SAN DIEGO - At St. John The Evangelist's Sunday night service, the pews were packed to hear why their pastoral associate was resigning.
Aaron Bianco was asked to come to St. John August of 2016. His work for the San Diego church: organizing events, budgets and other behind the scenes tasks. His goal, to build up a more inclusive church.
Bianco has been married to his husband for 10 years last month, and once he started at St. John, so did the attacks.
"They've threatened me from shooting me down across the street, to throwing Molotov cocktails into the church," Bianco said.
The hate groups sent emails equating him to a pedophile and threatening him. His tires were slashed, fire thrown at the church doors, the office broken into and spray painted with a gay slur.
"They're no different from organized crime or a terrorist group. They will continue until they get their way," Bianco said their goal was to force him out.
"I'm convinced that the gospel is on my side, and they can spew their hate, but I'm not going to allow them to make me hate them back," Bianco said.
Last week his personal information including photos of his family and his home address was published on a conservative Catholic website. Bianco said he saw someone in their yard in the middle of the night watching the house.
Since the threats, he's added security to his home and filed police reports.
He realized it was all too much, "My life and those of my family are more important than any job."
Bianco addressed the packed church at Sunday night's mass, "when hate rages like a fire, love rains down, and I feel it from so many of you in this room."
Bianco said he believes there is more good in the world than bad, explaining he's received encouraging notes from people all over the world.
After his speech, the church erupted, "It made me so happy that everybody stood there and clapped for the longest ovation I've ever heard in a church in my life. Letting him know that we love you, we care about you and you're going to be missed," Parishioner Berena Peña said.
She attended the church a decade prior and stopped coming because she didn't feel welcome as a lesbian. Her friend convinced her to try again two years ago. She said she could feel the difference, and it woke her up.
Bianco said this is not the end, and he will keep fighting. He said he will still attend church, hopes these groups stop their attacks and instead come and talk with him.