Jesus may have been progressive in more ways than one, according to a new billboard in Auckland.
The St Matthew in the City billboard, which is released each Christmas, this year depicts the baby Jesus in his crib surrounded by a halo of rainbow colours.
"It's Christmas," the billboard reads. "It's time for Jesus to come out."
Reverend Glynn Cardy said the sign was about trying to lift the humanity of Jesus.
"The fact is we don't know what his sexual orientation was."
While some conservative Christians might point to the more absolutist parts of the Old Testament as proof of the Messiah's sexual preferences, Cardy said that homosexuality was not even a word until the 19th century. Any mention of it would therefore have been a mistranslation.
More importantly the billboard was meant to ask whether Jesus' desires in the bedroom would make a difference for those of faith.
"Would it make a difference if he was gay? Would that change the picture for you? Would it mean what we revere about him changes?"
St Matthew's billboards have something of an international reputation. Last year its exposure through Facebook had a reach of over 21 million, brought 30,000 visits to St Matthew's website in a week and was featured internationally in blogs and internet news sites including the Huffington Post.
For some, however, any deviation from conservative Christian doctrine has been a step too far.
Last year a poster portraying the Virgin Mary holding a pregnancy test was ripped in half by a Whangarei man leading a Catholic Action Group protest.
Cardy said such actions also seemed to be part of the tradition.
"In the internet age though the image will be out there forever. They can do what they want to it."
- © Fairfax NZ News