Late last year, Chip and Joanna Gaines found themselves in hot water due to their church affiliation. The staunchly Christian hosts of HGTV’s house remodeling show Fixer Upper were widely criticized for the views on gay marriage shared at the church they regularly attend in Waco, Texas.
The story that the church’s pastor Jimmi Seibert promotes conversion of homosexuals was shared by Cosmopolitan and BuzzFeed at the end of November 2016.
Joanna, 38, and Chip, 42, first met while attending school at Baylor University. The couple quickly fell in love and began to plan their life together. Their belief was always a big part of those plans. They got married in 2003 and have four children: two girls named Ella and Emmie, and two boys named Drake and Duke.
Joanna and Chip knew they wanted to make a living out of remodeling so they started applying their talents all over the State of Texas. The client would purchase a run-down home, and Joanna and Chip would rush in and soon make the place unrecognizable. They admitted to remodeling over 100 homes and barely making ends meet before getting their big break on television.
It all began when network executives from HGTV spotted Gaines skills and saw reality show potential in the family. The show “Fixer Upper”, revolving around their work but also around their family live, began screening in 2013.
Despite their fortunes changing, the Gaines continued to put faith first. When speaking to the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association they reflected on what had changed after Fixer Upper and what continues to remain the same in their lives:
“Our family has made a commitment to put Christ first, a lifestyle our parents modeled for us very well. They showed us how to keep our marriage and family centered around God. We haven’t been overtly evangelical, but the rich feedback we have received from family and love all source from our faith. Jesus said the world would know His disciples by their love for one another, and we’ve glimpsed this in practice and strive for it every day.”
The family’s religion, however, stirred considerable controversy in 2016, when BuzzFeed ran an article about the Gaines’ affiliation with the Antioch Community Church, a nondenominational, evangelical church located in their hometown of Waco, Texas. The article reported how the weekly sermons of Pastor Jimmy Seibert who the Fixer Upper stars regularly attend “promote converting LGBT people into being straight.”
“God defined marriage, not you and I. God defined masculine and feminine, male and female, not you and I. Truth No. 1: Homosexuality is a sin. The lie: Homosexuality is not a sin,” Seibert reportedly told churchgoers in June 2015, before saying that members of the LGBT community “choose” their sexual orientation.
Faith versus Fairness
Asked for comment by the Huffington Post, the HGTV network replied: “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.” Despite such statements, Fixer Upper never featured a same-sex couple in four seasons.
When asked to comment on the accusations, Pastor Seibert reaffirmed his church’s stance against gay marriage and criticized a culture that would ‘vilify’ him and others for having what he referred to as a clear definition of marriage.
“If you are struggling with same-sex attraction, if you are in a homosexual lifestyle, if you are divorced, if you are broken, whatever it is, welcome to church. We are here for you with arms open wide. But we want to be clear that God’s truth and God’s Word is going to be our fixed point that we are all journeying toward.” Seibert told the Daily Mail.
The Pastor stated his contention at the publicity his church is receiving as a result of the controversy.
“That has actually been the most encouraging side of the journey over the last 48 hours or so. Thousands, and maybe hundreds of thousands of people are now getting Scripture, getting some clarity, getting some truth and some thought on this issue of marriage, and life, and sexual identity. In a weird way, we’re grateful, because that message is getting out.”
More than a month after the original story, Chip Gaines took to his official website to share his side of the story.
“Joanna and I have personal convictions. One of them is this: we care about you for the simple fact that you are a person, our neighbor on planet earth. It’s not about what color your skin is, how much money you have in the bank, your political affiliation, sexual orientation, gender, nationality or faith. That’s all fascinating, but it cannot add or take away from the reality that we’re already pulling for you. We are not about to get in the nasty business of throwing stones at each other, don’t ask us to cause we won’t play that way,” the 42-year-old wrote.
“Also, let’s cut each other a little slack. This living out loud thing is not for the faint of heart. Jo and I don’t want to hide, we want to live brave & bold lives and we wish that same thing for you as well. But words can cut deep and having someone misunderstand your intentions can hurt as much as just about anything. If I misjudge people and am wrong, I want to be wrong having assumed the best about them. The bottom line is, I would rather be loving than be right… Our family wants to fight for a world that knows how to lovingly disagree. We believe it starts when we operate from a position of love in all things. If your position only extends love to the people who agree with you, we want to respectfully challenge that position. We propose operating with a love so real and true that you are willing to roll up your sleeves and work alongside the very people that are most unlike you. Fear dissolves in close proximity. Our stereotypes and vain imaginations fall away when we labor side by side. This is how a house gets unified.”
Watch the video to see Chip and Joanna Gaines and their story.