"Fixer Upper" stars Chip and Joanna Gaines have said they will "refuse to be baited" into using their influence in a way that will "further harm an already hurting world" in the wake of a BuzzFeed article criticizing them for attending an evangelical church opposed to same-sex marriage.
In a recent blog post titled "New Years' Revelation", Chip said that humanity has never been "more divided," but 2017 is the time to change the conversation: "This past year has been tough," he wrote. "In my lifetime, I can't recall humanity being more divided. Plenty of folks are sad and scared and angry and there are sound bites being fed to us that seem fueled by judgment, fear and even hatred. Jo and I refuse to be baited into using our influence in a way that will further harm an already hurting world, this is our home. A house divided cannot stand."
The Christian couple from Waco, Texas came under scrutiny in November after Cosmopolitan and Buzzfeed published articles revealing that their pastor, Jimmy Seibert, once preached a sermon in which he called homosexuality a "sin" and urged Christians not to adopt the Supreme Court's redefinition of marriage. In response, a number of LGBT activists demanded HGTV cancel "Fixer Upper," while Christian leaders, including the Benham brothers, Ken Ham, and Franklin Graham, called on the faith community to rally around the couple.
In his blog post, Chip said that while he and Joanna have "personal convictions", they believe it's important to treat all individuals with love and respect.
"Joanna and I have personal convictions," he wrote. "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," he wrote.
"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."
Chip went on to emphasize that 2017 was the year to "change the conversation" and build bridges, along with seeking healing and compassion.
"I think we are all here for a reason. I think we all have a call on our lives. Your role is not my role, and thank goodness, because there is so much unique and important work to be done. Jo and I feel called to be bridge builders," he continued.
"We want to help initiate conversations between people that don't think alike. Listen to me, we do not all have to agree with each other. Disagreement is not the same thing as hate, don't believe that lie."
The "Fixer Upper" star also said the world must learn how to "lovingly disagree." "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," he said.
"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."
In a separate blog post titled "Joanna's Look Back on 2016", Joanna said that she and Chip are grateful for God's faithfulness and protection - no matter what obstacles they may face.
"We've always strived to serve and love people from all walks of life, regardless of who you are or what you do," she wrote. "We are in the restoration business. Our job is to find beauty in all things, whether it's an old house or someone's story."
She added, "We are thankful for this ride of a lifetime- we feel God has been with us on every mountain top and in every valley. Grace upon grace He has given us."