A church in Napier which claims to have members recently healed of cancer has disgusted a local family by erecting a billboard stating "Jesus heals cancer" on its wall.
The sign was erected last week at the Equippers Church in Tamatea, and the church last night added to it a tally of six, the number of people it claims have been healed.
The billboard made the Condin family's "blood boil". Their son Toby, 3, is undergoing treatment for leukaemia.
Jody Condin and her husband Bevan live in Taradale along with Toby and older brother Sam, 6.
Mrs Condin found out about the sign after her father-in-law saw it posted on Twitter.
"I was disgusted, I was absolutely disgusted, and I felt quite sick," she said. "The sign shows no understanding and compassion for people who have journeyed through cancer and lost loved ones.
"To me, the billboard is saying 'join the church and you won't die of cancer', which is simply not true."
After hearing about it on Saturday night, she emailed the church with a complaint, but was yet to receive a response.
She described the sign as a "real kick in the teeth" and wanted it taken down.
"It is offensive to anyone who has gone through cancer, and to anyone who has lost loved ones to cancer, and it should be taken down.
"If the church and its members truly believe that Jesus heals cancer, then fine, that's their view and each to their own, however I'm disgusted at the way they've publicly displayed this view on a billboard for everyone to see."
Even family friends who attended church believed the sign had gone too far, she said.
Hawke's Bay Equippers executive pastor Earl Joe said the sign was not intended to cause offence, but the church believed Jesus could cure cancer, and so far had healed six people.
"As a church, the sign is a statement of our beliefs," he said. "We've seen, just recently, six people healed from cancer, and we believe there is something specific about that.
"All I can say is that it is what we believe ... Can Jesus heal cancer? Yes, we believe he can.
"We've actually seen healings in the church, yes cancer, absolutely."
Mr Joe said it was a statement of the church's beliefs, and a message of hope, but it was not advocating that people forgo medical treatment.
The sign was not misleading, he said, because the church's members sincerely believed that Jesus could "heal cancer, or the common cold, or the headache".
Mr Joe described Equippers as a "contemporary Christian church" and said the Napier branch had around 150 members.
Senior minister Lyle Penisula said with the exception of one person, he did not believe the sign was causing offence to the community, so saw no reason to remove it.
Hawke's Bay Cancer Society centre manager Kay Collins said the society would always recommend medical treatment.
"I would question what the intent of the billboard was, that would be my concern," she said.
Although some people with cancer may take strength from their religion, she said health professionals were the people with the necessary expertise to treat the disease.
"From our point of view, we would urge people to actually seek professional treatment and guidance ... People who have the skills to treat the person in the best possible way."
Mr and Mrs Condin's son, Toby, was 18 months into three and a half years of treatment for leukaemia. This involved chemotherapy at home, at the hospital, as well as a trip to Auckland's Starship Hospital once every three months.
He had acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, which was the most common type of children's leukaemia and the most successfully treated, and he was fortunate to be doing well, Mrs Condin said.By Corey Charlton