The Westboro Baptists have a new home in Memphis.
And it’s not where you think it is.
The church, which has long been a symbol of hatred for gay people, has been forced to relocate its worship service and church building, and it’s now officially called the “Memphis Bible Church.”
The congregation, which started as a local church in 1968, has a following of around 150,000 and has had a large presence in the city’s downtown area since the 1960s.
In 2014, the church made headlines for refusing to perform at a gay pride parade in Memphis because it claimed to be a hate group.
“We’ve never done that in the history of the church,” Pastor Mark Driscoll, a church member, told The Associated Press at the time.
“It’s never happened before.”
But as the church has been gaining more attention in recent years, its presence in Memphis has been increasing.
Now, more than 60 years after its founding, the congregation is a regular presence at the city and has begun hosting events and rallies.
It has also taken a more visible role in politics.
In 2016, the Westphalian Church of God in Christ was banned by a Tennessee state legislator from holding its annual spring conference in the state’s capital.
But the church, a branch of the Roman Catholic church, continues to hold events in the area.
Its members have also taken up the cause of transgender rights and the LGBT community.
The congregation has called on its members to boycott McDonald’s after it was discovered to be one of the companies behind a campaign that promoted a new product.
It also recently joined with other religious groups to call for the repeal of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which was passed by the House of Representatives in 1996 and signed into law by President Bill Clinton.
“What we are trying to do is stop the discrimination that goes on in our communities,” said Pastor Driscotll, a native of St. Louis who also holds a master’s degree in theology.
“If we can just make a stand and say we are against it, that would be a great thing.”
The group’s current president, Jeffry M. Zellner, said he’s not sure what to make of the congregation’s actions.
“I can’t say it’s an issue that we take seriously,” he said.
“There’s a lot of people out there that do.
It’s just one that we’re trying to be very careful about.
It makes us look like a hate-filled group that’s trying to make an issue out of something that is really very much an issue.”
Pastor Zellson said the church was approached by a local LGBT organization after receiving a complaint about its presence and the church’s position.
“At first we were not even aware of it,” he recalled.
We were not really expecting it.” “
They contacted us and they were able to find us a home.
We were not really expecting it.”
The church has also faced criticism for its opposition to LGBT rights and its refusal to allow people of the same gender to serve.
Zeller said he was shocked by the response.
“For us to be able to have a conversation with someone that is against this is a very big step,” he added.
“This is not about being gay.
It is about being a Christian.”
He said the decision to move the church came after he heard that the city of Memphis had recently passed a new law allowing transgender individuals to use bathrooms that match their gender identity.
“So I think that was a pretty big shock to us,” Zellssen said.
He said he had no plans to move any time soon, although he would be happy to have the congregation relocate in the future.
“The Westphalia Bible Church is an institution that has a history that stretches back to the beginning of time,” Zeller added.
He hopes that the church will be able remain in Memphis, where it will be a welcome addition to the community.
“Memphias history is not one of discrimination.
It was an era of opportunity for people of all walks of life,” he told ABC News.
“To have a church that has stood for that for over 70 years is something that we will be proud of.”
For the Westcott, it was a dream come true.
“A dream cometrue for me,” she said.
The Associated News’ Lauren Dusch contributed to this report.