|Rev. Bill Barnard, left, & church members.THE BLADE/AMY E. VOIGT|
“We’re expecting a vigorous conversation in this community in many forms,” said Dan Rutt, a member of Central United Methodist’s lead team.The digital billboard at Monroe Street and Central Avenue, in Toledo’s Colony area, began displaying the slogan early Monday, and Central’s congregation — which averages “a couple dozen people” on Sunday mornings, Mr. Rutt said — has made a one-month commitment at a cost of $1,500. The billboard campaign will continue as long as funds are available, he said.
The Rev. Bill Barnard, Central’s part-time pastor, said the billboard message will be linked to a four-week sermon series, and the overall campaign goal is “to make a leap beyond tolerance.”
“Members of the congregation have experienced places and times where being lesbian or gay was tolerated — kind of ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell, I know God forgives you,’” Barnard said. “We’re saying, ‘This is the way God created you. There’s nothing to forgive.’ “As for me, I've always believed that being gay is a gift from God. It's good to see at least one mainstream church understands that.