In an attempt to avoid controversy, New York Jets quarterback Tim Tebow has backed out of a scheduled appearance at First Baptist Church in Dallas later this spring.
“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 in a series of tweets today. "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. Thank you for all of your love and support. God Bless!"
Robert Jeffress, the church’s pastor, continues to receive flack from the national media for both his unwavering stance on homosexuality—he says it’s a sin—and his belief that Mormonism is a cult, not a branch of Christianity—a comment he made during the 2012 presidential election.
Jeffress is not the first pastor to come under fire this year for his defense of biblical sexuality. Atlanta pastor Louie Giglio bowed out of President Barack Obama’s inauguration after pro-gay groups denounced a sermon he gave on homosexuality 15 years ago.
But Tebow’s unwillingness to be connected to Jeffress comes as a surprise. The football star has been open about his faith since college, often facing down criticism for public professions during interviews and on the field.
His hesitance now could stem from the National Football League’s heavy-handed attempts to crack down on anti-gay rhetoric. Earlier this month, San Francisco 49ers linebacker Chris Culliver was forced to take sensitivity training after making disparaging comments about gay players during a radio interview.
In an interview with the Associated Press, Jeffress said Tebow told him he would like to speak at First Baptist at some point, but “he needed to avoid controversy right now for personal and professional reasons.”
Jeffress said that his church was being mischaracterized as a “hate church” and maintains his teachings are consistent with historic Christian beliefs, expressing disappointment in Tebow’s decision.
"We had planned for him to speak very positively about the difference Jesus Christ had made in his life," Jeffress said.
It’s hard to understand how Tebow could see that as controversial.