Players: Reverend Bill Barnard, Pastor of the Toledo Central United Methodist Church; Reverend Tony Scott, senior pastor of the Church on Strayer in Maumee, Ohio
The Opening Serve: In April, the Toledo Central United Methodist Church posted "Being Gay is a Gift from God" on a roadside billboard. This week a rival church, the Church on Strayer, was moved to spell a different message. The megachurch purchased nine billboards that say, "Being Gay is NOT a Gift from God--Forgiveness, Love & Eternal Life are." Reverend Tony Scott, senior pastor of the Church on Strayer told the Toledo Blade, "I love everyone. There's nothing on that billboard about hate... 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. I love this city too much to let a lie be sown."
The Return Volley: The nine billboards caught the attention of Reverend Bill Barnard, pastor of Central United Methodist. "My first thought was, 'Wow, nine billboards! That's quite an investment,' " said Mr. Barnard. "We just have one, and that's an investment for us. They must be really serious about this." The rival Reverend Scott is serious. "Being gay is not a gift from God," he wrote on his church's blog (the church's blog is, in fact, Scott's own website). "In more than 30 years of counseling with people who have chosen the gay lifestyle, not one of them has ever said – 'I am delighted to be gay.' No one has ever said to me, 'My gay lifestyle is a gift from God.' In every case, those engaged in this deviant lifestyle shared with me the pain of their choice, along with the shame and guilt they carry." Barnard responded in the Blade. "The American Medical Association says they're not choosing to be gay, that it's genetic," said Barnard. "We have a difference of opinion on some things. By the way, I have a list of happy gay Christians who would like to make an appointment with Tony Scott."