Billboards sponsored by a megachurch in Ohio are proclaiming, “Being Gay is NOT a Gift from God,” in response to a roadside ad by another church that says homosexuality is from God.
Debating how Christians should view homosexuality are two churches in Toledo in northwest Ohio, The Church on Strayer and Central United Methodist Church.
Last week, the Rev. Tony Scott, senior pastor of the Strayer megachurch, installed nine billboards in the area with the message, “Being Gay is NOT a Gift from God – Forgiveness, Love, and Eternal Life Are.”
Four months ago, a billboard posted by the Methodist church said, “Being Gay Is a Gift from God.” But recently, the church replaced that ad with one saying, “Creating a Space for All God’s Children Regardless of Sexual Orientation or Gender Identity.”
Pastor Scott says it’s a lie. “In more than 30 years of counseling with people who have chosen the gay lifestyle, not one of them has ever said – ‘I am delighted to be gay,’” he says on his personal website. “No one has ever said to me, ‘My gay lifestyle is a gift from God.’ In every case, those engaged in this deviant lifestyle shared with me the pain of their choice, along with the shame and guilt they carry.”
Scott clarifies he doesn’t hate gays, lesbians, bisexuals or transgender persons. “My point is that I love them too much to let someone believe a lie,” Toledo-based newspaper The Blade quoted him as saying. “I love this city too much to let a lie be sown.”
The Rev. Bill Barnard, pastor of the 40-member Methodist church, said Pastor Scott’s message made him “sad.” Sexual identity is “part of the way we’re put together. It’s not a choice,” he was quoted as saying.
The Rev. Cheri Holdridge, former pastor of the Central United Methodist, claimed that gay people in Scott’s church must be unhappy because they were being told they are choosing to be gay. “The American Medical Association says they are not choosing to be gay, that it’s genetic,” he said, according to the Toledo Blade. “By the way, I have a list of happy gay Christians who would like to make an appointment with Tony Scott.”
However, Scott refers to Romans 1:18-32, saying, “God defines for us, what happens when we exchange His truth for a lie. Paul clearly outlines the unnatural effects of saying ‘No’ to God and thus embracing a life without Him.”
The verses 26 and 27 state: “Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.”
Scott’s church in Maumee, running for over three decades, has about 2,500 members.