A California pastor whose church sign declaring “Bruce Jenner is still a man” drew protests says he’s no longer serving as pastor in order to avoid a split in his congregation.
Pastor Justin Hoke of Trinity Bible Presbyterian Church in Weed, California, wrote Saturday on Facebook that he had parted ways with the church after being informed that all but one couple would quit if he remained.
“I did not want to leave, I did not quit and I was willing to stay,” Hoke added Monday on Facebook.
He’d earlier written that a church elder had informed him that he could no longer follow him as pastor and that most of the rest of the church intended to leave. It was determined to be in the best interests of the church for him to part ways, Hoke wrote.
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Hoke had posted his controversial message, which read “Bruce Jenner is still a man. Homosexuality is still sin. The culture may change. The Bible does not,” on a sign outside the church in early January, reported The Sacramento Bee.
“The ultimate purpose was to say that while the culture may change, the Bible does not,” Hoke said, reported The San Francisco Chronicle. “The culture is now demanding that we call ‘good’ what the Bible calls evil.”
The sign prompted two successive Sundays of protests by people who said they wanted to support the local LGBTQ community, The Bee reported.
“We’ve really had to refine our message to be one strictly of love and support for anyone who feels like they are the target of the sign,” rally organizer Amelia Mallory told The San Francisco Chronicle. “Debating religion is unproductive, for one, and we also don’t want anyone to feel like we are against Christianity as a whole. People are welcome to their own beliefs, but can’t be surprised if people take action against such a public display.”
On Wednesday, Hoke wrote on Facebook that the sign had been vandalized, though protesters suggested it could have been wind damage, according to The Bee. The sign was repaired with the original message restored Thursday.
Hoke said he expected some resistance to the sign but added he had posted similar messages rebuking sin on the church sign over the past seven years, The Siskiyou Daily News reported.
“If a conservative mountain farming community is no longer a safe place to call sin, sin, then is anywhere in this country still safe for real Christians?” Hoke wrote on Facebook in a comment on an earlier post about the sign.
On Monday, Hoke wrote on Facebook that he had received numerous offers of assistance or money, but asked supporters only for prayers.
“But, I don’t want to use this 5 minutes of fame as a chance to capitalize on the sympathy and good will of others,” Hoke wrote. “The Lord has taken care of my needs. Please pray that God would open more doors for me to preach the gospel, that is all I want or need.”