A Texas pastor who once sparked outrage for making virulently homophobic comments about victims of the 2016 Orlando nightclub shooting resigned from his ministry job over allegations that he had slept with prostitutes.
Donnie Romero, a conservative Baptist minister and founder of Fort Worth’s Stedfast Baptist Church, offered congregants a tearful apology during a meeting on Jan. 2.
“I haven’t been ruling my house well,” Romero said in a video of the meeting posted to Stedfast Baptist Church’s YouTube channel. “I’ve been a terrible husband and father.”
“This is the best decision — for my family and this church — to make,” he said.
In a follow-up video about Romero’s resignation, an affiliated Baptist minister from Arizona, Steven Anderson, provided more context about the nature of Romero’s “grievous sins.”
“Basically, the major sin involved was being with prostitutes, and then there were also marijuana and gambling that were also discovered,” Anderson said in a YouTube video posted on Jan. 3.
Romero made national headlines in 2016 when he lavished praise on Omar Mateen, the gunman who killed 49 people at Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida. During a sermon shortly after the attack, Romero reportedly preached that all gay people were pedophiles. He said that he hoped the 50 additional people who were injured in the massacre would die, “so that they don’t get any more opportunity to go out and hurt little children.”
“I’ll pray to God that God will finish the job that that man started,” Romero said during the sermon, according to The New York Times.
The video of that sermon has been removed from YouTube.
Romero started Stedfast Baptist Church in 2014. The church has since created two offshoot plants in Florida and Oklahoma. All three Stedfast churches are listed in a directory of “outstanding churches” on Anderson’s church website.
Stedfast Baptist Church’s website paints the “worldly, rock and roll, contemporary-style” of mainstream evangelical churches as a “complete disaster.” In comparison, the website states that Stedfast Baptist Church “stands for the old paths and zero compromise preaching.”
Romero and Anderson are both independent Baptist pastors, according to The New York Times, which means their churches operate without the hierarchical denominational structures that unite more mainstream evangelical groups, like the Southern Baptist Convention.
The nature of independent fundamental Baptist churches means that practices can vary from pastor to pastor, but there are still some core beliefs, including that the King James version of the Bible is the divinely inspired and inerrant word of God. Independent conservative Baptists refrain from engaging in pop culture and often choose to home-school their kids. They are also often fiercely opposed to LGBTQ identities.
Anderson, the pastor of Tempe, Arizona’s Faithful Word Baptist Church, also has a history of making controversial remarks. In 2009, he drew backlash for proclaiming that he was praying for President Barack Obama’s death. In 2014, the Anti-Defamation League said a documentary Anderson helped create, called “Marching to Zion,” promoted “hateful anti-Semitic myths.”
Faithful Word Baptist Church summarizes its stance on homosexuality in a doctrinal statement posted on its website: “We believe that homosexuality is a sin and an abomination which God punishes with the death penalty.”
After the Pulse nightclub massacre, Anderson reportedly stated that the victims, “should have been killed, anyway, but they should have been killed through the proper channels, as in they should have been executed by a righteous government.”
During his resignation announcement on Jan. 2, Romero suggested that he and his family will continue attending Stedfast Baptist Church as ordinary members.
“I’m very sorry for the hurt this may cause people, the discouragement,” Romero told his congregation. “I’m so sorry, I love you guys. I wish I wouldn’t let it get to this point.”