Tarrant County Church leaders want people to know violent homophobic messages shared by Jonathan Shelley and other leaders of Stedfast Baptist Church in Watauga do not reflect the views of the Tarrant County Christian community.
While area churches have different views on the LGBTQ community, all church leaders who spoke with the Star-Telegram said Stedfast leaders’ calls for LGBTQ people to be arrested, charged with a crime and executed do not reflect the teachings of Christ in the Bible.
“It’s hateful and it could hurt LGBTQ people and cause others to become violent,” said Jorene Taylor Swift, pastor of Celebration Community Church in Fort Worth.
Celebration Community Church, which says it is the first LGBT-affirming church in Fort Worthwas founded on the idea that anyone, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, should feel like they have a place to go and worship, Swift said.
She said she has seen the faith community in Fort Worth and Tarrant County accepting and affirming LGBTQ people in the past 21 years she has served as a minister here and said hate messages are harmful to LGBTQ people. people who have not yet seen love the churches in the area offer them.
“Look at the teenagers reading these words, how do they feel?” Swift asked. “What do they think of God? What do they think of the church? I think they probably don’t feel like there’s room for anyone who identifies as LGBTQ.
Tarrant County church leaders told the Star-Telegram that messages calling for the death of anyone, including the LGBTQ community, are unacceptable.
“I find it appallingsaid Tom Plumbley, Chief Minister of Fort Worth’s First Christian Church. “Anyone calling for the murder of other people is simply irrelevant.”
Plumbley said not everyone in his church fully agrees on doctrine regarding sin or lack thereof in the LGBTQ community, but no one in the congregation would ever advocate killing people for their sexual orientation or their gender expression.
“The church I belong to and the church I see described in the New Testament is very different from anything that would lead to hating or hurting anyone else,” Plumbley said. “Please don’t understand this as the Christian faith. Christ came that all might have life and have it abundantly.
Willow Creek Community of Christ Church in Hurst, LA town where Stedfast was based before its leaders’ demands for the death of LGBTQ people led to their deportation, is working with Harmony Ministriesan organization that “provides advocacy, education, and resources for Queer voices in Community of Christ with a shared vision of full participation,” according to its website.
“We are all children of God and even if you disagree with the lifestyle, you have to love the person,” said Community of Christ pastor Jim Price. “That’s what being a Christian is. Christ did not discriminate against anyone, even those who lived in such a way that was considered unacceptable in his day.
He said his church and other Community of Christ congregations have placed Pride flag emblems on their doors to show they welcome LGBTQ people to worship with them. An example of this welcoming attitude, he said, is that a camp the church runs has a transgender person on staff.
Not all churches in the area are LGBTQ, but none who spoke with the Star-Telegram said they in any way agreed with the messages preached at Stedfast Baptist Church.
Dennis Hester and Dennis Serratt, pastor and presiding deacon of First Baptist Wataugasaid in a joint statement on behalf of the church that they do not endorse the “LGBTQ+ movement” but that their hearts are “saddened today by the disunity, hatred and pain that plagues our town of Watauga and the surrounding community”.
Hester said his church was mistakenly called and sent by people who believed he was the one preaching messages of violence against the LGBTQ community and saw the pain and distress caused in the community, as well as threats because of this misunderstanding. He said his church was also concerned about these threats of violence against the Stedfast Baptist Church.
“We suffer because of vile words of condemnation calling for the death of our LGBTQ+ neighbors,” Hester and Serratt said in the statement. “We are also saddened by similar personal threats directed at leaders of Stedfast Baptist Church.”
“We fully recognize that everyone is created in the image of God,” the two First Baptist Watauga leaders wrote. “We seek to express God’s love for all of our family, friends and neighbors.”
Ryon Price, senior pastor of Broadway Baptist Church in Fort Worth, said his church has long been a “welcoming and affirming” church for LGBTQ worshipers and was expelled from the Southern Baptist Convention in 2008 for the position that the gay and lesbian worshipers could be members of the church and could hold leadership positions.
“First of all, I want to express my sincere apologies to the LGBTQ community for the way the Christian community has been portrayed by these hatemongers,” Price told The Star-Telegram. “All people were created in the image of God and have intrinsic worth and value, including those in the LGBTQ community, so we welcome and affirm members of the LGBTQ community in both society and the community. ‘church.”
Brian Coulter, Pastor of First Fort Worth Presbyteriansaid what he saw at Stedfast Baptist Church was “just hate speech” and that he does not consider Stedfast to be a real church.
“It’s very bigoted, I think,” Coulter said. “If people hear messages like this coming from Stedfast and want to know why we don’t think that’s what God is teaching us, come along and we’ll have a conversation.”