Zeeland pastor under fire for comparing gays to axe murderers

Posted at 5:29 PM, Mar 13, 2015
and last updated 2015-03-13 17:29:16-04

ZEELAND, Mich. -- A pastor from First Baptist Church of Zeeland is making waves online following a recent sermon he gave where he compared being gay to being an axe murderer.

Clint Echols, senior pastor at the church, gave the sermon on March 1 as part of a larger conversation with the congregation about about amending its mission to better reflect its current stance on marriage and sexuality.

Echols said sexuality in American culture is portrayed as an internal compass that a person develops over time, adding hate geared toward the church for holding certain views on sexuality is a result of people hating God.

"They say ‘oh wait a second, I’m gay, I’m bisexual, I want to change my gender.’ And that’s being true to themselves and being true to their internal compass," he said during his sermon.

“For instance, on a completely other playing field, if tomorrow I woke up because I’ve got this internal compass that’s telling me what truth is, tomorrow if I wake up say… well I think I’m an axe murderer and now I’m an axe murderer, would you be happy with that? Would you agree, would you want me to follow that internal compass?”

For Daniel Vanderley, who was a member of the church up until about 15 years ago, the comparisons were jolting, reminding him of his own struggle to come out of the closet. He said the pastor should apologize for the comments.

“Living in a time where it’s hard enough to come out as a gay, in a community where it’s difficult enough to be gay, that to compare that to being an axe murderer does rise to the level of hate speech," Vanderley told FOX 17 by phone Friday.

“They are breaking 'love thy neighbor as thyself' and in the process they’re putting in the minds of the kids who go to that church that being gay is not acceptable.”

Vanderley and a few supporters protested outside the church last Sunday where they posed as members from the Westboro Baptist Church. The purpose was to bring attention to the issue and illustrate the hate happening inside the church outside, Vanderley said.

During the sermon, Echols said homosexuality is considered an “abomination," adding it's "not because God is narrow-minded, it’s because God intended sexuality a certain way… it goes contrary to his design.”

FOX 17 made several attempts to speak with Echols on camera Friday. A representative for the church said Echols would be unavailable for comment put did provide FOX 17 with a statement:

"The protesters who have been demonstrating outside of our church on recent Sundays do not represent our church in any way. They are not from our church, nor are they acting on our behalf. They alone are responsible for the content of their message.
With malice toward none, but charity toward all, First Baptist Church of Zeeland seeks to teach the unchanging truths of God's word.
God declares in His Word that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. As sinners who have received forgiveness and new life through faith in Jesus Christ, we joyfully invite other sinners to experience God's grace and cleansing.
In regard to human sexuality, God's word is clear. God, through His design and clear prescription in his holy Word, instituted marriage between one man and one woman as the foundation of family and the basic structure of human society. Sexual behavior outside of monogamous marriage is contrary to God's design and is therefor sin (Genesis 2:24, Leviticus 18:22; Matthew 19:4-6; Mark 10:6-9; Romans 1:26-27; 1 Corinthians 6:9; 1 Corinthians 7:1-5; 1 Thessalonians 4:3-8; Hebrews 13:4)"

You can hear the full sermon on the church's website here.

Vanderley said he is planning a protest this coming Sunday at 9 a.m. in front of the church in Zeeland. He's created a Facebook group called "Stand for Equality Zeeland."