Many HGTV fans have heard about the controversy surrounding the church that Chip and Joanna Gaines attend in Waco, Texas. Fans who support same-sex marriage were dismayed to hear that the Fixer Upper stars go to a church that preaches against same-sex marriage. (And doesn’t welcome the LGBT community.) Meanwhile, viewers who hold more “traditional” views of marriage felt persecuted by what some saw as a “public shaming” of the congregation.
Regardless of which side of the debate you take, you’ll be shocked by some of the new details about the church that Chip and Joanna Gaines attend.
1. The pastor’s views caused a major controversy for Chip and Joanna
Let’s review what most Fixer Upper fans likely know already. Chip and Joanna Gaines attend a church called Antioch Community Church in Waco. Antioch found itself in the spotlight after BuzzFeed reported on the pastor’s stance against same-sex marriage.
As BuzzFeed explained, the church is a nondenominational, evangelical, mission-based megachurch. The congregation’s pastor “Jimmy Seibert, who described the Gaineses as ‘dear friends’ in a recent video, takes a hard line against same-sex marriage and promotes converting LGBT people into being straight.”
Next: Chip and Joanna never really shared their opinion.
2. Chip and Joanna Gaines never definitively shared their views
Another fact you may remember? Chip and Joanna Gaines themselves never really commented on their own views on the issue at the center of the controversy. As Snopes notes, “neither Chip nor Joanna Gaines has gone on record for or against gay marriage.”
In the absence of a definitive response from the Gaineses, HGTV released a statement. The network stated, “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.”
Next: You might find this information about Waco’s churches surprising.
3. Not all of Waco’s churches take an anti-LGBT stance, especially after the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage
Viewers disappointed with the views of the Gaineses’ pastor might assume that all of the churches in Waco take a similar stance. But here’s where things get interesting. That’s not the case. As the Waco Tribune reported back in 2015, the churches in the area had diverged in their views of same-sex relationships.
The paper reports that after the Supreme Court supporting same-sex marriage rights, “progressive fellowships rejoiced at the decision.” Some congregations “even participated in a ‘marriage-a-thon’ at Metropolitan Community Church.” If you live in Waco and want to attend a church that doesn’t stand against same-sex marriage, you can. But Chip and Joanna Gaines haven’t made that choice.
Next: Not every church rethought its position after the ruling.
4. Yet the church that Chip and Joanna Gaines attend didn’t change its stance
Some Waco churches celebrated after the Supreme Court made same-sex marriage a right nationwide. But The Waco Tribune reports that many churches in the Waco area didn’t change their positions on the issue after the landmark ruling. “Some leaders of churches with traditional stands against homosexuality downplayed the importance of the ruling,” the Tribune notes.
Further, “some clergy sounded the alarm against a perceived threat to the values of their church and country.” That includes Chip and Joanna’s congregation. “At Antioch Community Church, an evangelical megachurch, Pastor Jimmy Seibert warned his congregation to prepare for persecution for calling homosexuality a sin and defining marriage as strictly heterosexual.”
Next: Pastors in Waco and elsewhere have to address this problem.
5. Some pastors do a better job than others of addressing the ‘two scripts’ problem
The Waco Tribune interviewed sociologists for context on the debate within churches in Waco and elsewhere. As the publication learned, many Americans attending evangelical churches feel torn between “two scripts.” One of these scripts “upholds an exacting sexual morality.” And the other “emphasizes God’s love for everyone.”
The paper reports that the tension between the two became evident in interviews with evangelical pastors from the Waco area. Meanwhile, other mainline congregations in the area have adopted inclusive policies for gay and lesbian members.
Next: This group protested outside of Chip and Joanna’s church for a shocking reason.
6. The Westboro Baptist Church protested at Antioch Community Church
Many people think that Chip and Joanna Gaines’ church is too anti-gay. But the Westboro Baptist Church, an organization categorized as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, seems to think that it isn’t anti-gay enough.
As a Baylor University student publication reported, Westboro Baptist members protested outside of Antioch Community Church, as well as a local Catholic church. In a flier (PDF), Westboro claimed that the Waco churches targeted for protest “gladly and greedily justify their sisters Sodom and Samaria.” Westboro also held that the churches “have substituted their words for the Lord’s because of the fear of men, especially concerning the sin of Sodom.”
Next: Former members have made some serious accusations about the church.
7. The church has also been accused of some abusive practices, including exorcisms
Chip and Joanna Gaines’ church has faced much criticism about its position on homosexuality. But Antioch Community Church has also been hit with accusations about worrying practices of other types. In Touch reports that “former members” of the church have alleged “psychological abuse, intolerance for mental health problems, and practices that include exorcisms.”
One former member claims she was kicked out of the church after being diagnosed with schizophrenia. The reason why? Church leaders thought she was “possessed by a demon.” Jimmy Seibert told the publication that the church doesn’t use the term “exorcism.” But it does recognize “demonic oppression.” According to Seibert, “It happens to people who have been through a tough time and have not submitted their lives to God, and darkness has a place in their lives.”
Next: Does it matter what church Chip and Joanna attend?
8. Some shrug it off, but many people think it matters that Chip and Joanna go to an anti-gay church
HGTV fans have debated the question to no end. Does it really matter what church Chip and Joanna Gaines choose to attend? The Huffington Post argues that it does. As the publication explains, people’s “beliefs aren’t the problem. We don’t need to agree on theology. It’s how these beliefs are acted upon and in the long run, how they make other people vulnerable to discrimination, that matters.”
The Post adds, “American Christians also have to realize, as the religious majority in this country, that their beliefs, their churches, and their votes are not just personal. They have the power to influence policy and the lives of people who don’t subscribe to their beliefs.”
Next: Plus, the controversy could have played a role in the end of “Fixer Upper.”
9. A few fans think the controversy played a part in the end of Fixer Upper
Fans across the country have debated exactly why Chip and Joanna Gaines decided to end Fixer Upper. But the Kansas City Star cites a variety of scandals — including the uproar over their church — as one of the factors that may have convinced them to step back.
Chip and Joanna Gaines said of their choice to end their hit HGTV show, “This is just us recognizing that we need to catch our breath for a moment. Our plan is to take this time to shore up and strengthen the spots that are weak, rest the places that are tired and give lots of love and attention to both our family and our businesses.”
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