WEED, Calif. — The pastor in California who faced community protests after posting a sign that reads “Bruce Jenner is still a man. Homosexuality is still sin. The culture may change, the Bible does not” is now out of a job after also being told by his co-elder that he can no longer follow his leadership and that all but one couple would leave the church if he continues as pastor.
Justin Hoke, the pastor of Trinity Bible Presbyterian Church in Weed, which is a part of the Bible Presbyterian Church denomination, posted an update to social media on Saturday evening outlining that he had essentially been forced out of the position.
“I was informed by our other elder that he felt he could no longer follow my lead as pastor of TBPC,” he wrote. “I was informed that essentially all but one couple in membership would leave the church if I continued as pastor of TBPC. Our other elder and the couple felt that those who left would likely return if I would leave.”
Hoke explained that 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.” He added a note of clarification on Monday morning that his departure was not of his doing.
“I did not want to leave, I did not quit, and I was willing to stay,” Hoke emphasized.
As previously reported, Hoke’s sign resulted in two community protests, led by three women unaffiliated with the church who saw a photograph of the churchyard message on Facebook.
“What’s important to us is that we raise our voices, use our bodies, signs, art and expression to balance out the message on the sign and try to promote inclusion and tolerance,” Amelia Mallory, organizer of the “Shastina Love Rally,” told Yahoo Lifestyle. “Rallying together in support of each other and of the queer community as a whole.”
A photo on the event Facebook page shows signs that read “I’d rather be a sinner than a hater” and “A new command, love one another: Jesus, cultural change agent.”
Hoke told reporters that his message was one of love, not hate, as love warns others of danger instead of simply letting them suffer the consequences. It would be unloving to stay silent, he outlined.
“We believe love warns, and the best expression of love is to be willing to be hated so that others might have the chance to hear truth,” Hoke told The Siskiyou Daily News. “If you see a burning building, there are only two reasons not to warn those inside: if you think the danger isn’t too great, or if you don’t love those inside.”
“[T]he 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,” he also told The Daily Wire.
A yet-unknown vandal damaged the church sign last week—breaking the plexiglass, scrambling and stealing some of the letters, and damaging the power supply that lights up the sign—but Hoke was able to restore the message.
While the pastor faced objection from those in the community, he soon also found himself lacking backing from his church. It is not clear exactly what the concerns were—whether the church was unhappy due to the protests and media attention, or if some disagreed with Hoke’s methodology, or both. Hoke confirmed to Christian News Network that his congregation agrees that homosexuality is sin, but advised that he could not provide further detail about the situation at this time.
Hoke stated on Monday via social media that a number of online supporters have asked how they can help him in a “physical or monetary way” now that he has lost his job as pastor, but he declined any such assistance, advising that all he desires is to share the gospel.
“Please pray that God would open more doors for me to preach the gospel; that is all I want or need,” Hoke wrote.
He also shared the gospel with followers, providing a “Message of Reconciliation and Peace With God.”
Jesus said in John 15:18-22, “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated Me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own, but because ye are not of the world—but I have chosen you out of the world—therefore, the world hateth you. Remember the word that I said unto you: The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept My saying, they will keep yours also.”
“But all these things will they do unto you for My name’s sake, because they know not Him that sent me. If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin. But now, they have no cloak for their sin.”