Church posts billboard apology for Amendment One

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - A California church says "sorry" to people in North Carolina after the state passed Amendment One, recognizing marriage as only between a man and a woman.

The billboard, sponsored by the Missiongathering Christian Church in San Diego, appeared for the first time on Wednesday.

The church apologizes for what it calls "the narrow-minded, judgmental, deceptive, manipulative actions of those who denied rights and equality to so many in the Name of God."

The billboard can be seen on Billy Graham Parkway at the intersection of Wilkinson Boulevard, coming from Interstate 85 in Charlotte.

Voters in North Carolina passed Amendment One during the May primary by a large margin, but voters in Mecklenburg County voted to oppose the amendment.

Alex Roller, the church's Spiritual Formation Pastor, says the goal in putting out the message of this apology was to say to the LGBT community of North Carolina and like-minded straight allies that there are people across the country that stand in support of them.

"Know that you're not alone in this journey for the fight for marriage equality," he said. "And to say if you're an LGBT person of faith that there is a place for you; you don't have to abandon your faith to live who you are as a person."

This isn't the first time the church has taken a stance on the Christian faith and its views on homosexuality.

"We posted two billboards in San Diego in response to Proposition 8 in 2008, as a way to say that some Christians don't speak for all Christians," Roller said. "There are progressive Christians who believe in the Bible and Jesus but still support marriage equality and rights for the LGBT population."

He says the church of 300 received a lot of praise in 2008 for it's Prop 8 billboards, getting thousands of emails, phone calls and postcards thanking them.

But the billboard wasn't without it's share of criticism of well. The church is prepared to face more criticism and negative feedback in North Carolina than it did over the California billboards in 2008.

"We certainly have received a lot of negative and angry emails already," Roller said. "We are certainly all entitled to our opinions and perspectives."

The billboard cost the church $3,000 for a month period. The location was not accidental.

Before the vote on Amendment One, Reverend Billy Graham urged voters in North Carolina to support the proposed amendment.

"Watching the moral decline of our country causes me great concern," Rev. Graham said in an email to WBTV. "I believe the home and marriage is the foundation of our society and must be protected."

The 93-year-old Graham said the Bible is clear in that God's definition of marriage is between a man and a woman.

"I never thought we would have to debate the definition of marriage," Reverend Graham continued.

Roller says the billboard location was also picked because of the ability to see the billboard.

"It's right outside the airport, and it's at the intersection of Billy Graham Parkway and I-74," he said. "And because of the number of words on the billboard, we wanted it to be at a place that was prominent, but where people driving by would either be slowing down or could read the entire text while continuing."

So why would a church from California get involved in politics of North Carolina?

"North Carolina kind of came to us. When Amendment One passed, images of the Prop 8 billboard began to resurface online. Human Rights Campaign of North Carolina posted the image, and we started getting phone calls and emails from across the country and even from Canada and the UK, thanking us for the message," Roller said.

"And we thought, what if we were able to continue the message we put out there after Prop 8, and stand in solidarity with LGBT people of North Carolina and straight allies, to say there are people of faith who love and support this community and stand in solidarity with this community and we just want them to know our hearts are with you."

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