PALO ALTO, Calif. — A California “pastor” has resigned over controversial tweets in which he used profanity and other strong language to express frustration with the City of Palo Alto. The tweets were characterized as “vile” by the city’s vice mayor, who said that he would think twice before sending children to an event at the man’s “church.”
Gregory Stevens, who was the associate pastor of faith formation and family life at First Baptist Church of Palo Alto, had posted the comments earlier this year, but the tweets were more recently brought to the attention of city council by a concerned resident who took screenshots.
The First Baptist Church of Palo Alto is affiliated with American Baptist Churches USA.
“I hate ‘social justice’ in Palo Alto. What an [expletive] joke,” he wrote in one tweet. “Palo Alto is an elitist [expletive] den of hate,” Stevens also opined in another post. “Palo Alto is disgusting,” he said in another.
He additionally vented about elderly people in the congregation, stating that “the old people always fall asleep” in council meetings.
“Old people in a church council meeting = repeat everything [text missing] times,” Stevens similarly tweeted.
Other posts that were screenshot and submitted to the council included, “‘Go gay not Mormon’ is my new favorite opening line to the cute Mormon boys that try to convert me,” “[Expletive] B” accompanying a text box stating that teens would still cheer if Beyonce’ defecated on stage, and “Church ordaining bodies want queer, anarchist revolutionaries to join their (white supremacist, heteronormative, elitist-moralities) institutions.”
During a Palo Alto City Council meeting on May 14, as council members were pondering whether to approve a conditional use permit to allow First Baptist Church of Palo Alto to continue to rent space to others as a community center, concerns over Stevens’ comments were brought forth.
According to the Daily Post, First Baptist leader Rick Mixon was asked by council member Karen Holman and vice mayor Eric Filseth about the Tweets, which are no longer available. While Mixon said that he was “appalled,” noting that he had just seen the posts the day prior, he also remarked that he believes Stevens is simply “young and passionate about social justice, and he’s raising questions that come from our faith tradition about what it means to have wealth and privilege.”
“I think he has a First Amendment right to free expression of his opinion or critique, so if he could have made that critique in different language, maybe it would have been hospitable to at least some people,” he also told reporters.
Filseth reportedly called Stevens’ remarks “vile” and said he would think twice about sending any children to his church.
“We were horrified. We really couldn’t believe it,” Palo Alto Mayor Liz Kniss told ABC News. “The tweets were distasteful, they were hateful and they should not be reflective of our community.”
On Saturday, Stevens issued a statement advising that he decided to resign because he did not want to bring negative attention to First Baptist Church of Palo Alto, which describes itself on its website as being “progressive,” “inclusive” and “ecumenical.” A rainbow flag is flown outside of the building.
“I tweeted to vent my frustration, and I acknowledge that I did so in an unprofessional and often hurtful way. My Twitter community has always been a small group of progressive ministers and leftist political activists to whom my rants were geared,” he wrote.
However, Stevens also suggested that the city should focus on other issues besides “nasty tweets.”
“In my experience of trying to work with this community for almost 3 years, I believe Palo Alto is a ghetto of wealth, power, and elitist liberalism by proxy, meaning that many community members claim to want to fight for social justice issues, but that desire doesn’t translate into action,” he opined. “If the same energies used to organize neighbors around minor parking issues, young girls choirs and ‘nasty tweets’ were honed to fight actual injustices, Palo Alto would be a very different city. Palo Alto needs more action, less lip service.”
Ephesians 4:29 exhorts, “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.”