A Presbyterian pastor who posted a sign calling homosexuality a sin and Bruce Jenner a man has been forced out of his California church.
Justin Hoke of Trinity Bible Presbyterian Church in Weed, Calif., said most members of the small congregation had promised to leave if he stayed.
“It was determined that it would be in the best interest of the local body for us (TBPC and the Hoke family) to part ways,” Hoke wrote on his Facebook page Saturday. “I would like to add this, I did not want to leave, I did not quit, and I was willing to stay.”
Hoke had posted a sign in front of the church that read: “Bruce Jenner is still a man. Homosexuality is still sin. The culture may change. The Bible does not.”
It drew protests outside the church building and sparked coverage in local media, too, including a story in The San Francisco Chronicle and The Sacramento Bee. About two dozen people protested outside the church Jan. 6. The church is located about four and a half hours north of San Francisco.
“We’ve really had to refine our message to be one strictly of love and support for anyone who feels like they are the target of the sign,” protester Amelia Mallory told The Chronicle. “Debating religion is unproductive, for one, and we also don’t want anyone to feel like we are against Christianity as a whole. People are welcome to their own beliefs, but can’t be surprised if people take action against such a public display.”
The sign’s message, Hoke said, is reflected in Scripture.
“The ultimate purpose was to say that while the culture may change, the Bible does not,” Hoke said. “The culture is now demanding that we call ‘good’ what the Bible calls evil.”
The church, though, either didn’t agree with the message or didn’t want the attention.
“If a conservative mountain farming community is no longer a safe place to call sin, sin, then is anywhere in this country still safe for real Christians?” Hoke wrote on his Facebook page.
Most people on Hoke’s Facebook page posted words of encouragement.
“I feel sorry for that church,” one person wrote. “They chose the world over Jesus. Good job, Pastor Hoke! God bless you!”
The church’s Facebook page also was filled with words of support for Hoke.
“I was going to come attend this church, this morning,” a person wrote. “But when I read the pastor was leaving, I decided it was not the kind of church I wanted to attend. I prefer a bible believing church.”
Hoke said he wants to pastor a church again.
“Many people have reached out asking if they could help me in some physical or monetary way,” he wrote on his Facebook page. “I am really thankful for such thoughts and offers. But, I don't want to use this 5 minutes of fame as a chance to capitalize on the sympathy and good will of others. The Lord has taken care of my needs. Please pray that God would open more doors for me to preach the gospel, that is all I want or need.”
Michael Foust is a freelance writer. Visit his blog, MichaelFoust.com.
Photo courtesy: Justin Hoke
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, The Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.