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2 Ohio Churches Debate Gay Issue With Billboards

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TOLEDO, Ohio – Two churches in Toledo are using ten billboards to express their opposing viewpoints over homosexuality.

Toledo’s Central United Methodist Church posted a roadside billboard in the Northeastern Ohio city in April that said, “Being Gay Is a Gift from God,” and that led the Rev. Tony Scott of the Church on Strayer to offer an opposing point of view, The Blade reported.

Scott’s megachurch in Maumee bought nine billboards last week that proclaim, “Being Gay is NOT a Gift from God- Forgiveness, Love, and Eternal Life Are.”

“I’m getting hate mail from lesbian and gay people, but my point is that I love them too much to let someone believe a lie,” Scott said. “I love this city too much to let a lie be sown.”

Lynn Braun, chairwoman of the Methodist church’s lead team, said she was not surprised that another church is advertising a different theological opinion.

“I’m somewhat surprised it didn’t happen earlier,” she said. “We felt it important to express our faith this way. I think people have the right to express their faith the way they see fit, and I think it helps the community to know where churches stand.”

Central United Methodist recently replaced its original billboard with another one that says, “Creating a Space for All God’s Children Regardless of Sexual Orientation or Gender Identity.”

Central, with about 40 members, belongs to a United Methodist group that supports gay rights and welcomes lesbian, bisexual, gay, and transgender persons.

The Rev. Bill Barnard, Central’s pastor, said the most surprising thing to him about the Church on Strayer’s billboards was the financial commitment.

“My first thought was, ‘Wow, nine billboards!”‘ Barnard said.

His second reaction, he said, was sadness.

Barnard said sexual identity is “part of the way we’re put together. It’s not a choice.”

Scott strongly disagrees.

“All behavior is a choice,” he said.

Dan Rutt, a member of Central United Methodist, said he believes his church’s billboards have achieved the goal of promoting public discussion and dialogue.

“I’m pleased to continue the dialogue,” he said. “But it would be nice to talk face to face instead of billboard to billboard.”

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