Kiwi church takes down risque Joseph and Mary billboard

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Wellington, Dec 19 (ANI): The Auckland Anglican church involved in the controversial ad showing Jesus' parents, Joseph and Mary in bed after sex, has decided to take the billboard down after it was attacked for a third time.

St Matthew-in-the-City vicar Archdeacon Glynn Cardy said he was worried that people could be injured if there were any further attacks on the picture, the last involving an elderly woman slashing it with a knife.

The billboard had been put up on December 17, and six hours later it was found covered in paint, and then it disappeared overnight.

A duplicate was put into place, but it ended up being slashed on December 18 evening.

The parish had earlier defended the billboard, even though the Bishop of Auckland, John Paterson, had slammed it as "insensitive" and said he was disappointed at St Matthew's decision to continue with the display.

As the story spread around the world and church staff were interviewed on American TV stations, a defiant Archdeacon Cardy still defended the ad.

"I know what the bishop said. But at this stage we have no plans to take it down," the New Zealand Herald News quoted him as saying.

Archdeacon Cardy said St Matthew's had continued to receive hundreds of emails and phone calls about the billboard, and that two-thirds had been supportive.

"Obviously we can't keep replacing it and there may come a time when we will have to take it down if the vandalism continues," he said.

"But by then people would have known about it, laughed at it or even be offended by it and the billboard would have served its purpose," he added.

Bishop Paterson said the billboard was insensitive and disrespectful.

"Discussion of theological perspectives is encouraged in a respectful way, but this approach is insensitive to communities across the Anglican Church as well as other denominations," he said.

The bishop said there were a "multitude of issues" he would rather focus on this Christmas than the billboard.

"The season and story of Christmas is one that celebrates the life that is brought by Christ and that is the spirit of Christmas that I seek," he added. (ANI)

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