Church's pro-gay billboard causes controversy

TOLEDO, Ohio The digital billboard is on Monroe Street near Central and was paid for by Central United Methodist Church. It reads, "We believe being gay is a gift from God." The pastor says he hopes the message will move the public toward tolerance.

The message is connected to a month-long sermon by Pastor Bill Barnard "We really believe that being gay is a gift from God, and it's not anything that anyone has to apologize for or be ashamed about," he says. "So that's how it came to be."

The billboard has been causing a buzz, especially in the Christian community. Most churches who teach biblical principles believe that homosexuality is a sin.

That includes Cedar Creek Church in Perrysburg. "We're not against homosexuals per say, but that behavior is sinful," Pastor Lee Powell says. "So certainly it is not a gift from God, and clearly the Bible spells it out."

For instance, Leviticus 18:22 states, "Thou shall not lie with mankind as with woman kind. It is an abomination."

Pastor Barnard shares his interpretation of the scripture. "Those passages most often are taken out of context unfortunately," he says. "They really have more to do with the people of God saying that the practices of other religions are not acceptable."

Although the pastors do not agree on what the Bible says about homosexuality, they both agree on love and acceptance.

"We love all people here at Cedar Creek," Pastor Powell says. "Everyone is welcome, but we're going to speak the truth in love. Adultery is wrong, greed is wrong, and homosexuality is a sin."

Pastor Barnard says most of his feedback has been positive and the fact people are talking about the billboard is a good thing. "It does bring awareness," he says. "It's another opportunity to be in conversation, and hopefully we can do a good job of listening to other folks, and maybe they'll listen in return."

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