(Photo: Bill Campbell)
A Tennessee pastor says he didn't intend to start a controversy when he put a message on his church's marquee last weekend that said, "Jesus had two dads and he turned out just fine."
Many people have interpreted the message, which refers to God and Joseph, to be a statement about gay and lesbian parents. But Bill Campbell, pastor of St. John's United Methodist Church in Nashville, told CP that wasn't his intention.
"For me it was a very simple statement affirming families and children who are in situations where they have multiple parents or there's a divorce or a death, where there's family strain, that type of thing, to affirm that they are daughters and sons of God, and using the example of Jesus in that regard," he said.
Campbell says he saw a sign with the same message on the Internet and decided to put it up on the St. John's marquee at the end of a church yard sale on Saturday. By Monday he was giving interviews to local news media.
Despite Campbell's intentions, the sign has sparked a debate among some social media users.
"As a gay and, frankly, former-Christian man... thank you for standing up for what love, and love of family, truly means," said one person, who also indicated he and his partner were in the process of adopting a child, on St. John's Facebook page.
"Now if you're teaching that Yeshua loves all people then yes he does," stated another Facebook user. "However if you read the Word of God it clearly states that homosexuality is a sin. Now you can be like other churches and pick out which scriptures you want to use and believe but I believe in the Whole Word not just bits and pieces."
The UMC does not ordain "self-avowed practicing homosexuals" and forbids its elders from officiate same-sex marriages, though these issues have been debated in the denomination for years. The denomination has affirmed, however, that it will minister to all people and that its churches should "not to reject or condemn lesbian and gay members and friends."
Campbell says he is "disturbed" by how some people have reacted to the sign, and says many people are making assumptions and are unwilling to ask any questions. People today take sides on an issue, he says, and are focused more on tearing each other down than they are in engaging in a reasonable dialogue.
"It's provoked some conversation and that's, I think, part of the best outcome, is that we began to have some conversation and learn from a different perspective. Whether we agree or disagree is not the issue," he said.