Stedfast Baptist pastor Jonathan Shelley

Homophobic church Stedfast Baptist is once again being forced to vacate leased premises, pastor Jonathan Shelley said in a video posted to YouTube on Sunday, Dec. 18. The church, known for its pastors’ hateful rhetoric targeting LGBTQ people, must get out of facilities at 6900 Denton Highway in Watauga by the end of the year.

The church was evicted from its previous facilities in Hurst in 2021, thanks in large part to weekly protests staged by a group known as No Hate in Hurst. When the church moved to Watauga, protesters changed the name of their group to No Hate in Texas and stepped up their efforts.

“We’re actually, unfortunately, going to have to move again for next year,” Shelley says, while apparently filming himself in the parking lot of the Watauga address. No Hate protesters can be heard and seen in the background as Shelley speaks.

He continued, pointing to protesters behind him, “Obviously we’ve been protested, you know, like, every single week for, really, years at this point, and it doesn’t seem like it’s going to change any time soon.

“Well, the reality is, nobody really wants to lease to us,” Shelley admitted. “So that makes it very difficult. I am still working on a few options as far as, you know, what lease options … or maybe even getting a building. And, uh, we’re actually trying to save up and get money raised so that we can find our new location. If you’d like to help us with that, you can always send a check.”

Shelley goes on to say that Stedfast has “a lot of legal fees” stemming from lawsuits, including one case in which the previous landlord in Hurst has sued the church for damage to the premises there and another case in which church board members, including the ex-wife of the founding pastor, have charged Shelley and his assistant Dillon Awes with mishandling church funds.

In the video posted Sunday, Shelley invites interested individuals to “Visit our church. Come now for the last few services” at the Watauga location. After the first of the year, he added, anyone interested in attending can email the church and leave a phone number to be notified where services will be held.

A member of No Hate in Texas noted in the group’s Facebook page that between being forced out of the location in Hurst and leasing the location in Watauga, Stedfast often held rented conference rooms in local hotels to hold services. Once they learned who Stedfast was, the No Hate member said, hotel management often told them to leave and refused to rent space to them again.

Stedfast first garnered the notice of the North Texas LGBTQ community in 2016 when then-pastor Donnie Romero said, in the wake of the mass shooting at Pulse in Orlando tat left 49 dead and at least 50 others injured, that the victims of that shooting deserved what happened to him. And, he said, ” I’ll pray to God like I did this morning, and I will again tonight, that God will finish the job that that [the Pulse shooter] started.”

Video of Romero’s “sermon” was posted online, prompting a group of local activists to protest the following Sunday outside the church facilities, then located at 5840 Jacksboro Highway in Sansom Park, on the northwest edge of Fort Worth. Romero was ousted from the church in January 2019 after he was caught doing drugs and carousing with prostitutes (one person with inside knowledge of the situation suggested Romero was involved with both female and male prostitutes.)

By 2019, members of a YouTube program called Divine Disbelief were protesting outside the Jacksboro location regularly. Shelley had by then taken over as pastor. When the church moved to Hurst, the No Hate in Hurst group was formed, and the protests continued.

— Tammye Nash