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Controversial Associate Pastor Steps Down At Palo Alto Church

PALO ALTO (CBS SF) -- The associate pastor of Palo Alto's First Baptist Church has resigned after his controversial and off-color tweets drew the spotlight during a City Council hearing on whether his church could lease its space to outside tenants.

Former Associate Pastor Gregory Stevens has since deleted the twitter account, but not before someone snapped photos of the posts and submitted them to the council for the public record.

Some of them read:

  • "In our church council people always fall asleep"
  • "Palo alto is an elitist...den of hate."
  • "In the nicest way possible, I hate Palo Alto"
  • "Palo Alto is disgusting"

Stevens has since resigned and wrote a letter to the congregation.

"I do wish my transition would've been through different circumstances," Gregory said in his letter. "I'm terribly sorry for bringing such negative attention to the church community."

The tweets were made public last week, shortly before a city council meeting to determine the fate of the church.

To supplement the church's income it has been renting out affordable space to a choir group, for music and dance lessons and to mental health counselors. But some neighbors have complained the additional activities have resulted in more noise and parking issues.

So after two years of back-and-forth, the council voted on a 5-year-long conditional use permit that imposed limits on what the church can do.

"Where the city sees that as a compromise," Pastor Rick Mixon said. "We see that as a burden."

Mixon questions the legality of telling a church what it can and cannot do on its property, but says his church does not plan to sue and will wait and see how the restrictions work out.

"To the extent that the city is abridging our right to do what we think is proper in our building.. comes dangerously close to stepping on our First Amendment right to free expression of religion," he said.

As for the tweets, Mixon denounced the tone and choice of words, but says they did raise an issue worth discussion.

"You're gonna put me on the spot here, but yeah, I think he (Stevens) brings some fresh eyes," Mixon said of the recently arrived Gregory. "He's young and passionate about social justice. And he's raising questions that come from our faith tradition about what it means to have wealth and privilege."


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