I have publically supported Tim Tebow's plan to speak at a controversial church, because he's such a strong Christian role model. Applying the WWJD...What Would Jesus Do?"... test, it seems to me Tim had an opportunity here to emulate Christ, who willingly walked among misguided sinners on his mission to change hearts and save souls.
But, as I told you this morning, Tim Tebow has decided not to speak at the First Baptist Church of Dallas. Here's his announcement via Twitter, and reaction from the church:
Lisa W. Buser/USA TODAY Sports
Tim Tebow has canceled a scheduled appearance at the Dallas megachurch of Robert Jeffress, the controversial pastor whose views on other religions and homosexuality have drawn outrage in recent years.
The New York Jets backup, who likely will be traded or released soon, was scheduled to deliver two sermons on April 28 at the new, $130 million building at First Baptist Dallas Church. The church boasts more than 11,000 congregants.
On Thursday, he tweeted that he would no longer honor the commitment. He didn't specifically say why he was canceling but alluded to the controversy surrounding his appearance:
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. 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!
First Baptist Church responded to Tebow's cancellation in a statement.
"Mr. Tebow called Dr. Jeffress Wednesday evening saying that for personal and professional reasons he needed to avoid controversy at this time, but would like to come to First Baptist Dallas to speak at a future date," the statement read.
Jeffress has made news for his critiques of other religions and lifestyles. The pastor said Muslims practice a religion that came from the depths of hell and "promote pedophilia." In his eyes, Mormonism is a cult that should have disqualified Mitt Romney from the 2012 election.
The pastor's also very much against homosexuality. "[It] is perverse, it represents a degradation of a person's mind," Jeffress has 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's statement said.
Tebow's planned visit had drawn intense criticism. Rick Chandler of Off the Bench suggests Tebow's appearance is a tacit endorsement of Jeffress' beliefs. Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel said Tebow risked losing his credibility if he appeared at the church.
To his credit, Tebow seems to have responded to the uproar with a principled stand against Jeffress and he did so without creating more controversy. Some might say his polite cancellation didn't go far enough. He could have bailed on the pastor and issued a strong statement against his beliefs. But that's not Tebow's way. This simple gesture is an effective rebuke of intolerance.