Tim Tebow has canceled his scheduled appearance at a controversial Texas megachurch led by Robert Jeffress, the pastor criticized for his views on homosexuality and other faiths.
The football star, known for being very public about his Christian faith, planned to address the 11,000-member First Baptist Church of Dallas on April 28, but in a Twitter post cited “new information that has been brought to my attention.”
The church, in a statement, blamed media pressure, saying the quarterback called Jeffress on Wednesday night and said “that for personal and professional reasons he needed to avoid controversy at this time.”
The church said Tebow expressed an interest in rescheduling the appearance, something the quarterback did not include in the tweet Thursday morning.
“While I was looking forward to sharing a message of hope and Christ's unconditional love with the faithful members of the historic First Baptist Church of Dallas in April, due to new information that has been brought to my attention, I have decided to cancel my upcoming appearance,” Tebow wrote.
Tebow was scheduled to speak at two services as part of a celebration for the church's $130 million expansion and renovation. Since the appearance was announced, however, the New York Jets quarterback has been panned in media outlets for associating with a church of "intolerance" and "hate."
Among the remarks credited to Jeffress: homosexuals are "perverse," "you can't be saved by being a Jew," Mormonism is a "cult" and Catholicism is the "genius of Satan." He also predicted that electing Barack Obama as president was "paving the way for the future reign of the Antichrist."
Jeffress and the church have said such comments – especially those related to homosexuality and Judaism – were out of context.
“We are saddened that Mr. Tebow felt pressure to back out of his long-planned commitment to First Baptist Dallas from numerous New York and national sports and news media who grossly misrepresented past comments made by our pastor,” the church’s statement said.
“As a Christian pastor, Dr. Jeffress takes a biblical approach to moral and social issues, closely following his duty to preach ‘the whole counsel of God,’ and not just address issues that are politically correct. First Baptist is a church built on the truth of Scripture, even though at times that approach can be perceived as controversial or counter to the prevailing winds of culture.
“The reason for the recent media firestorm is not because the word of God has changed, but because society has changed. More important, contrary to editorializing in the media, Dr. Jeffress shares a message of hope, not hate; salvation, not judgment; and a Gospel of God's love, grace and new beginnings available to all.”
In an interview Wednesday with WJFK-FM radio in Washington, D.C., Jeffress said First Baptist is not a “hate-spewing church.”
“For us to simply say that Jesus Christ offers salvation to anyone who believes in him, and that sex should be between a man and woman and marriage, that that should be considered hate speech, I don’t understand that,” Jeffress said.
Tebow, although polarizing to some, has had much professional, personal and commercial success since his days at the University of Florida. However, this controversy follows a disappointing season, and the Jets reportedly hope to trade him.
His approach to Christianity remains steadfast despite the recent setbacks.
“I will continue to use the platform God has blessed me with to bring Faith, Hope and Love to all those needing a brighter day,” he tweeted Thursday. “Thank you for all of your love and support. God Bless!”