An LGBTI-inclusive priest had a very special message for anti-gay rugby star Israel Folau.
It all started when Folau gave a speech on Monday (17 June) saying the devil was behind allowing young people to ‘change their gender’. He also condemned homosexuality as a ‘sin’ and said same-sex marriage is wrong.
Now, Father Rod Bower — who is the Rector of Gosford, Australia — said it is Folau who is wrong.
He put up a sign outside the Gosford Anglican Church with the message: ‘LGBT friends, Folau is wrong. Don’t listen to him.’
He tweeted a photo of the sign, as well as an explanation on why he felt the ‘responsibility to oppose what [Folau] says’.
— Fr Rod Bower (@FrBower) June 17, 2019
The tweet got a huge positive reaction online, with over 5,000 likes and 1,000 retweets.
‘Thank you, Father Bower,’ one person tweeted.
Another wrote: ‘Right on, Father.’
Then another tweeted: ‘Well said mate. It’s people like [Israel Folau] that turns many people like me away from religion.’
It’s not the first time Father Rod Bower has expressed pro-LGBTI views in his church sign. It has previously read: ‘Dear Christians, some people are gay — get over it. Love, God’, as well as ‘LGBTQI people, please forgive us’.
Israel Folau: Anti-LGBTI views
The video this week (17 June) showed Folau speaking at the Truth of Jesus Christ Church in Kenthurst, New South Wales.
‘They are allowing young kids in primary school, to be able to have the permission to change their gender if they want, by taking away the permission of their parents,’ Folau said in the sermon.
‘Now they’re trying to take control as a government to make those decisions for young kids, basically that are 16 years old or younger, they don’t even know what they’re doing … this is what the devil’s trying to do to instill into this government, into this world, into society, and it’s slowly happening.
‘The sad thing is why a lot of people out there that are non-Christians say bad things about the church, is because a lot of the churches allow those things to happen,’ he added.
‘They say that a man and a man should be able to be married and there is nothing wrong with it. This buys into the theme of pleasing man rather than pleasing God and standing up for the truth.’
In the video, Folau goes on to say that true believers of Christ ‘profess him wherever we go’. He also denounced modern ‘westernized’ churches.
‘Are we too scared because we might be cast out by our workplace or cast out of somewhere because we’re not liked or loved by those around us and don’t believe the same thing we do?’ he asked.
‘You might be the only born-again Christian in that workplace, you might feel a bit awkward with your co-workers because they are in the world and you’re not. We should feel blessed … because God has called us.’
History of homophobia
Folau has been sharply condemned for promoting homophobic sentiments on social media in the past.
In April, Folau also tweeted a photo of a news story about Tasmania passing historic new gender laws whereby recording gender markers on birth certificates will be optional. In the tweet alongside the photo, the rugby star wrote: ‘The devil has blinded so many people in this world, REPENT and turn away from your evil ways. Turn to Jesus Christ who will set you free.’
In an Instagram post from April 2019, Folau wrote that God’s plan for gay people is: ‘HELL. Unless they repent of their sins and turn to God.’
Following his recent posts, governing body Rugby Australia tore up Folau’s $5 million contract last month. He has also lost sponsorship deals because of the social media posts.
Folau has since begun legal proceedings with the Fair Work Commission against Rugby Australia. He is seeking up to $10 million in damages, the Guardian reports.
Despite the backlash, Folau has refused to back down and said he was simply following his sincerely held Christian beliefs.
Though raised a Mormon, Folau has been an active member of the World Assemblies of God Fellowship since 2011, a global coalition of churches with around 70 million members.