Eleven conservatively dressed protesters stood silently along the busy boulevard in front of the fashionable First Southern Baptist Church of Scottsdale, Arizona on Sunday morning November 10, 2002. They were demonstrating opposition to the Southern Baptist Convention’s policy on War in the Mideast. Each protester held a prominent sign, some marking the five parking lot entrances offering complementary literature where members arrived and departed. This may not be the first anti-war protest held at a church, but the sponsors assert it will not be the last.
Most demonstrators held large yellow and black signs identifying “PROJECT STRAIT GATE” (Matthew 7:13). This passage contains an allegory about a difficult path narrow gate at the end describe the way to spiritual life, as compared to the easy path and wide gate the leads to spiritual destruction.The sign messages included:*
BLESSED ARE THE PEACEMAKERS
* DEMAND PEACE
* IRAQ? WHAT WOULD JESUS DO?
* CHOOSE LIFE, NOT WAR
The demonstration was nearly silent with no chants or bullhorns. The only conversation occurred when the Pastor W. Berry Norwood and a few congregants spoke to the protesters about the local church’s position. Some church members heatedly asked the obvious question, “WHY ARE YOU AT OUR CHURCH?” They were given 12 printed pages of a research report entitled, THE SOURCE OF THE WAR PROBLEM: WHY JUDEO-CHRISTIANS DO NOT DEMAND PEACE, and a flier entitled BUSH WARS…LIKE FATHER LIKE SON.The Pastor invited all the protesters to come inside to hear his message. Ironically, according to the program, the sermon was about “This Church and the Future.” Inside the service, a good bit of time was spent discussing the unexpected visitors. The Pastor repeated his theme many times that this church is not political and takes no position on war. But he asserted that he thought most of the members support the “Commander and Chief.” He also claimed that Southern Baptist Churches are independent and therefore not bound by the positions of the hierarchy.During the church s service, the Protesters met for a devotional time in a neighboring parking lot. Before the day ended, new volunteers had doubled the size of the movement. The Strait Gate Coordinator, Terry Marshall, plans to split the group into several teams to cover two or more churches at the next war protest. He states that only two or three persons are needed to make an effective showing at many churches.Those wishing information about participating in Project Strait Gate should contact the sponsors and ask how to get started.(This letter is being sent to area church leaders)