NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Jets backup quarterback Tim Tebow has canceled his appearance at a Texas megachurch led by Dr. Robert Jeffress, a controversial pastor who has made headlines for his comments on gays, other religions and President Barack Obama.
Tebow was criticized heavily and loudly by some for agreeing to share the stage with Jeffress.
Tebow announced the cancellation Thursday on Twitter: “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!”
He was scheduled to speak at First Baptist Dallas’ morning services on Sunday, April 28.
The hubbub about his visit to First Baptist Dallas wasn’t about Tebow or his beliefs. It was about the man who heads the congregation, his past comments, and surprise that the PR-minded player would be on the schedule.
Controversial remarks attributed to the pastor have made the rounds since Tebow was announced as his guest. Jeffress has been quoted saying gays shouldn’t be allowed in the military because “70 percent” have AIDS; Islam, Mormonism and Judaism came “from the pit of hell”; Obama’s reelection “would lead to a rise of the Antichrist”; and gay activists have been attempting to conceal “the link between homosexuality and pedophilia.”
Tebow’s announcement came as Jeffress was being interviewed on 105.3 The Fan in Dallas.
The pastor, though “obviously disappointed,” wasn’t caught off-guard by the news.
“Well, actually, Tim called me last night, so I was aware of this,” Jeffress said Thursday. “We had a very pleasant conversation on the phone and we’ve texted back and forth since then. And Tim, what he said to me was, ‘Because of personal reasons and professional reasons, I need to steer clear of controversy right now, but I would love to come back to your church at some time in the future.’ ”
Jeffress said Tebow was “under incredible pressure” and his church “would never condemn” the Jets quarterback.
“We love him and appreciate him, but he has to do what he thinks is right,” Jeffress said.
Jeffress told D.C.’s 106.7 The Fan on Wednesday that First Baptist Dallas has “been mischaracterized and misquoted as being 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. “It really shows you not that the word of God has changed, but society has changed.”
When asked if the appearance could jeopardize Tebow’s career or endorsement deals, Jeffress said “that’s something Tim has to decide for himself.”
“Those of us who are Christians believe that our allegiance is, first of all, to God and not to man, and I think most Americans are tolerant enough of people to recognize that they can enjoy a sports figure and not have to agree with every belief that he has personally,” Jeffress said Wednesday.
Tebow, who has been outspoken in his Christian beliefs, drew a crowd of about 15,000 to an outdoor Easter Sunday service in Georgetown, Tex., in 2012.
On Father’s Day, the quarterback appeared with Shadow Mountain Community Church Pastor David Jeremiah at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego. More than 25,000 people were on hand to witness the chat with Tebow, who urged men everywhere to “get in the game” of Christianity. He recently spoke at Impact Church in Scottsdale, Ariz., on Feb. 3.
Tebow will reportedly be shopped at this week’s NFL combine. He’s expected to be released by the Jets this offseason if the team can’t find a trading partner.
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