A controversial church billboard in New Zealand has been unveiled, which raises the question of whether or not Jesus might have been gay.

St-Matthew-in-the-City church in Auckland, unveiled this year’s Christmas billboard, which features a depiction of baby Jesus in a crib, with a rainbow-coloured halo surrounding his head, reported Stuff.nz.

The billboard reads: “It’s Christmas,” followed by, “time for Jesus to come out.”

In a statement on its website, St Matthew clergy Reverend Glynn Cardy and Reverend Clay Nelson said the sign was about lifting the humanity of Jesus. The statement read: “This year we invited discussion and debate on the sexual orientation of Jesus”.

Clay Nelson said the billboard representented a chance to raise a dialogue on Jesus as a fully-formed adult, who may have experienced a range of character possibilities, and sexuality. He said:

“Some scholars have tried to make the case that he might have been gay… but it is all conjecture. Maybe gay, maybe not. Does it matter?”

Reverend Cardy questioned what Jesus would say about the current debate on equal marriage in New Zealand.

He said: “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”.

The church, which advertises itself as “a church not quite like any other”, has been known in the past for raising controversy, as last year’s billboard depicted the Virgin Mary holding a pregnancy test.

The exposure of last year’s billboard on Facebook, gave the church a reach of over 21 million people, and saw 30,000 visits to its website in one week, as well as being featured online, in newspapers, TV news, and radio.

Such images have proven too controversial for some, however, and last year, a man leading a Catholic Action Group protest tore in half the Virgin Mary poster. Reverend Cardy seemed accustomed to such acts however, and he said:

“In the internet age though the image will be out there forever. They can do what they want to it.”