New York Jets quarterback Tim Tebow speaks Celebration Church's "Easter on the Hill" in Georgetown, Texas, on Easter Sunday, April 8, 2012. (AP Photo/William Philpott)
New York Jets quarterback Tim Tebow has canceled a scheduled appearance at a Dallas megachurch whose pastor has drawn fire for his comments about homosexuality and other religious faiths.
Tebow was to speak twice on April 28 at First Baptist Dallas, the 11,000-strong congregation in Downtown Dallas led by the controversial Rev. Dr. Robert Jeffress.
Jeffress has ignited controversy in the past for calling Mormonism a "cult," Catholicism "the genius of Satan," Islam "heresy from the pit of hell" and homosexuality "a degradation of a person’s mind."
Tebow was one of a number of guest speakers scheuled in April to help First Dallas Baptist celebrate the grand opening of its new downtown campus.
Tebow tweeted his regret 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. 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!"
The quarterback didn't elaborate on what the "new information" was that caused him to change his mind.
First Dallas released the following statement on Tebow's cancellation Thursday morning:
The leaders and congregation of First Baptist Church Dallas are disappointed that New York Jets’ Quarterback Tim Tebow has announced he will no longer speak at First Baptist Church Dallas on April 28, 2013, as part of the month-long celebration events surrounding the grand opening of our new $130 million, state-of-the-art campus on Easter Sunday.
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. We are saddened that Mr. Tebow felt pressure to back out of his long-planned commitment from numerous New York and national sports and news media who grossly misrepresented past comments made by our pastor, Dr. Robert Jeffress, specifically related to issues of homosexuality and AIDS, as well as Judaism.
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.
Whatever Tebow's motivation for the schedule change, it's likely not stagefright. Tebow, who is well known for his strong religous beliefts, is no stranger to speaking at churches and just last Easter spoke to approximately 20,000 people at Celebration Church near Austin.