‘Dark Precedent’ Set as Christian Lecturer Sacked
Biblical Views No Longer Tolerated – A Warning to CofE
A Christian theology lecturer has been sacked and threatened with a counter-terrorism referral by a Methodist Bible college for a tweet on human sexuality that went viral.
Dr Aaron Edwards, 37, was last week sacked for misconduct by Cliff College in Calver, Derbyshire for allegedly ‘bringing the college into disrepute’ on social media.
The presenting issue was this tweet posted on 19th February: “Homosexuality is invading the Church. Evangelicals no longer see the severity of this b/c [because] they’re busy apologising for their apparently barbaric homophobia, whether or not it’s true. This *is* a “Gospel issue”, by the way. If sin is no longer sin, we no longer need a Saviour.”
College bosses asked him to take the tweet down as they believed it ‘contravened the College’s Staff Social Media Policy.’
Dr Edwards refused, saying that not only would it go against his conscience but it would also concede that he had sought to be deliberately provocative. Rather the tweet was an expression of a deeply held belief.
Dr Edwards posted on Twitter: “I expressed the conservative view as a doctrinal issue, re. the implications for sin/the Gospel. It was not an attack on individuals, it was addressed to evangelicals. It seems that holding the view that homosexuality is sinful is only welcome if it remains “unexpressed”.”
Another of his tweets stated: “That *is* the conservative view. The acceptance of homosexuality as ‘not sinful’ *is* an invasion upon the Church, doctrinally. This is not controversial. The acceptance is controversial. Most of the global Church would agree. It is not homophobic to declare homosexuality sinful.”
The academic was suspended while an investigation was undertaken. During this time, college authorities told him that he could be reported to Prevent, the Government’s counter-extremism programme. He was also asked how he would pray for same-sex attracted students who approach him for prayer, according to minutes from the college’s disciplinary hearing.
In 2021 the Methodist Church voted to allow same-sex weddings in places of worship. Dr Edwards has argued that free speech for conservative evangelicals would be threatened by this novel doctrine of marriage adopted by the Methodist Church.
Following the hearing, he was sacked and is now in the process of appealing the decision. Dr Edwards argues that the decision to dismiss him was disproportionate and failed to balance his freedom to express his Christian beliefs.
Dr Edwards said: “The tweet was not defamatory; it was not an attack on any colleague or individual; it was not abusive; and it was not an extremist religious view. It was addressed to evangelicals as a point of doctrine, and it has been misunderstood by many who wish to cause personal and institutional trouble for those who express that view.
“What has happened to me demonstrates that conservative biblical views on human sexuality are no longer ‘tolerated’ in the Methodist church in the UK. Rather it is clear that those beliefs are to be silenced and stamped out.
“It seems the college is a safe place for those who are pro LGBTQ+, but not for conservative evangelicals. What has happened exposes that living with contradictory convictions is not possible for an evangelical Christian.
“Anyone concerned about academic freedom, Christian freedoms and free speech should be deeply concerned by what has happened to me.”
Cliff College, where Dr Edwards has worked for seven years, was founded in 1883 and describes itself as a global centre for evangelism and missiology.
A spokesman for the College said, “As a Methodist institution, Cliff College is committed to being a safe and hospitable place where those with differing convictions are welcomed and encouraged to live and learn together as faithful disciples of Christ.”
The Christian Legal Centre is supporting Dr Edwards. Its Chief Executive of Andrea Williams said, “This story sets a dark precedent for the Methodist Church going forward and also serves as a warning to the Church of England.”
Dr Edwards also issued this warning, “Significant changes within western culture are increasingly affecting what Christians can and cannot say based upon their Biblical beliefs.
“Whilst this is an issue of free speech in general, the greater problem for the Church is that continual silencing of Biblical convictions over time eventually softens or erodes those convictions. This has already led many churches towards Biblical unfaithfulness in their efforts to please the world, avoid persecution, and generally stay out of trouble. Whilst we should not seek unnecessary trouble (1 Thess. 4:11), Jesus warned his disciples ‘you will have trouble’ (John 16:33) and we must be willing to say what needs to be said even it costs us our reputations.”
Dr Edwards, who is married with five children, has launched an online appeal for funding to enable him to support his family and provide theological resources that will strengthen the Church and its leaders to be a stronger light in the challenging times ahead. Donations can be made at the following link: