When actor Chris Pratt went on The Late Show a couple weeks ago, he casually name-dropped "the Daniel Fast," a 21-day diet based on the Bible, which he said he learned about through his pastor at Zoe Church. This comment about his church and the rest of the conversation about his faith got Ellen Page's attention.
"Oh. K. Um. But his church is infamously anti lgbtq so maybe address that too?" Page wrote on Twitter, referring to Hillsong, another celebrity-friendly megachurch, which Pratt used to attend. Two days later, she tweeted: "If you are a famous actor and you belong to an organization that hates a certain group of people, don’t be surprised if someone simply wonders why it’s not addressed. Being anti LGBTQ is wrong, there aren’t two sides. The damage it causes is severe."
Pratt responded to Page's claims in an Instagram story, saying, "Nothing could be further from the truth. I go to a church that opens their doors to absolutely everyone." According to Zoe Church's website, the church "is a place where our doors are open to people of all backgrounds — regardless of where they are at in their journeys — and we hope all feel welcomed, comfortable and loved." Still, this news has lots of people wondering: What's the deal with Zoe Church and why is it so controversial? Here's what you need to know about Zoe Church, the Hillsong-adjacent, Hollywood hipster church that Pratt and others flock to — plus, what we can glean about the church's political stance.
Refinery29 has reached out to Zoe Church and its founder and pastor, Chad Veach, for comment, but did not hear back by the time of publication.
It's pronounced "zo-AY" not "ZOH-ee."
The name "Zoe" comes from the Greek translation of the word, which means "abundant life," according to the Zoe Church website. The pronunciation is more "like, be-yon-SAY," Veach, told the New York Times. The whole intent of the church is to "infuse" this Zoe or life into people through "engaging, powerful worship and Biblical truth," a statement on the website says.
Services are held in Los Angeles.
With its Hollywood following and hipster aesthetic, Zoe Church has a distinctly Los Angeles vibe. The first Zoe Church services took place at the club 1 Oak, but the space was too small for the vibrant services. Now, there are seven different services held on Sunday, at different locations across the city: five take place at the El Rey Theatre on Wilshire, and two are held at a middle school in the San Fernando Valley. There are also plans to extend the service to East Los Angeles.
It was founded by Chad Veach.
In 2014, a charismatic pastor named Chad Veach moved from Seattle to Los Angeles, and a year later founded Zoe Church, modelled after the megachurch Hillsong, where he used to preach. Veach's family was very involved in ministry growing up: his father ran a church, and his siblings went on to become pastors, too. He's written a few books, one of which is about raising his daughter who has a rare brain condition. Veach is also tight with Justin Bieber; the pair met through a mutual megachurch friend, and Veach even went on tour with Bieber briefly.
Lots of celebrities are fans.
Their politics are questionable.
When Page called out Pratt for supporting Zoe, it brought several concerns about the church's stance on LGBTQ issues to the forefront. In the past, Veach has been cagey about Zoe Church's political views, telling the New York Times that he's "a Bible guy," when asked about abortion rights. "Maybe, just what we grew up in, it’s, like, you don’t bring politics into church. We’re here to preach good news. We’re here to bring hope to humanity. We’re here to talk about God. This is not the place for a political agenda," he said.
When it comes to "lifestyle stuff," Veach told The Christian Post in a 2014 interview that he lets Jesus deal with it. (You might recall that Hillsong's leader, Brian Houston, infamously said: "We do not affirm a gay lifestyle.") However, in 2017, Veach served as the executive producer for a film about people who "have struggled with 'sexual brokenness,'" which included "same-sex attraction."
Refinery29 has reached out to Zoe Church and its founder and pastor, Chad Veach, for comment several times via email and telephone, but did not hear back by the time of publication.