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Demonstrators picket outside Southminster Presbyterian Church, where members initiated marriage equality in national denomination



PHOTO BY JOSH TOWNSLEY - Andrew Maldarelli, children's director at Southminster Presbyterian Church in Beaverton, played music Sunday to help drown out what some church members described as vulgar language coming from a small number of people who protested the church's support of same-sex marriage.

A handful of protesters on Sunday picketed Southminster Presbyterian Church, the Beaverton congregation that helped rewrite their national denomination’s definition of marriage to include same-gender couples.

The Rev. John Shuck, Southminster’s minister, said the number of sign-carrying demonstrators represented a minority compared to the largely positive response since it was reported that members of his congregation initiated a revision to the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Book of Order so it no longer defines marriage as between a man and a woman.

“I think people are looking for a congregation that is open-minded and open-hearted and willing to take a stand,” he said, “willing to face some controversy.”

Other than one church member who offered coffee to the protesters, who could not immediately be identified, Shuck said his congregation mostly didn’t engage the protesters waving signs and calling out from the sidewalk in front of the church on Southwest Denney Road at Hall Boulevard.

“It was a lot of vulgarity,” Shuck said of the protesters' message. “There wasn’t any reasonable conversation.”PHOTO BY KIRSTI HEGG - Three to four protesters at a time demonstrated in front of Southminster Presbyterian Church on Sunday, in apparent response to the church's leading role in rewriting the nationwide denomination's definition of marriage so it can include same-gender unions.

Josh Townsley witnessed the protest and agreed with Shuck.

“It was definitely language that I would call intolerant,” he said.

Andrew Maldarelli, the church’s children’s director, played music from the front of the church as people arrived for the service.

“I know that Andrew’s intention was to try to drown them out so the children wouldn’t hear their hateful language,” Townsley said.

Overall, Shuck said the response has largely been supportive of Southminster’s role in the U.S.’s largest Presbyterian denomination’s embrace of same-sex marriage.

For example, he said attendance at Sunday’s service was larger than usual. He used the protest as an opportunity to talk to some of his members including children about how the freedom of speech the demonstrators were using was protected like their own congregation’s freedom to practice religion. He also brought up the protests in his sermon.

In the wake of the March 17 decision, Think Progress reported that four Presbyterian churches in Missouri received an unsigned letter condemning homosexuality and threatening attacks on congregations the support same-sex marriage.

Shuck said he likely will touch on his own congregation’s values related to issues of equality, such as same-sex marriage, during Easter services this Sunday.

“We must be doing something right if it engenders opposition,” he said.


By Eric Apalategui
Beaverton Reporter
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