A popular New York City barbecue restaurant that came under fire for renting space to a Christian church, has evicted the congregation because of a sermon about same-sex attraction, the pastor told Fox News.
Freddy Wyatt, the pastor of The Gallery Church, said they had been renting space in a restaurant to hold their worship services for several months. That agreement was cancelled after local residents barraged the restaurant with complaints.
“There was backlash from the neighborhood toward the restaurant for hosting a Christian church in their space,” he told Fox News.
“We want to maintain good relationships with the people in our neighborhood,” he said.
However, Fox News has learned the church had been renting space from Hill Country Barbecue, a popular eatery in Manhattan. Owners of the restaurant did not return calls seeking comment.
Wyatt said the trouble started when they began promoting a sermon series about 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.”
As a result, Hill Country Barbecue ended their relationship with the church – giving them just two months to find another place to worship.
The church had been paying the restaurant $25,000 per year to use the space on Sundays before it opened for and had been paying the restaurant’s sound engineer $150. Pastor Wyatt also said on average about ten people stayed after the service to eat dinner in the barbecue joint.
But it turns out money was not the motivating factor.
“Disassociating from a Christian church was more valuable to them,” Wyatt wrote on the church’s website.
The small congregation, made up of artists and aspiring Broadway actors, was eventually able to find another location to worship – but it costs $15,000 more.
In spite of their eviction, church members are rather upbeat, Pastor 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.”
Still, Wyatt said it’s not surprising the message on sexuality caused such an uproar.
“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.”
And while the subject of sexuality his polarizing, the pastor said he likes to take a page from the writings of noted theologian Francis Schaeffer.
“Francis Shaeffer once said the ultimate apologetic is love,” he said. “We really want to soften people’s hearts and stereotypes with the love of Jesus as we live that out in authentic relationships.”
He said the episode shows that the exclusivity of the Gospel is “incredibly offensive to people and they hate that message.”
“When we are faithful, there are seasons of challenge – there are seasons of persecution that come,” he said. “We’ve got to be willing to show that our allegiance belongs to Christ.”
And for what it’s worth, Pastor Wyatt said he still plans on eating dinner at Hill Country Barbecue.
“We love our neighbors,” he said. “And we love good food.”