Newcastle’s LGBTI community and supporters will protest a decision by a local priest to put an offensive message about same-sex marriage on a church billboard the day before Valentine’s Day by peacefully attending a service at the church.

Wallsend Presbyterian Church’s website advises “all are welcome” on Sunday, February 26, so protest organiser Nick Kelly hopes to show the Reverend Ian Copland, who was responsible for the billboard, how many people he has offended by filling his pews to capacity.

Those attending are advised not to bring signs and to dress respectfully, and to not be noisy or disruptive during the silent protest.

“We will simply be there in our Sunday best,” Kelly said. “I imagine he will be aware we are not his usual churchgoers.

“We want to put a face to the community he blindly hates. Many of the people coming will be families with children and I would like him to see that aspect as well.

“Anyone who plans to chant or be disruptive will be asked to not come and if they do come, we will ask them to leave.”

Kelly has been trying to meet with Copland to explain opposition to the billboard, which read, ‘Even tradies know that you need both male and female joints to make a marriage’.

“Our main issue lies with why he chooses inflammatory signage rather than positive messages for his church,” Kelly said.

“We know that we cannot ask him to change his beliefs or his stance on gay marriage. What we are pushing for is a commitment from him to only produce positive messages that will not offend minority communities.”

Copland wrote back that the initial date Kelly suggested would have been inappropriate as an event at the church that day involved children, and he is yet to agree to another date.

“Given the number of gay clergy involved in the abuse of children in mainline churches it is hardly appropriate for members of the gay community to be present,” Copland claimed.

The Star Observer is not aware of any openly gay clergy in Australia being charged with child abuse.

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