Church launches pro gay TV ad

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

The United Church of Christ (UCC) will launch a gay inclusive TV commercial today, telling viewers “God doesn’t reject people, neither do we.”

“Ejector seat,” the UCC’s newest television commercial, will begin airing nationally on April 3, just in time for Easter.

Playing to church’s expressed concerns about alienation first emphasised in the UCC’s controversial “bouncer” ad that aired on cable networks in December 2004 and March 2005, “ejector seat” employs a bit of humour to underscore one of the campaign’s central themes, “God doesn’t reject people. Neither do we.”

During its three-week run this April on multiple cable networks, the $1.5 million advert means about 60 to 65 % of the U.S. population is expected to see the ad at least once. Fundraising is ongoing with hopes of collecting an additional $800,000 to keep the advert on the air through Mother’s Day.

While multiple cable networks have accepted “ejector seat,” all the major broadcast networks, CBS, NBC, ABC, Fox and WB, have thus far rejected it, claiming it’s a controversial, issue, advocacy ad.

Church leaders, meanwhile, disagree. The Rev. John H. Thomas, UCC general minister and president, says that if last year’s “bouncer ad” reminded us that God doesn’t need gatekeepers, then “ejector seat” reminds us that grace may come in the guise of the stranger, even someone who makes us uncomfortable.

“‘Ejector seat’ continues to challenge the church, all churches. to a more extravagant welcome,” Mr Thomas says.

“While celebrating the way the UCC has reached wide in that welcome, it also reminds us that many in our communities continue to feel left out and left alone.”

The 30-second commercial begins with a shot of an African-American mother trying to calm a crying baby. Sitting in a church pew, the mother fidgets anxiously, as she endures disapproving looks from fellow worshippers. Eventually, someone in the wings pushes an “ejector” button to rid the church of her, and her noisy baby. Into the air they go flying.

In similar fashion, a gay couple, an Arab-American, a person using a walker, among others, get “ejected.” Finally, when a homeless person wanders in and takes a seat, nervous parishioners – expecting she’ll get the boot for sure , scoot away from her.

The commercial ends with a mood shift, where shots of diverse, friendly people set the stage for the announcer’s invitation: “The United Church of Christ – no matter who you are, or where you are on life’s journey, you’re welcome here.”

“Throughout this campaign, the heart of our focus has been on the experience of the seeker,” says Ron Buford, director of The Stillspeaking Initiative. “The issue is not anyone’s actual intention to eject people. The issue is whether or not newcomers feel rejected. And we know they do and for a variety of reasons.”

In addition to television spots, the UCC is purchasing internet ads and blogads as a way to boost the church’s overall exposure during the three-week run.

Harkening back to the UCC’s “bouncer” ad debut 18 months, when CBS and NBC refused to run the ad, Thomas says Jesus’ extravagant welcome in the Gospels raised eyebrows and stirred controversy.

“This ad conveys through the laughter a similar message,” Thomas says. “Why shouldn’t we expect similar controversy?

Mr Buford says “the new ad enables the message to be funny but still impactful.”

Mr Thomas added, “No one will look at a church pew again in the same way!”

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