A liberal church movement has launched a new campaign designed to ask people whether Jesus would discriminate against others.
The Metropolitan Community Church (MCC), which has congregations in more than 20 countries, is strongly committed to gay rights and support same-sex marriage.
Five of its churches in Texas have produced two posters, each claiming that stories in the Bible showed Jesus did not disapprove of homosexuality.
MCC claims that verses in Matthew 8:5-13 and Luke 7:1-10 refer to a centurion who is gay, saying the word used to describe his sick servant – pais – is an ancient Greek word for same-sex partner. In the story, Jesus cured the man, which, according to MCC, shows he did not discriminate against gays.
Another verse, Acts 8:26-40, sees Philip baptising a eunuch. MCC claims it is obvious the eunuch is gay.
A statement on the church’s website says: “Throughout the history of Christianity, many religious institutions have used their interpretation of the Bible to justify discrimination against women, ethnic minorities, and people with a different sexual orientation and/or identity issues.
“People of faith probably would not imagine that Jesus would discriminate, but no one has previously asked the question. Many still maintain discriminatory beliefs, not because they think it is right, but because they have never actually examined their own beliefs closely.
“This campaign asks the question and initiates the dialogue around the question: ‘Would Jesus discriminate?’ Our viewpoint is that discrimination was not a part of Jesus’ message, nor is it part of the best of any Christian church’s ministry. This campaign seeks to educate people through active dialogue and friendly discussion.”