Recently I saw a post where Glenn Beck indicated that Portland was one of the cities in the US to avoid. His article indicates that this city would be considered “godless” since we have one of the highest “Unaffiliated” rates for Christian beliefs. While the unaffiliated statistics are true, I wonder (as a minister who has been involved in ministry, church planting, teaching seminary, and working as a community advocate) if his concerns reflect a lack of faith—stimulated by fear—or a true ignorance of what is happening in Portland, as well as the Northwest.
Probably one of the greatest testimonies to what Portland and Christianity are accomplishing can be found in a new book released by Kevin Palau. Unlikely, is a wonderful story that discusses how many of the Portland Churches have worked together to serve this city in non-profits, public schools, and other social agencies. Our Agape Blitz is a summer season of service indebted to the Palau’s influence and partnership in serving our community. Even more, read what the former Portland Mayor, Sam Adams (who describes himself as the first openly gay mayor of Portland) states about this partnership:
“This entire process has been very enriching for me personally as well. I have come to see the evangelical community more clearly. I have learned that many of my initial opinions were outdated, based on a narrow stereotype. Nothing showed me their compassion and grace more than when I found myself in the midst of a personal political scandal in 2008. They were dark days for me. I had made a big mistake. When some from my own community turned their backs on me, Luis and Kevin [Palau] reached out. Luis met with me personally, prayed for me, and offered wise counsel. I’ll never forget that conversation.
Over the years, as Kevin and the team have expanded to help other cities in similar efforts, I have received calls from other mayors (mostly from other big liberal cities). The question is always the same: ‘Did you really partner with the evangelical community?’ My response” ‘Yes, and we’re better for it!’ I’m so glad Kevin wrote this book. I hope it encourages more individuals—more cities—to take on similar efforts…What has changed over the past several years—for Kevin and me and thousands of others involved in efforts to serve the city—is the realization that a life, a city, or a nation where partnerships can only happen when those involved have near total agreement on all issues, is a mistake…for all of us.
The partnership to serve our city has changed our city. It has changed me and the lives of countless others.” (Unlikely, xiv-xv)
What a powerful testimony from our former mayor. What a powerful statement from one who doesn’t agree with everything that the Evangelical churches/ministers teach, but agrees that we all have to help and love our city. I was humbled by his comments when I read this. I think of the many comments we have received from the Portland Police, Sheriff’s Deputies, service providers, counselors, and community activists and all of them state that while we don’t agree on everything, we agree on what is truly important.
In addition Kevin wrote a powerful statement about living in Portland and practicing our faith as Christians…“As a Christian, I find it doesn’t help to rail against the context in which you live. Jesus called us to be a light shining on a hill. I don’t know about you, but I can’t shine if I’m always down on my community.” (Unlikely, 4)
What a powerful testimony to be a Christian in “one of the cities Glen Beck wishes to avoid like the plague.” I guess I would suggest—“Stay away—we don’t need you and we are doing fine without you. We have faith, courage, and love—and we practice it in one of the most beautiful cities in the world!”
To God be the glory in the Rose City!