It’s been a busy month for Antioch Community Church pastor Jimmy Seibert, the Waco, Texas leader of a congregation now most famous for two of its parishioners, the celebrity couple he calls his “dear friends:” Chip and Joanna Gaines of HGTV’s “Fixer Upper.”
It’s all because of an article appearing in Curbed.com by Christian author Kate Henderson, who asked Joanna Gaines how viewers would respond if HGTV booked a gay couple on their program.
“My hope would be, if they are given that situation, they will just love on [the gay couple], but I would imagine that very conservative Christians in their audience might have a problem with that,” she told Henderson. That interview was followed by a piece in BuzzFeed focusing on Seibert and his church.
That report said the pastor took “a hard line against same-sex marriage and promotes converting LGBT people into being straight.” And as the article pointed out, this isn’t anything new. The Sunday following the Supreme Court decision on marriage equality, Seibert reportedly scrapped his planned sermon for a message about same-sex weddings:
“This is a clear biblical admonition. So if someone were to say, ‘Marriage is defined in a different way,’ let me just say: They are wrong.”
“God defined marriage, not you and I. God defined masculine and feminine, male and female, not you and I.”
“Business leaders, you will have to be clear about who you are.”
“We are not only not antigay, but we are pro-helping people in their journey to find out who God is and who He has made them to be.”
“For us – our heart has always been to love Jesus, preach the word of God and help people in their journey.”
Seibert was not questioned about his support for conversion or “reparative” therapy, sometimes called “ex-gay” therapy, which has been outlawed in several states. The church lists its conservative Christian beliefs on its website. One in particular states:
“Marriage is the uniting of one man and one woman in covenant commitment for a lifetime.”
And if that doesn’t adequately represent a repudiation of same-sex marriage and the legal rights of men and women to marry one another, there’s this:
“A wife is to submit herself graciously to the servant leadership of her husband even as the church willingly submits to the headship of Christ. She, being in the image of God, as is her husband, and thus equal to him, has the God-given responsibility to respect her husband and to serve as his companion in managing the household and nurturing the next generation.”
Of course, Starnes wasn’t the only right-wing zealot to offer Seibert a chance to share his sob story of allegedly being “targeted” by BuzzFeed, in what Fox called “a hit piece.” Tony Perkins, head of the Family Research Council, also chatted with the Texas pastor about the “liberal” abomination that dared question his love for everyone. Scroll down if you can stand to listen to it.
The big question of course is, are the Gaineses themselves antigay? There’s no clear answer, but in reporting on the controversy, USA Today researched the episode descriptions for the first three seasons as well as the Nov. 29 Season 4 premiere of “Fixer Upper” and found not one featuring an LGBTQ client.
Although he’s not addressing the question directly, host Chip Gaines came to his pastor’s defense on Twitter:
Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. DO EVERYTHING IN LOVE.
— Chip Gaines (@chipgaines) December 1, 2016
For its part, HGTV issued a statement claiming all its shows are LGBTQ-friendly, even though no out person has ever been identified as a guest on “Fixer Upper:”
“We don’t discriminate against members of the LGBT community in any of our shows. HGTV is proud to have a crystal clear, consistent record of including people from all walks of life in its series.”
Click below to listen to Seibert on Tony Perkins’s radio show.