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Church Sign Prompts Protest, Opens Dialogue

Wilmington, NC – The sign in front of Seagate Community Chapel has displayed many different messages, but the message this past week caused a protest on Sunday. WHQR's Sara Wood spoke with both the Seagate community and the community protesting the sign's message.

Let's start with the sign. I'll let Pastor David Heuring of Seagate Community Chapel tell you exactly what it said:

"God loves gays, but he hates a perverse lifestyle. And it gave the Romans 1 scripture, and then it said, turn or burn."

"And I think that the 'Turn or burn' part of that message was really offensive, it hurt a lot of different people, and for the community, they're outraged that it was on that sign."

That's TR Nunley, President of Wilmington Pride. It's an organization that defends the rights of the gay community. The group is still fairly new and they saw the sign as an opportunity speak out as a group, even though Heuring explains that the sign's message was not intended to be inflammatory, but instead warnings taken directly from the Bible.

"You cannot claim to be a loving Christian if you hold back a warning and let someone parish as a result."

TR Nunley: "This is just another form of bullying in a way, it's religious bullying. And we're not going to stand for it. Not here, not Wilmington, not now."

So Wilmington Pride joined together with several other community members to protest on Sunday, right around the time of Seagate's service. By 11:30 a.m. there were about 100 protestors standing on Oleander Drive across the street from Seagate, holding signs, wearing t-shirts with pro-gay messages. Cars honked at them in support. And then around 12 p.m.,

"The doors opened up at the church. And we didn't know what to expect. You know, we had told our, protestors that if anything offensive was said to us that they were not to say anything back to them."

It was really hot on Sunday, so Heuring and the congregation walked across the street and handed out cold drinks to the protestors. And then they started to politely talk to each other.

"I think that the large consensus was that churches have treated the entire gay community as a lower class group of people. Which they're not. You know, we listened to what was said and what was hurtful, and as a result you know, we're going to pray diligently about how we move forward. That doesn't change your message."

Later that day, someone not affiliated with the protestors took a hammer to the sign and damaged it. Heuring made very clear to me that the church isn't blaming the protestors. In fact, the two groups have continued a dialogue through Facebook. I asked Heuring if the protest on Sunday will change future messages on Seagate's sign and he says no, absolutely not.

"The whole purpose behind it, every message that goes up on that sign is the love. We want to get every message and every warning to everybody so that nobody goes off the bridge."

TR Nunley: "You know, they're gonna keep saying that they're trying to help us, they're trying to steer us towards faith. We're very much on the path. It's just that their interpretation of the Bible is different from our interpretation of the Bible."

There's no knowing if change will come from all of this. But there is still a chance. Sara Wood, WHQR News.

Do you have insight or expertise on this topic? If so, we'd like to hear from you. Please email the WHQR News Team.