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The priest whose blunt billboards have gone global

Gosford Anglican Church billboard reads: "R U OK?"Symbol copyright
ROD BOWER

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The church’s billboard advocating for psychological well being consciousness

On a regular Sunday, Father Rod Bower attracts about 200 other folks to his church provider in a coastal the city in Australia.

However on-line, his messages are regularly considered via thousands and thousands.

For years, he has been posting provocative statements on a roadside billboard out of doors his Gosford Anglican Church in New South Wales.

Spelled out in 30cm (12in) block letters, his critiques – in most cases on modern problems – have won world consideration on social media.

One in all his maximum shared feedback adopted the Parkland, Florida faculty taking pictures in February, when he wrote: “When will they love their children greater than their weapons”.

His Fb submit at the billboard used to be considered via greater than 3 million other folks, and collected via US information shops.

He has greater than 70,000 fans on social media and “the next engagement price than the high minister”, he says.

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ROD BOWER

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Father Rod Bower has transform well-known for his provocative billboards

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Fr Bower has served on the church, 75km (50 miles) north of Sydney, for almost 20 years. He wrote his first trademark billboard handiest in 2013, after appearing death rites for a homosexual guy.

The priest later realized that the person’s spouse have been saved away as a result of his circle of relatives feared offending the church.

“I used to be so disturbed via the tradition that may have led other folks to imagine that, that after I were given again to the church I went and post that signal,” Fr Bower advised the BBC.

It learn: “Expensive Christians, some ppl are homosexual, recover from it, love God”.

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ROD BOWER

Fr Bower estimates that it used to be observed via as many as 50 million other folks on social media. It spurred him to jot down posts on different subjects.

“We have now this device out the entrance that once mixed with social media is helping do what the Christian church must be doing, and that’s making a extra simply society,” he says.

“That’s the gospel, that is what Jesus used to be on about – difficult injustice, lifting up the deficient, together with the excluded.”

Some messages have known as for better motion on local weather exchange, or presented sympathy after tragedies in a foreign country.

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ROD BOWER

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A message following the Manchester Area assault remaining 12 months

However a lot of his critiques focal point on Australian problems, such because the country’s debatable insurance policies on asylum seekers who arrive via boat.

Australia does no longer asylum seekers who arrive via boat keep within the nation. It turns again vessels at sea when it deems such motion is protected, and ship asylum seekers to offshore processing centres.

Canberra defends each insurance policies as a deterrence methods that save lives at sea, however others, comparable to Fr Bower, argue they’re damaging.

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ROD BOWER

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ROD BOWER

One in all his goals, Fr Bower says, is to wreck a belief of the Anglican Church as a only conservative establishment.

However he recognizes that his activism isn’t wholly embraced via some in his congregation, or amongst Anglicans extra extensively.

“For sure one of the most extra conservative people had been deeply uncomfortable [when I first started] and a few nonetheless are, however I at all times attempt to give an explanation for – as a Bible-believing Christian – that those are the lessons of Jesus,” he says.

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ROD BOWER

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Fr Bower quoted Bible verse Isaiah 60:2 after Donald Trump received america election in 2016

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ROD BOWER

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However no longer all indicators are politic-heavy, like this try to attract in new fans throughout the PokemonGo craze

He estimates that he has misplaced a handful of worshippers as a result of his critiques, however “a perfect many extra have come” as a result of they “resonate with the message”.

He hasn’t ever been requested via his church superiors to take away a message, Fr Bower provides. However an assistant archbishop remaining 12 months did criticise a billboard singling out a central authority minister, which he mentioned used to be “an overly non-public slur”.

He has drawn vocal critics. One conservative newspaper columnist, Tim Blair, described him as a “hectoring Anglican” with a “holy message board of sanctimony”.

In 2016, right-wing protesters stormed his church throughout a Sunday mass, dressed in mock Muslim outfits and shouting anti-Islamic slogans. Fr Bower had in the past presented messages of strengthen for the Muslim group.

However he says he has handiest been emboldened via such incidents.

“When clergymen talk out in strengthen of those that are out of doors what’s looked as if it would be their sphere of self-interest, that voice is perceived as having a huge quantity of integrity,” he says.

“And other folks deep down resonate with integrity.”

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