About 100 people stood in front of First Baptist Church of Dallas on Sunday morning to protest Dr. Robert Jeffress' sermon, "Why Gay Is Not O.K."
JENN ACKERMAN/DMNOutside First Baptist Church of Dallas on Sunday, protesters Laura McFerrin (front), with (from left) her mother, Grace McFerrin, Eric Myers and Sam Fulcher, sang 'Jesus Loves Me.'
Carrying signs bearing the words "I'm Gay and It's OK" and "Christ Taught Love Not Hate," the protesters lined both sides of San Jacinto Street in front of the downtown church.
They sang "Jesus Loves Me" and cheered when passing motorists honked their horns and waved in support.
"Most of the people here are Christians, and they're taking offense at the Baptist Church trying to say how Christ's love should be interpreted," said Patrick Hancock, who attended the peaceful protest. It was organized earlier this week when someone noticed the sermon topic on the church marquee.
Dr. Jeffress seemed unfazed by the protest. Everyone has a right to express their views, he said.
He didn't see any point in meeting with his critics.
"I have found from experience that it's very futile to argue with people about these issues," he said. "I believe the spirit of God has to convince people."
Dr. Jeffress said this is the first time that he's preached about homosexuality since being elected senior pastor of the 10,000-member church last year. But he's no stranger to the controversial topic.
When he was pastor of First Baptist Church of Wichita Falls, he led a fight to remove two gay-themed children's books from the public library.
He said Sunday's sermon was part of the "Politically Incorrect" series he's preaching that explores seven of the most controversial beliefs that Christians can articulate in today's culture.
Of those, "homosexuality is probably the most culturally explosive issue," he acknowledged. "Even though culture changes, God's word doesn't change."
Dr. Jeffress said the purpose of his sermon was to "let Christians know what the Bible says about this important topic, and to reaffirm that any and every sin can be forgiven."
Dr. Jeffress addressed what he called two "myths" about homosexuality: that prohibitions exist only in the Old Testament, and that Jesus never condemned this behavior.
During one of his three Sunday morning sermons, he cited New Testament passages that he said condemned homosexuality, including Romans 1:27.
It speaks of "men, leaving the natural use of the woman, [who] burned in their lust one toward another."
Dr. Jeffress acknowledged that "Jesus never used the word homosexual." However, he said, Christ condemned homosexuality by affirming Old Testament truths and by upholding God's plan for human sexuality - "one man and one woman in a marriage relationship."
In next week's sermon, Dr. Jeffress said he will address homosexuality again, including the assertion that "God wired me differently."
"My answer will surprise you," he told worshippers at the 9:30 a.m. service.
His answer might not sit well with Laura McFerrin, one of the protest organizers.
"I'm here because of the gay and lesbian children sitting in the pews now who are being told that being gay is not OK," she said, gesturing toward the church during Sunday's protest. "I was like those kids. The hardest part of coming out as a lesbian is aligning your faith with who you are."
Ms. McFerrin added: "God doesn't make mistakes. I was born this way, and God loves me."