Pastor Justin Hoke of Trinity Bible Presbyterian Church in Weed, California, has lost his job following both community and alleged internal backlash over the language used in his most recent church sign.
In early January, Hoke designed a sign that read: "Bruce Jenner is still a man. Homosexuality is still a sin. The culture may change. The Bible does not."
According to SFGate, "a couple dozen" community members gathered to protest the sign on January 6. The protest, called the "Shastina Love Rally," was organized in part by local resident Amelia Mallory.
A second protest was held on Sunday. According to the most recent count on the official Facebook invite page, 71 people were "going" to the event, and 182 people were "interested."
In a pinned post on the official Love Rally Facebook page, a message from Mallory reads in part:
We are there to support the LGBTQ+ community in a positive way. Debating with any church members isn't the goal. We are not there for them. Some of us on our side of the street still are also religious. All of us are capable of treating everyone with respect, even if we disagree. Do not engage anyone trying to escalate the situation to violence.
On or around January 9, the sign was vandalized:
In an article published just several days ago, Yahoo Lifestyle quoted Pastor Hoke, who said: "We believe that Jesus commands all Christians to let their light shine. We also believe that salvation is only for sinners. Jesus said he came to call sinners, not the righteous. If we give in to cultural demands to stop calling sin 'sin,' then we are robbing people of opportunity to hear the truth."
Despite there being no outward sign of fracture within the church, on Saturday evening, Hoke published the following unexpected update on Facebook:
As of today, I am no longer the pastor of Trinity Bible Presbyterian Church.
After much prayer and counsel, I have decided that it is best to briefly communicate what has taken place.
1. I was informed by our other elder that he felt he could no longer follow my lead as Pastor of TBPC.
2. I was informed that essentially all but one couple in membership would leave the church if I continued as pastor of TBPC.
3. Our other elder and the couple felt that those who left would likely return if I would leave.
4. Our other elder was agreeable to stay and assume the pastoral responsibilities.
Therefore 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.
Over one hundred people have commented, a majority of whom are supportive of Hoke:
"I am sorry the church doesn't support your stance. God bless you for being faithful to the Word of God, and not the ungodly secular culture."
"Brother, I am speechless but not surprised. You preach the true Gospel of Jesus Christ and that is hard to handle for most. I am praying for you and the family right now. God bless you and keep you."
"We are praying for you brother. You boldly spoke truth. Galatians 1:10 For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ."
The Daily Wire spoke with Pastor Hoke, who walked us through the situation from his perspective.
According to Hoke, he was inspired to create the sign after seeing the news story in which a biological male who identifies as female "threw a fit because a clerk had accidentally referred to him with the masculine gender [pronoun]."
Hoke said that because "the culture has drawn a line in the sand and dared [Christians] to step over," he came to the conclusion that the church should accept the challenge — not with hate, but by simply preaching "the gospel."
The pastor also noted that he wasn’t "fired," but that the church faced a potential fracture in the wake of the fervor surrounding the sign, and that in order to keep the church intact, he felt it was best to vacate his position. Hoke repeatedly stated that he wanted to be circumspect in the way he spoke about the incident because he "loves" the people at Trinity Bible Presbyterian.
Regarding the protesters, Hoke said: "I believe they’re sincere — sincerely wrong, but sincere. I believe that it is hypocritical that their position is taught in schools and pushed on children, while our position is asked to be kept within the walls of the church." He added that he hopes and believes that "within their midst, there are people whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life, and that the command for all Christians is to preach to them the gospel faithfully, calling them to repentance and faith, that they might be changed by the Holy Spirit and brought into the family of God."
Hoke concluded our conversation by stating that if he could stand in the pulpit again for just a few minutes, he would continue to preach "the gospel as concisely as [he could]."