By Darrel Rowland
“We’re not out here to turn people to Christ.”
So said one of six sign-toting demonstrators (including two children) from Westboro Baptist Church, Topeka, Kansas, who protested outside the North American Christian Convention for about an hour July 7.
A woman with an NACC name tag was asking the female protestor about Jesus’ love and whether they thought their message would turn gays and others to Christ.
But the protestor said gays are “in the pit”—and, in fact, so was the NACC attender because she had cut her hair, in violation of 1 Corinthians 11.
As the Westboro group packed up their signs to leave, one of the two adult men was asked why they chose the NACC as a target.
“It’s a good preaching opportunity,” he replied. When asked to elaborate, all he would say is, “It’s where the action is.”
The small church has stirred up controversy across the country by demonstrating at the funerals of American troops and for carrying signs with such messages as “God Hates Fags.”
The half-dozen from Westboro on one corner drew several times as many demonstrators on the other three corners from gay rights groups, the American Civil Liberties Union, and others. The signs ranged from obscene to “free candy” and “free hugs.”
Speaking at the convention shortly afterward, NACC President Dudley Rutherford said he chose to mingle with the gay group, not Westboro.
“I told them we’ve got about 10,000 people that will be here sometime during the course of this week, and . . . we disagree with your lifestyle, but we want you to know that we believe God loves you and God loves all people. And I said I want you to know that everyone at this convention disagrees with what Westboro Baptist is doing.”
As he walked away, Rutherford said, the gay supporters began singing “Jesus Loves Me.”
During his message a short time later, Southeast Christian Church’s Dave Stone remarked, “They’re protesting that the NACC believes that God loves everyone. . . . They’re being against us is the finest compliment given to the North American Christian Convention.”
Darrel Rowland is an adult Bible fellowship teacher at Worthington (Ohio) Christian Church and public affairs editor of The Columbus Dispatch.