A new billboard outside of a church in New Zealand is drawing criticism from the local community and the wider Christian population by inferring that the son of God was homosexual. The billboard states that its "time for Jesus to come out."
The church, St. Matthew-in-the-City in Auckland, is described on their home page as a progressive Anglican church and posted the advertisement as a way to start a new debate. Their argument is that Jesus might have been gay- a dubious claim that has been met with stern opposition.
Notable theologians have repeatedly charged that the Bible is clear over which unions were acceptable in the eyes of Jesus, though.
"It is simply undeniable that Jesus assumed heterosexual marriage as God's design and plan … Jesus sees all sexual activity outside this covenant as sinful," Daniel Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, previously stated during a theological conference.
The controversial poster reads "It's Christmas. Time for Jesus to come out," and includes a picture of a baby Jesus that has his head surrounded by a halo containing the colors of the rainbow.
While many locals are upset over such an objectionable depiction, the leaders of the church are attempting to explain the criticism under the semblance of scholarly debate.
"This year we invited discussion and debate on the sexual orientation of Jesus … some scholars have tried to make the case that he might have been gay," Nelson explained on the Church's website.
Rev. Glynn Cardy and Rev. Clay Nelson are the two charged with introducing their faithful followers to the questionable idea, but they maintain that posting the picture was not in poor taste; it was a way to capture the attention of passersby while trying to expose the humanity of Jesus, they claim.
Nelson admitted, however, that the current debates are grounded in little but conjecture, and that Jesus' gospel remains unchanged, regardless of their discussion.
In all of Jesus' teaching, he endorsed caring for the poor and destitute while cautioning the faithful of being misled with worldly possessions, Cardy said. They also claim that Jesus never taught about sexuality, despite the repeated endorsements of marriage in the Bible.
"There is almost nothing in the record of his teachings about sexuality while there is plenty about the perils of being rich. Certainly he always supported the marginalized in society," Cardy said.
Both Nelson and Cardy realize that their offensive depiction of Jesus has caused controversy, but still maintain that they didn't mean to denigrate Christ; instead they were hoping to help others reconcile their faith with their various lifestyles. That may not be possible, however.
Robert J. Gagnon, professor at a Pittsburgh Seminary, explained to The Christian Post in a previous interview that the Bible offers some very clear directions on the origins and duties of marriage, citing Mark 10:2-9, Genesis 1:27 and Gen 2:24.
"If Jesus regarded a male-female prerequisite as foundational for formulating other principles in sexual ethics (like prohibitions of polygamy and a revolving door of divorce and remarriage), he obviously was strongly opposed to a behavior that directly called into question that very prerequisite (homosexual practices)," the Pittsburgh Seminary theologian contended.
This is not the first time Cardy and Nelson have received negative attention for their provocative posters. Last year, they put up a poster showing the Virgin Mary in shock over the results of a pregnancy test. It was unceremoniously ripped down not long afterwards..