Supporters of a jailed Lutheran minister remained barricaded inside Trinity Lutheran Church here for the seventh day today, defying arrest warrants ordering them to leave. As the stalemate continued, the Rev. D. Douglas Roth, whose preaching against "corporate evil" stirred the controversy, remained in a nearby jail, where he has been since Nov. 13.
"They will not give the church up. It will have to be taken by force . . . . They've got enough gas masks inside to go around," said Charles Honeywell of the 10 to 20 people, including three ministers and three local union officials, inside the church.
Honeywell is an organizer and spokesman for the Denominational Ministry Strategy (DMS), a controversial church-labor activist coalition formed by Roth and other ministers from 20 Pittsburgh-area congregations.
"We are not opening the doors. We are prepared to go to jail," Roth's wife, Nadine, one of those in the church, said in a telephone interview. The church doors were boarded and chained shut, while those inside ate meals passed to them through a window by supporters.
The confrontation here is the latest chapter in a two-year campaign of militant advocacy by Roth and other DMS ministers, who contend that powerful corporations are largely responsible for the decline of Pittsburgh's steel industry and the suffering of the 100,000 workers who lost steel jobs in the last five years.
While Roth, 33, has been legally ousted from his pulpit at Trinity and jailed for refusing to leave, his supporters have vowed to resist the court-ordered surrender of the church to Lutheran authorities.
Roth and other ministers have attacked U.S. Steel Corp. and Mellon Bank, Pittsburgh's largest, for "disinvesting" in the aging steel plants of the Monongahela Valley.
They criticized the firms for seeking higher profits by shifting investments overseas.
The controversy over DMS intensified largely because of the guerrilla-warfare methods used by it and its labor activist group, the Network to Save the Mon/Ohio Valley.
The tactics included invading some of Pittsburgh's wealthiest parishes, picketing and disrupting activities at the churches of corporate executives.
Dead fish have been deposited in Mellon safe-deposit boxes, and last month several men wearing gas masks threw balloons filled with skunk oil into a gathering at a Presbyterian church attended by a U.S. Steel executive.
"I supported Roth 100 percent when he started. But he really got out of control. I can't go along with throwing skunk oil," said Kenneth Milton, 63, a retired steelworker and member of Trinity Lutheran Church. Milton was among those who initiated the current battle by petitioning Lutheran officials for Roth's removal as pastor.
The standoff here has raised touchy legal questions about separation of church and state: The dissident Lutherans are challenging the right of judges and sheriffs to order them to dissolve their congregation and vacate their stone church, built in 1928 on a hillside overlooking a U.S. Steel plant.
"We do not want to rush the church," Allegheny County Sheriff Eugene L. Coon said Tuesday. "We will go the last mile to prevent a confrontation and possible violence. But ultimately, the court order will be carried out."
Coon's office attempted unsuccessfully to negotiate a peaceful surrender today; he was not available to discuss his plans for enforcing the order.
Allegheny County Common Pleas Court Judge Emil Narick on Monday ordered the arrest of eight church council members and any supporters who fail to abide by his order dissolving the congrega- tion.
Narick today lifted contempt citations against two council members; in return, they promised not to disobey his orders or help those inside. Two other church members were removed from the contempt citation after they testified they were not council members.
Bishop Kenneth R. May, after receiving petitions from roughly half of Trinity's congregation, initiated the legal action on behalf of the West Virginia-Western Pennsylvania Synod, the governing church body. May suspended Roth, who unsuccessfully contested the bishop's authority in court. Roth is now serving a 90-day sentence for contempt of court for his refusal to leave his pulpit.
In the legal proceedings, May is using the same prominent Pittsburgh law firm that represents Mellon, prompting Roth's supporters to erect a wooden sign at the church marking "the first corporate takeover attempt of a church in America."
Both Mellon and U.S. Steel have declined comment on the ministers' activities. U.S. Steel has said it has invested more than $6 billion in domestic steelmaking in the last decade. But both firms have said previously that they cannot invest in outdated steel-plant facilities that have little prospect of becoming competitive.
Honeywell said Roth's suppor- ters were willing to leave if corp- orate and government officials agreed to push for additional unemployment benefits and commitments to keep older steel plants operating.
"We have a lot of suffering in Pittsburgh," Honeywell said. "We are just looking for ways to help."