A progressive North Carolina church that has welcomed lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) parishioners had a beautiful response after being targeted by homophobic vandals.
Pastor Chris Ayers, of Wedgewood Church in Charlotte, North Carolina, said his heart dropped when he saw his church desecrated by vandals who spray painted the words “Fags are Pedos” on a church sign which proudly displayed the phrase “LGBT Equality.”
“As a pastor I thought about all of the stories of rejection I’ve heard [from LGBT people] over the years,” Ayers told ThinkProgress. “That vandalism was a symbol of all of that negative stuff.”
Instead of letting the vandals get away with their hateful act of vandalism, Ayers took the opportunity to make their church an even brighter beacon of hope for LGBT equality by repainting the door as a giant rainbow flag two days later.
“We didn’t want the focus to be on the damage to our church property, but on the damage that has been done to LGBT Christians through systematic abuse from so many — and, sadly, from so many denominations and Christians,” he said.
Several media outlets quickly covered the church’s story, and messages of support began to pour in. Ayers said most of the emails he received were celebratory, but many included stories of LGBT people who had complicated — or often, fraught — encounters to Christianity.
“The hard part has been the emails from LGBT people who have described their conflicted relationship with the church and with God,” he said.
Asked to explain the intent of the door-painting, Ayers said the congregation was hoping to send several inclusive messages at once.
“[The door] says that one’s sexual orientation and gender identity are not sins, but blessings from God,” he said. “It’s a celebration of the courage of LGBT people over the years to enable the progress that has been made recently. It’s about full equality of all. It’s a prayer for healing for people who have been discriminated against and abused by the church. And, finally, it’s an example of positive, non-hateful response to homophobic people.”