Former BJU president Bob Jones III issued a public apology Saturday for anti-gay comments he made in 1980, in which he called for homosexuals to be stoned.

"I take personal ownership for this inflammatory rhetoric," Jones said in a statement. "This reckless statement was made in the heat of a political controversy 35 years ago."

His statement comes on the heels of the university receiving a 2,000-signature petition earlier this week asking for an apology.

BJUnity, which offers support for past and present lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender BJU students, mailed the petition on Wednesday, Jeffrey Hoffman, the executive director, said.

BJU Chancellor Jones was president of the university in 1980 when he told the Associated Press, "It would not be a bad idea to bring the swift justice today that was brought in Israel's day against murder and rape and homosexuality. I guarantee it would solve the problem post-haste if homosexuals were stoned, if murderers were immediately killed as the Bible commands."

Jones made the comment while attending a meeting at the White House with other fundamentalist leaders to deliver a petition to protest extending the protections of the Civil Rights Act to homosexuals.

On Saturday, Jones called those comments "antithetical to my theology and my 50 years of preaching a redeeming Christ."

"Upon now reading these long-forgotten words, they seem to me as words belonging to a total stranger — were my name not attached," he said.

"I cannot erase them, but wish I could, because they do not represent the belief of my heart or the content of my preaching. Neither before, nor since, that event in 1980 have I ever advocated the stoning of sinners."

He added: "I apologize for the reflection those remarks bring upon Jesus Christ, Whom I love; Bob Jones University, which I have loved and served; and my own personal testimony."