For months, the Gallery Church had rented space from Hill Country Barbecue, a popular restaurant in Manhattan. But the church was booted out over a sermon on same-sex attraction, Todd Starnes reported Wednesday.
Freddy Wyatt, pastor of the Gallery Church, said their agreement with Hill Country Barbecue was cancelled after locals flooded the restaurant with complaints.
“There was backlash from the neighborhood toward the restaurant for hosting a Christian church in their space,” he said.
According to a post at City Resource, Wyatt said the backlash came “before the sermon was even preached yet was enough to motivate the restaurant to end their partnership with us.”
Wyatt did not name the restaurant, saying he wanted to maintain “good relationships” with the neighborhood, but Starnes said Fox News was able to identify the business that rented space to the church.
“Owners of the restaurant did not return calls seeking comment,” Starnes said.
According to Wyatt, the trouble began when the church began a series of sermons on sexuality.
“This particular sermon series struck a nerve in the neighborhood,” he said. “There was an enormous amount of backlash. We don’t know specifically what that was. The restaurant said if it had only been a couple of phone calls it would have been one thing – but it was more than that.”
Hill Country Barbecue ended their relationship with the church, giving them two months to leave.
In addition to paying $25,000 per year to use the space, the church also paid the restaurant’s sound engineer $150 every week.
But money was not the issue.
“Disassociating from a Christian church was more valuable to them,” than the money, Wyatt said.
The congregation, consisting primarily of artists and aspiring Broadway actors, found another location, but, Starnes said, it cost $15,000 more.
Church members, however, are upbeat, Wyatt said.
“When we shared with the church the news, there were a few employees from the restaurant there,” he said. “One approached us and they said they were really struck by our kindness. I think we left with a good taste in their mouths.”
Wyatt said the uproar doesn’t surprise him.
“God’s word promises us that fiery trials will come upon us,” he said. “And we shouldn’t be surprised when they do. Jesus said we will be hated, for He was hated.”
Wyatt, however, holds no grudge against the restaurant and still plans to eat dinner at Hill Country Barbecue.
“We love our neighbors,” he said. “And we love good food.”
For many, however, the episode is just more proof that those who preach “tolerance” are not tolerant at all.
“I guess it means only tolerance for their point of view,” one reader said at Fox News.
“The antics of the intolerant “tolerant” crowd is such a crack up and very predictable. They bemoan this church group but yet expect conformity to their way of thinking,” said another.
“It may not be long before Christians will be required to wear gold colored crosses on their clothing to identify them to the State worshiping public,” one reader said at The Blaze.
Some suggested the church sue the restaurant while others suggested boycotting it.
Wyatt, however, has a different attitude.
“No doubt, God is using what others meant for ill, to move us into larger worship space a little faster than we would have moved on our own,” he wrote. “We rejoice. More than anything, we want God to be honored as his name and his church advance in New York City.”
Update: Sarah Abell of the public relations firm Baltz & Company Inc., sent Examiner an email decrying what she called inaccurate reporting on the incident and provided a statement from Marc Glosserman, Founder & CEO, Hill Country Hospitality.
“Earlier this year, beginning in March, Hill Country Barbecue Market in New York City was approached by one of our neighbors, the Gallery Church, who needed to rent space on Sunday mornings to conduct services. In a sincere effort to help them out, we agreed to enter into an initial trial arrangement.
“Our intention was to provide the Church with a place to congregate, which we thought we could do without implying a religious affiliation between our two organizations. Over the following weeks, based on unanticipated community response, it became clear to us that this would not be possible. After thoughtful and considerable deliberation, Hill Country Barbecue Market decided not to renew the arrangement, as per our month-to-month agreement, and to allow the church to continue services at our establishment for two months while they sought a new location.
“Hill Country remains deeply committed to serving and supporting the members of our community. We continue to enjoy a positive and respectful relationship with our friends at the Gallery Church, and we are thankful to Pastor Freddy T. Wyatt of Gallery Church for his compassion and understanding,” he said.
The Blaze added: “This explanation seems consistent with the church’s general claims, although it is unclear if the problems resulted strictly from the pastor’s sermon series on same-sex attraction. Previously, Wyatt made this specific claim, noting that the series spawned an outcry that led to the church’s removal from the space.”
We specifically asked Abell what impact the sermon on same-sex attraction had on the community’s reaction and whether or not it played any role in the decision to allow the church to continue renting the space.
Abell did not answer our question, and repeated what she had said earlier.
“As I mentioned previously, our intention was to provide the Church with a place to congregate, which we thought we could do without implying a religious affiliation between our two organizations. Once it became clear to us that this would not be possible, Hill Country Barbecue Market decided not to renew the arrangement, as per the month-to-month agreement, and to allow the church to continue services at our establishment for two months while they sought a new location. Hill Country is committed to the community, and in this particular case, our goal was to help the church – a member of the community – on a temporary, trial basis,” she said.
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