Vaimoana Tapaleao is the New Zealand Herald's Pacific Affairs and People reporter.

Anger at biblical bed scene

What do you think of the billboard?
Email the Herald Newsdesk

The St Matthew-in-the-City Church billboard implies Mary is no longer a virgin. Photo / Supplied
The St Matthew-in-the-City Church billboard implies Mary is no longer a virgin. Photo / Supplied

Exactly where Jesus came from will be fiercely debated in at least one part of town this Christmas.

A billboard put up outside the St Matthew-in-the-City Anglican church in Auckland is set to stir more than a bit of Christmas spirit.

The image shows the virgin Mary and her betrothed, Joseph, in bed together.

Joseph is looking slightly to the side, obviously feeling dejected, as Mary's eyes are raised towards the heavens.

The slogan above them reads: "Poor Joseph. God was a hard act to follow."

The suggestion is that the two have just had sex.

But as the story in the Bible tells, Mary - a virgin from Nazareth - became pregnant after an angel appeared to her and said that the Holy Spirit would come over her and she would give birth to the son of God - Jesus.

The billboard, to be put up today, has already caused controversy among the church and wider community, with the Catholic Diocese in Auckland calling it "over the top".

But the makers of the billboard - St Matthew's church - said the move was to provoke thought and conversation about the true origins of Christmas.

The vicar of St Matthew's, Archdeacon Glynn Cardy, said: "Progressive Christianity is distinctive in that not only does it articulate a clear view, it is also interested in engaging with those who differ.

"Its vision is one of robust engagement," he said.

But the Auckland Catholic Diocese has called the image inappropriate, disrespectful and offensive to Christians.

Spokeswoman Lyndsay Freer said that for a church to put up a poster which implied the Virgin Mary and Joseph had just had sex was disrespectful to the church.

"Our Christian tradition of 2000 years is that Mary remains a virgin and that Jesus is the son of God, not Joseph," she said. "Such a poster is inappropriate and disrespectful."

Mrs Freer said the idea that the poster was made to provoke conversation amongst non-Christians was not a defence, but completely offensive.

- NZ Herald

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter


© Copyright 2017, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf03 at 01 Mar 2017 01:59:00 Processing Time: 444ms