On June 8, just as he'd promised a few days previous in a blog post titled "Mission to Capitol Hill," Joel Fariss, a deacon at the urban evangelical church Mars Hill, showed up at Grey Gallery & Lounge on 11th Avenue and East Pike Street.
He sat by the window with a male companion, ordered drinks, and prepared to, as he'd put it in the post, "serve and love Capitol Hill." That meant something other than the norm: talking about the gospel, ministering to sinners, pushing back against "the hostility that most hold towards Christianity."
Hardly anyone showed up, save for a small clutch of what looked to be fellow Mars Hillers and a 30-year-old woman named Emily Pothast, who had come to challenge Fariss to a theological duel. It was not clear whether Fariss—a bearded, skinny young man who works at a nearby tattoo shop—was given pause by the exchange; for an excited urban missionary, he stayed exceptionally quiet.
When Pothast asked Fariss whether he believes there are any "healthy homosexuals" (the leader of Mars Hill has compared homosexuality to cancer), it was the other man at his table who answered: "Healthy as God says—no, I don't." Fariss, if his blogging can be taken as the gospel, will be back next week. So will Pothast, who is now something of a missionary herself. "I did not convert him to a gay-loving new-age panreligionist," she lamented after her first unsuccessful try.