A California church led by a gay pastor has sponsored a billboard erected in North Carolina, apologizing to the gay community about that state's recent constitutional ban on gay marriage and civil unions.
The billboard, sponsored by Missiongathering Christian Church in San Diego, Calif., and erected on Billy Graham Parkway in Charlotte, N.C., reads: "Missiongathering Christian Church is sorry for the narrow-minded, judgmental, deceptive, manipulative actions of those who denied rights & equality to so many in the name of God."
"The statement we are making is big and its bold. It is a message we are passionate about sharing," the church says on its Facebook page called, "Our Hearts Are With You."
Alex Roller, Spiritual Formation pastor of Missiongathering Christian Church, was identified as a homosexual in a recent article by examiner.com.
Rich McCullen, senior minister of MissionGathering, told The Huffington Post that the root motivation behind the banner was "to say [that] some Christians don't speak for ALL Christians, and to tell the LGBT community of North Carolina and their straight allies that there is a community of faith across the country, and many in between, that stand in solidarity in saying that ALL people are created equal in the eyes of God, that there are faith communities that accept and support ALL people, and that this fight is not over."
The church says the response that has been directed at MissionGathering has been positive, whereas the comments on the Facebook pages and websites of news stories have been "vastly negative."
McCullen says his church might consider buying more billboards in other states where a ban on gay marriage is being proposed. "The local and global church should stand up for same-sex equality," he was quoted as saying. "It's not a social issue; it is a human issue. We must speak out for those who are oppressed and marginalized, just as Jesus did throughout His life and ministry."
After the passing of the ban in North Carolina, known as Amendment 1, through a vote on May 8, a photo of the church's original billboard put up in 2008 in San Diego in response to the passing of a similar ban in California re-surfaced online and went viral, according to the Facebook page. "People from all over the country (and even other countries) saw the photo and contacted us 'thanking' us for putting up the billboard. When we started returning people's emails and phone calls to tell them 'thanks, but that picture was taken four years ago,' we began asking the question, what if we did it again?"
The church believes their message is "so important that we are willing to take crazy risks and go to extreme measures to challenge some of the current 'Christian' messages that are out there."
"We understand that one of the risks of putting this message out there like this is that we might alienate our Christian brothers and sisters," MissionGathering says on the Facebook page. "We might be viewed as being divisive, causing further division in the Body of Christ. However, we feel it is more important that we love the unloved and defend the discriminated. If, in the process, we ruffle the feathers of fellow Christians, perhaps that is an okay price to pay. Perhaps those feathers need a little ruffling."
Amid the ongoing debate on gay marriage, many Christian leaders have called on the Christian community to reach out to homosexuals with compassion and love but without compromising the biblical stance that homosexuality is a sin.
"There is a saying in the South that 'we just love people to death,'" said Dan Wilson of Harvest USA in an earlier interview with The Christian Post. "But as Christians, we need to love them to life instead of loving them to death. Most people, including pastors and church leaders, are afraid to talk to some about their sin because they feel guilty about their own lives. We simply need to all agree that we're all sinners and that the reason Jesus died on the cross is for our sins."