As the Coronavirus continues to spread across the United States and around the world, Missiongathering's pastors have been carefully considering how we are to respond as a church community to ensure the safety and health of everyone who attends Missiongathering San Diego. As we have studied reports from the CDC and received guidance from faith communities around the country, we have committed to adopting the following measures:
At the end of the day, while the coronavirus poses a significant threat to the global community and requires our attention and careful action, we are hopeful that there will be more substantial preventative measures available to the global community very soon. In seasons like this, we encourage our community to be prayerful, to look out for the most vulnerable in our midst, and to continue engaging in the life of our church in a wise and cautious manner. Please continue to follow our social media pages and a newsletter for up to date information on our churches plan of action during this epidemic.
For more information, please visit the San Diego County Government's Coronavirus Website here.
Since August 2019, when our church was forced to cease the operation of our non-profit music venue The Irenic and cease using our Community Center for a youth shelter on Tuesday nights as we've done for much of our churches history, we were forced into a position where we needed to fight not only for our rights as a faith community, but for our existence financially. In the fall, we began working with one of Southern California's leading law firms for churches, Tyler and Bursch LLP, in order to file a lawsuit against the City of San Diego for violating our constitutional rights as a community of faith.
After meeting with the City Attorney's office early this year, we felt confident that we would be able to settle our dispute with the City, hopefully reopening our non-profit music venue and beginning to house those without a home the way that Christ has called us to. We are still in active negotiations with our lawyers and the City, and are hopeful that we may reach a reasonable and fair resolution. Since February, Missiongathering has been in full compliance with all of the physical requests made by the City Inspector and San Diego Fire.
However, we have faced one significant hurdle in our ability to fully comply with the City's Civil Penalty Notice- because the City cannot find the original building documents for our property, it has been impossible to both hire contractors to help us obtain the needed permits without these documents, and for the City to inspect the property against the original drawings. While the City has promised to help work with us to resolve this matter, there has been little actual progress made on being able to actually be reinspected which would be required before we could reopen The Irenic or our homeless youth shelter.
The financial burden that the City's actions have forced our church into has required that we also pursue the potential for needing to sell our property and relocate within proximity to our current campus. While we have opened up this process and are exploring this potential, we are still committed to fighting for the ability to continue to remain at our property at the corner of Polk and Illinois.
We have been so grateful for the resiliency of our community and those around San Diego who have stepped up and supported us as we press forward in this battle. We ask that you would continue to prayerfully support our church in this fight for our right to be the church, and consider giving to our GoFund Me to help cover the ongoing cost of our legal representation.
I hope this email finds you well. I just wanted to take a brief moment to update you about what has been happening at Missiongathering in regards to our lawsuit against the City of San Diego and the future of our campus at 3090 Polk Avenue.
Since we officially filed our lawsuit over two months ago, there has been almost nothing to report. The City has until the end of November to respond to our claims against them, either deciding to settle out of court or proceed forward with the lawsuit and offer a defense. When there is movement on that front, I plan to update you immediately. We have also begun working to resolve the major violations that were noted in our Civil Penalty Notice. We are working with engineers and contractors and expect to be in full compliance with the City’s orders by the end of the year.
Also, in this interim we have decided to begin pursuing new ways of generating income for our ministry to replace the funds lost when the City forced us to shut down The Irenic. The Board agreed to move forward with our Realtor to find other faith communities to rent space on our campus for their worship gathering when Missiongathering wasn’t using the campus. These kinds of rentals are allowed within our zoning (which permits Religious Assembly) and would help us be good stewards of our campus by ensuring it didn’t sit empty throughout the week, but was being used for likeminded ministry and generating income to support our church.
A few weeks ago, at the advice of our realtor, we placed a For Lease sign on the side of the building. Our realtor ensured us that this was the best way to attract potential renters for our campus. However, despite attempting to communicate this clearly to the church to avoid any speculation that we were leaving or losing our campus, the sign seems to have cultivated a great deal of confusion in our church and the surrounding community.
So to be clear, we are not currently seeking to leave or sell our campus. Our goal is to continue to work until the end of the year to find new streams of income to support our ministry by utilizing our property. Lord willing, by year end there will be new tenants on our property that will help us accomplish this goal. However, we do plan to remove the sign in the coming weeks in order to send a message to our neighborhood that we have every intent of staying here at the corner of Polk and Illinois for the forseeable future.
This season has been a bumpy one, but please know that we are incredibly hopeful. This whole trial is setting us up to be more fruitful and sustainable in the years to come. Our church is growing numerically and the spiritual growth in our community has been remarkable and inspiring! Missiongathering San Diego’s best days are ahead of us, and I am so honored and humbled to get to serve as the pastor of this incredible, diverse, and compassionate group of Christ followers!
Please know that you can always reach out to any of us on the Pastoral Team or the Board of Directors if you have questions or concerns- we are here to serve you!
Thank you all for your continued prayers and support!
In the many names of God:
Rev. Brandan Robertson | Lead Pastor
MISSIONGATHERING FILES LAWSUIT AGAINST CITY OF SAN DIEGO OVER CLOSING OF YOUTH SHELTER AND MUSIC VENUE
San Diego, California: After over two months since the City of San Diego ordered that Missiongathering Christian Church in North Park cease operations of its weekly homeless youth shelter and cancel rentals of its sanctuary for music events, Missiongathering officially filed a lawsuit against the City of San Diego on Friday, October 11, 2019.
“Our church has continually reached out to the City for over two months, urging them to come to the table and negotiate with us to restore our homeless ministry and music outreach.”, said Lead Pastor Brandan Robertson. “After hearing not a single official response from the City, we have decided at the direction of our legal counsel to file a lawsuit against the City for violating our first-amendment right to the free exercise of our faith on our property.”
The lawsuit cites several violations by the City, including violations of the Federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act and the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. “We have avoided filing a lawsuit at all costs, but the City’s unresponsiveness has put our congregation in a dire position where our very survival is being threatened” Pastor Robertson continued. Missiongathering is represented by Jennifer L. Bursch of Tyler and Bursch, LLP.
The church has launched a GoFundMe Page and is hosting a Community Oktoberfest Fundraiser on October 27 from 3:00 PM – 8:00 PM to help raise funds for their legal fees and repairs of the campus.
Missiongathering Christian Church is a progressive, inclusive Christian church in the heart of North Park. Led by millennial author and activist Pastor Brandan Robertson, we seek to be a force for justice and peace in San Diego and around the world.
The past two weeks have been turbulent ones in the life of Missiongathering Christian Church. After receiving a notice from the City of San Diego to cease our youth homeless shelter and rentals of our Sanctuary, Missiongathering has been thrown into a very real struggle for the survival of our church at 3090 Polk Avenue. These days have been taxing on our staff, our board, and on our entire congregation. There is a genuine feeling that we are facing a disproportionate battle against powers much stronger than our small but faithful community.
Over the past two weeks, we’ve also seen the Spirit of God move in the midst of our congregation in a mighty way. We’ve come together to pray, to worship, and to organize so that we can continue to be the hands and feet of Jesus on the corner of Polk and Illinois. We have received support from thousands of people around San Diego, who have given their time, their voice, their skills, and their money to ensure that we can keep moving forward. We’ve experienced so much love and encouragement from leaders- both political and religious- on every part of the spectrum.
This past Sunday, our sanctuary was packed with not only our own congregation but visitors from around San Diego standing in support of our congregation. On Tuesday, volunteers showed up to greet those experiencing homelessness with hot meals, hygiene services, and a reminder that they will always be welcome at Missiongathering. It’s hard not to stand here, at the end of the second week of this battle, and not well up with gratitude for what God is doing in the midst of these trying times.
With that said, we are still in the heat of the struggle. Over the past two weeks, despite immense pressure from thousands of constituents around the City, not much has changed. The City has shown no substantial evidence that they have any desire to help us keep our youth shelter running, to keep our sanctuary rentals going, and to keep our church alive. We are still being pressured to comply with the orders of the City with no evidence of grace or reprieve for our church. And if this pressure continues, our church will be forced to implement extreme budget cutting measures which would severely damage the ability of our church to function in an effective way.
On our side, we have been working diligently to make the repairs around our campus to bring us into compliance with the City’s Codes. We’ve scheduled an initial reinspection of our campus for next Tuesday, September 17th, and we hope that the City will see that we have been making as much progress as possible with the limited resources we have at our disposal. We’ve also been reaching out regularly to Councilman Chris Ward, Mayor Kevin Faulconer, and Senior Zoning Investigator William Dauphin asking for help- and while Councilman Ward’s staff has been incredibly gracious and attentive this week, we have seen little substantial assistance extended to our church.
It should also be noted that the City’s actions have already caused irreversible damage to our church. Because of the inaction of the City over the past two weeks, most of the rentals scheduled for the rest of the year at our churches ministry The Irenic have already been moved to other venues, meaning that we have already lost tens of thousands of dollars that were essential to our operations.
Over the next week, we intend to engage in more direct action. I’ve reached out to Mayor Faulconers office and requested an emergency meeting to discuss our situation. Our legal team is planning to take official action in the near future. We are working with activists around San Diego to organize direct actions to encourage our leaders to step up and take action to help save our community of faith. We also are planning creative ways to continue our outreach to bless and serve those experiencing homelessness. More information about all of these efforts will be released in the coming days.
As we continue in this fight for our life, I want to make four requests of all who feel connected to this struggle:
Again, let me state that we are so humbled and grateful for the support of the thousands who have reached out over the past two weeks. We still clearly have a long road ahead of us, but together, I really believe we are going to be able to make substantial change in the City of San Diego that will serve the common good of everyone. But we must keep pressing on.
After a week of fighting for the life of our church, our ministry to homeless youth, and our “Irenic” ministry, we are totally disheartened by Councilman Chris Wards statement this afternoon.
First, he states that we have known about these violations for months. This is absolutely inaccurate- these violations were received on August 31, 2019 after being told by the Senior Zoning Investigator William Dauphin that he believed “things were leaning in our direction.” Beside minor requests to correct repairs that we get every year during our fire inspection, we had no clue the City was planning to shut down our rentals or our youth shelter.
When I met with Councilman Ward in June, as well as Assemblyman Todd Gloria, it was to ask for support from being harassed by San Diego Police every time a particular neighbor called when we hosted an event at our church. It is true that at that time, the police suggested that they may begin asking us to get individual permits for every show, but everyone believed that would not be a problem. Councilman Ward pledged his support and we continued operating as we had. We did not speak of code violations or safety issues at that meeting.
Also, to suggest that this extreme order is a matter of “safety” and to question our churches commitment to the safety of everyone who comes on to our campus is absolutely absurd. San Diego Fire Department issued our yearly inspection report a month ago listing a number of corrections that we needed to make and offered us a gracious timeframe to make those corrections without shutting down any aspect of our ministry. Since receiving our fire inspection, we have installed fire extinguishers, emergency lighting, new exit signs, added smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, and cleared all paths of egress. We also provide staff during our youth shelter who monitor the campus all night to ensure the absolute safety of our homeless youth, and have ample security and staff on site during every campus rental. Safety is our highest priority and has always been.
It should also be noted that The City of San Diego runs its own private shelters that have many more safety and hygienic concerns than our own shelter (see the news report here.) If the City is allowed grace to operate their shelter in these shameful conditions, it seems unfair to demand we close ours in the name of “safety”.
There is an attitude of complacency in the City of San Diego towards providing substantive answers to our homelessness crisis, and there is a consistent effort by our City to make those experiencing homelessness invisible. The City has a track record of penalizing churches, activists, and non-profits who seek to provide direct services to this community, and despite our best hopes, Councilman Wards Statement only seems to reinforce this status quo in our city.
We are disappointed but also undeterred. With the support of activists, community leaders, and individuals across San Diego, we will fight this violation of our religious liberty, this attack on those experiencing homelessness, and this attempt to rid North Park of community venues.
North Park, San Diego, CA: After over six years of uninterrupted operations of the only youth homeless shelter in the city and rentals of our sanctuary for all-ages music events, on July 31, 2019, officials from The City of San Diego came and inspected Missiongatherings Christian Churches campus to determine if the church was properly zoned and properly operating within city code.
On Saturday, August 31, 2019, Missiongathering received a Civil Penalty Notice and Order from the City of San Diego, ordering that the church cease operations of their shelter and cancel all rentals of their sanctuary immediately- an action that will potentially cost the church an estimated tens of thousands before year end, and force the church to cease a ministry that is at the very heartbeat of their identity as a faith community.
After calling on elected officials and City leaders to come to the table to negotiate for the survival of Missiongathering Christian Church and it’s ministries, Missiongathering will host a community prayer night on Thursday, September 5th, 2019 at 6:30 PM to call upon God to move in the hearts of The City of San Diego’s leaders about how we address the homeless crisis, how they respond to faith communities efforts to serve those experiencing those experiencing homelessness, for all those who will be turned away from our shelter going forward, and for the survival of Missiongathering Christian Church.
The prayer meeting will consist of homilies by Missiongathering’s pastors and times of prayer and singing as we seek to find strength and encouragement for the fight ahead of us. The community is welcome and encouraged to attend.
Dear Missiongathering Family:
Last week at our Town Hall Meeting I informed you of a battle that has brewing between Missiongathering and the City of San Diego concerning our homeless shelter and our rentals of our sanctuary for live entertainment. In July, City officials came and inspected our campus to determine if we we're properly zoned and properly operating within city code.
Over the last month, I have had two communications with the Senior Zoning Official who assured me that things were looking favorable for Missiongathering to be able to continue operating our shelter and renting our sanctuary.
On Saturday, the church received a Civil Penalty Notice and Order from the City of San Diego, ordering that we cease operations of our shelter and cancel all rentals of our sanctuary immediately- an action that will potentially cost the church an estimated tens of thousands before year end, and force us to cease a ministry that is at the very heartbeat of who we are as a faith community.
This notice also cited us with 29 violations and informed us that we may be back-charged at a rate of $300 per violation, per day, since the inspectors first noticed them on July 31, 2019. We plan to avoid these penalties by immediately working to correct all violations that have been identified. As of this writing, we have fully complied with a specific order which listed seven particular violations that immediately needed to be addressed.
After much prayer and consulting with legal counsel, I believe that The City of San Diego is violating our religious liberty as a church and that we must fight these actions for the sake of the survival of our church and our right to be who God has called us to be- and who we've always been. It is a fundamental call of Christ to reach out to those who are in need, to clothe the naked, and to be a good steward of our resources. The City is not only preventing us from doing that, they are penalizing us for it.
This is a moment for us to unite as followers of Jesus and utilize the power of our faith and the power of our collective voices to speak truth to power. Over the coming days, we are going to have two opportunities to do just that:
First, on Tuesday evening I would like to invite our entire congregation to show up and join faith and community leaders from across the City for a Press Conference where we will call on the City of San Diego to cease these attacks on our community and to work with us in a more reasonable manner to continue operating as a faith community. This conference will be at 6:30 PM on our campus.
Second, on Thursday evening, I would like to call on our church to gather for a time of prayer and worship as we ask God for his guidance, provision, and protection in this season. The Prayer Gathering will begin at 6:30 PM in our Sanctuary and will conclude around 8:00 PM. It is essential that in this season of turbulence we are lifting our church up to God and ensuring that we are fighting this battle in his strength.
The following weeks and months are not going to be easy for our community- the spiritual, legal, and financial pressure that The City is putting on our church is immense. Your Board of Directors is committed to meeting weekly, consulting lawyers, and seeking the assistance of our denomination as we prayerfully navigate the path ahead of us.
In the midst of this all, I am confident that God is at work, and that through this trial, our church will be strengthened in our witness of Christ's radically inclusive love. On the other side of these challenges, we will stand victorious as beacons of the love of Jesus to our world.
So Missiongathering, please know that your leaders are praying for you, and we certainly covet your prayers. Also, if you have any insight, wisdom, or resources that may be helpful to us in this next season, please feel free to reach out to our board at any time.
Thank you all for your faithfulness to God and to this beautiful community called Missiongathering.
With faith and love:
Pastor Brandan Robertson | Lead Pastor
Missiongathering Christian Church
San Diego, CA
As followers of Christ, our faith teaches us that everyone is created in God’s image and commands us to love one another.1 As American citizens we value our system of government which at its best seeks to protect even its marginalized citizens. Today there is a threat to the very soul of our nation. White Nationalism, White Supremacy, White Pride, The Christian Identity Movement, Christian Nationalism, and all other groups of violence and exclusion threaten our democracy and our religious communities.
Christian Nationalism is abhorrent to the true faith established by Christ and the Apostles. For in the Christian faith there are to be no borders or boundaries that define us beyond our baptism and common faith.2 Class, racial, gender, and identity distinctions have no place at the table of Jesus Christ.3Acts of Terrorism–foreign or domestic, sanctioned or unsanctioned–by the powers and principalities of this world are anti-christ, as taught by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount.4
We of the Missiongathering Movement Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) believe that God has called our churches to the Gospel of Radical Inclusion. No ideology is more opposed to that Gospel than Christian Nationalism and White Supremacy. We reject White Supremacy and Christian Nationalism as anti-Christ. It has no place in our house of worship or in our American political system. We denounce any persons, whether public official or private citizen, that espouses White Nationalist rhetoric as in desperate need of repentance and disengaged from the inclusive agenda of Scripture and the priorities of Jesus.
As Christians, we are bound to Christ, as citizens of the Kin-dom of Heaven. It is our firmly held belief that people of all faiths have a right to express their faith in the public square without fear of harm or persecution. That love of one’s country cannot be at the exclusion of religious conviction. That one’s religious affiliation, or lack of affiliation, should be irrelevant in one’s standing in the civic community. That the Government of the United States of America should not offer preference to any religion or non-religion. That religious instruction is at its best when left to our houses of worship, other religious institutions, and religious families. That America’s dream that religious pluralism enables faith communities to live in civic harmony with one another without sacrificing our theological convictions. That conflating religious authority with political authority is idolatrous and often leads to the oppression of minorities and other marginalized groups as well as the spiritual impoverishment of religion. That we must stand up to and speak out against Christian nationalism, especially when it inspires acts of violence and intimidation—including vandalism, bomb threats, arson, hate crimes, attacks on shoppers, attacks on students, attacks on festival/concert attendees and attacks on houses of worship—against religious communities at home and abroad.
Whether we worship at a church, mosque, synagogue, temple, the privacy of our homes, nature, or anywhere America has no second-class faiths. All are equal under the U.S. Constitution.5 As Christians, we must speak in one voice condemning Christian nationalism and White Supremacy as a distortion of the gospel of Jesus and a threat to American democracy. As followers of Christ, we commit ourselves to the hard work of anti-racism and reconciliation. As followers of Christ, we commit ourselves to strive against the evils of nationalism and racism recognizing that we are all one human race and family. As followers of Christ, we reject any form of terror or intimidation that keeps people from expressing gender, sexuality, and culture.
As proud citizens of these United States of America, we call upon our elected officials to publicly denounce and disavow themselves of Christian Nationalism and White Supremacy. We call for the resignation of all elected officials who cannot with clear conscience disavow and denounce such acts as domestic terrorism and antidemocratic.
We call upon followers of Christ to embrace and protect the diversity of this nation. To stand up in boldness in the face of terror, to show that we are people who will not cower in fear. We call upon each of us to do the hard work of repentance for all parts we have played in emboldening hatred and prejudice among us. We call for the table fellowship of our Lord Jesus Christ to do the hard work of true unity and inclusion. May the peace of Christ be with you all as you go boldly to form a more perfect union in the days, weeks, months, and years to come.
With Grace, Love, and Conviction
The Pastors of The Missiongathering Movement Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
Rev. Andrew Shipley | Missiongathering Charlotte
Rev. Brandan Robertson | Missiongathering San Diego
Pastor Wendy Holland | Missiongathering San Diego
Pastor Lee Rivera | Missiongathering San Diego
Rev. Rich McCullen| Missiongathering Pasadena
Rev. Yani Davis | Missiongathering Pasadena
Rev. Loren Richmond Jr. | Missiongathering Denver
Rev. Devin Wright | Missiongathering Seattle
1Genesis 1:27, John 13:34-35
4Matthew 5:43-48, Luke 6:26-37
51st Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America
North Park, San Diego, California: Missiongathering Christian Church, a progressive evangelical church in San Diego, purchased a billboard on University Avenue in the heart of Hillcrest (directly on top of the popular gay bar, Uptown Tavern) that declares “Radically Inclusive: God takes pride in you, so do we!” The billoard is prominently situated in the heart of Hillcrest, San Diego’s historic LGBT+ neighborhood and was intentionally positioned to be along the route of the San Diego LGBT+ Pride Parade on July 14, 2018.
The background of the billboard specifically names over two dozen minority groups that have traditionally been marginalized by the evangelical church in the United States. Among the groups named are Bisexual, Black, Nuero-Divergent, Muslim, Transgender, Non-Binary, Refugee, Immigrant, Palestinian, Indigenous People, Elderly, Disillusioned, Atheist, and Queer, among others.
“For far too long, Christians have been known for who we are against. We’re afraid of difference. We only desire to make the world conform to our image of what is right and good.” said Brandan Robertson, Lead Pastor of Missiongathering. “At Missiongathering, we believe that in our diversity that we best reflect God’s divinity- that when we amplify the beauty of our differences, all of us are challenged to expand our perspective and become more loving, more mindful, and more kind.”
The billboard stands in stark contrast to the signs that many other evangelical groups will be holding at Pride. Every year, Christian groups stand on the sidelines of the Pride parade and festival declaring God’s “judgment” on the LGBT+ community. “Their message isn’t good news for anyone- it’s a distortion of the teachings of Jesus, and it must be drown out with the good news of God’s radical pride in each one of God’s children”, Robertson said.
It is Missiongathering’s hope that their billboard will provoke discussion and be a beacon of healing for the hundreds of thousands of people who will pass by it on University Avenue, reminding them that there is a different kind of Christianity- a more loving, inclusive version- than the one that’s being represented in our nation’s public life or in the national media right now.
Missiongathering will also march in the Pride Parade and host a booth at the Festival that features large chalkboards which say “We Call Bullsh*t” which invite festival attendees to declare all of the ways religious communities have been harmful and hypocritical to them. On Sunday, July 15 at 10:00 AM, Missiongathering will host its annual Pride Worship Service, featuring Broadway songs as the worship selections for the service lead by church members and members of the San Diego Gay Men’s Chorus.
Missiongathering Christian Church is a progressive, inclusive Christian church in the heart of North Park. Led by millennial author and activist Pastor Brandan Robertson, we continue to be a force for justice and peace in San Diego and around the world.