On 21 February, it was announced that New York Jets backup quarterback Tim Tebow was canceling an appearance at the anti-gay, anti-Catholic, anti-Muslim First Baptist Church of Dallas, the home of pastor Robert Jeffress. On 25 February, some four days later, Pepperdine University, located near Malibu, CA, announced that Tebow will be the keynote speaker at the 2013 Pepperdine Associates Dinner, which is scheduled for 6 April.
Tebow was scheduled to speak to Jeffress’ congregation in April as well.
In an email that went out, Pepperdine Senior Vice President for Advancement and Public Affairs Keith Hinkle wrote “Each year we try to pick a speaker that we think will be a draw to our constituency and has something important to say. He’s found a way to win when many have said he couldn’t. We also wanted someone who could speak to faith, leadership and courage, which we believe Tim can do well.”
Pepperdine University is associated with the Church of Christ. In 2008 and 2009, the university was involved in some major controversy after Professor Robert Peterson of the School of Law appeared in a commercial advocating for the passage of Prop 8 and School of Law Dean Kenneth Starr was part of a lawsuit to attempt to nullify the same-sex marriages that were performed while same-sex marriage was legal in California.
Neither Peterson’s nor Starr’s actions were sanctioned by the university; however, Pepperdine has had some major issues with regards to LGBT rights. In 2007, several ministers and historians at the university in conjunction with the group Soulforce openly questioned and criticized the prevailing attitudes regarding homosexuality and same-sex marriage in the institution.
Marriage is not considered a sacrament in the Church of Christ.
On 12 February 2013, Pepperdine officially launched the “Frank James ‘Buddy’ Vinci and George B. Ellsworth” Scholarship. According to the press release it is “a need-based scholarship where the recipient needs to demonstrate his or her commitment to the betterment of the LGBT community. Emphasis will be on actual service, volunteerism, or extra curricular activities.”
Tebow gained fame after he won the Heisman Trophy as a sophomore back in 2007 and won two national championships for the University of Florida. He played most of his career with the Denver Broncos. Tebow has often been very open about his religious fervor even taking to what became known as “Tebowing”, the practice of offering a prayer in mid game.
After Tebow canceled his appearance with Jeffress, which was for the end of the month of April, Jeffress spent ten minutes on video thanking his supporters and lashing out at someone he did not name stating:
“I am grateful for men of God like these who are willing to stand up and act like men rather than wimping out when it gets a little controversial and an inconvenient thing to stand for the truth. God bless men like that.”
“There are some people who would say ‘God’s given me a different ministry. God has called me to go preach about the love of God. I’m not called to preach about sin and controversial things. I’ve been called to preach about the love of God. And they’re sincere when they say that. But they are sincerely wrong. The fact is you cannot talk about the love of God. The love of God has no meaning whatsoever unless you understand the judgment of God that all of us deserve.”
Tebow is facing a very real possibility of being traded or let go during the off season this year.