Auckland church St Matthew-in-the-City has raised enough money for at least two more controversial billboards by auctioning off its Christmas offering on TradeMe.
The old billboard, depicting a gay baby Jesus, sold to Wellington bidder 'Jon' for $860 this afternoon after the church asked its creative agency to list it on the auction site.
The 2.1m by 3m vinyl poster shows a baby Jesus lying in a manger with a rainbow halo, and the words "It's Christmas. Time for Jesus to come out."
The billboard gained worldwide attention when it was put up before Christmas last year.
The creative agency, Einstein's Hairdresser, conceptualises and designs all of St Matthew's billboards for free. But the church says there are significant costs involved in printing and erecting the large advertisements.
"Each billboard costs somewhere around $400 and we want to recoup some of those costs so we can carry on producing more billboards," says St Matthew's Reverend Glynn Cardy.
The TradeMe auction was viewed more than 30,000 times and garnered some spirited questions and comments, which the agency gave tongue-in-cheek responses to.
"What a gay auction. That picture would only look good in the lake of fire where it will burn for eternity - alongside some other 'gay' species of humans," wrote one commenter.
"I have a little cabin on the lake of fire. It's comforting to know it will be there for all time," the seller responded.
One bidder said they only wanted to buy the billboard to "put it through a shredder", but others were more supportive.
Rev Cardy says he is not concerned about what happens to the billboard after the sale, but has been watching the agency's response to the auction questions with interest.
"There are a number of questions that are quite vitriolic," he says. "Usually we will respond clearly and kindly as a church, but the agency are not part of the church and they've decided to respond to the vitriol with a bit of humour and it's quite refreshing.
"If I took that approach with that level of humour, people would take great offence and I don't think it would win hearts and minds. But I think sometimes when there's that level of vitriol, it's quite good to laugh about it. It sorts of takes the poison out of it."
Rev Cardy says St Matthew definitely has plans for more controversial billboards, but divine inspiration hasn't yet struck with the next idea.