutemen and other groups have been trespassing on their (Vineyard’s) property. I have to ask here, who really owns the property and how would the true owner wish to see the property used? However, before we ever crossed over the road to the public right of way on the Vineyard’s side of the street, we checked and double checked with the city of Columbus and Columbus police department to be assured beyond a reasonable doubt that we were indeed on the public right of way. As such, we were fully within our first amendment rights to hold signs, stand, pray, preach, or sing if we so wished; we could as well walk, ride a bike or skip along where the sidewalk either is or someday will be.
Minutemen actions against Vineyard Columbus?
Again, referring to their statement, Vineyard goes on to state that they are “deeply saddened by the demonstrators’ actions against Vineyard Columbus, our members and our attendees. We had honestly hoped for, and have worked toward, a mutual understanding to avoid any further conflict.” Actions against the Vineyard?? Uh…folks, let me remind you that Minutemen United members were the ones who were first rejected from meeting and then physically attacked, arrested, summoned, harassed and bullied by Vineyard workers. We had our signs stolen by Vineyard parishioners, had feces spread on our vehicles and were belittled from the church pulpit. Whether you agree with our message or not, are these actions a demonstration of Christian behavior?
We would reiterate that hoping for a mutual understanding is hard to do when you tell your own parishioners to “just ignore them” and while you limit your “numerous” meetings to TWO – none of which included the senior pastor.
WE DO AGREE ON THIS
We agree with Vineyard’s statement that we should “pray this situation would be ended amicably”, however,Vineyard’s request of its congregation “that In the coming weeks…they not respond to the demonstrators either in person or online”, seems a bit counter intuitive. We are but one church. We as Christians ask that dialogue be encouraged as our Lord even asks that “we come reason together”. But alas, having lawyers as spiritual guides seems just a bit out of place.
8 FOOT SIGNS? Is that really necessary?
The Vineyard has expressed concern about the size of our signs and claim it to be a traffic hazard indicating that our signs’ presence has caused several (there’s that exaggerated terminology, several) accidents. With regard to this possible safety issue, in the first “unofficial” meeting with the Vineyard, we told the associate pastor who was in attendance that we would be more than happy to move and set up in a small area with limited signs in Vineyard’s parking lot away from the highway. This offer, obviously, was quickly declined. .
As far as the signs are concerned, the reason we have 8 foots signs is because we don’t have a church pulpit to preach from, a radio or TV program to expound on, nor do we have the thousands of dollars it would take to run TV or newspapers ads. Hence the large print in easily readable format.
Let it be said, so let it be written
In case you haven’t noticed of late, America is beyond the turning point and is now teetering on the tipping point. Our house is on fire!! Minutemen United is not trying to be the “moral police” as the Vineyard accuses us, but more like firemen who are desperately trying to convince those who are best equipped to put out that fire – the pulpit – to assist in our plea according to 2 Chronicles 7:14 as we cry to restore our land back to Christian morality. We do hope and pray that the staff and congregants of the Vineyard, as well as the church corporate in America, will soon recognize the brooding storm clouds before we take that final plunge. If they do not, then as our outreach to the Vineyard clearly states, “as goes the church . . . so goes the nation”.
In Jesus’ Name we serve,