A Christian theology lecturer who reportedly claimed he was threatened with a referral to a counter-terror programme after tweeting that ‘homosexuality is invading the church’ has been sacked.
Dr Aaron Edwards, 37, was sacked from Cliff College, Derbyshire, after he was found to have brought it ‘into disrepute’ following a social media post.
The father-of-five, who refers to himself as a ‘cancelled Christian lecturer’, is understood to have subsequently been informed he could be referred to the government-led counter-terror counter-extremism programme Prevent.
During a disciplinary hearing, he is also said to have been asked how he would pray for same-sex attracted students if they approached him for prayer, The Telegraph reports.
On February 19, Dr Edwards tweeted: ‘Homosexuality is invading the Church. Evangelicals no longer see the severity of this b/c they’re busy apologising for their apparently barbaric homophobia, whether or not it’s true.
Dr Aaron Edwards (pictured), 37, was sacked from the Cliff College, Derbyshire, after he was found to have brought it ‘into disrepute’ following a social media post
‘This *is* a “Gospel issue”, by the way. If sin is no longer sin, we no longer need a Saviour.’
And in another tweet last night, he added: ‘To Confirm (as it’s in the news now anyway): Yes, I have been fired by Cliff College, re. the below.’
The history of the Methodist church
Methodism began as a revivalist movement inside the Church of England among followers of the great preacher John Wesley, who spoke in the open air and refused to be bound by the parish system.
The group broke away from the Anglicans in 1795, attracting support in the new industrial cities.
The church soon became central to working- class politics, with its preachers prominent in the Chartist movement and among leaders of the growing trade unions.
Four of the Tolpuddle Martyrs, convicted and transported to Australia for founding a union in the 1820s, were Methodists.
When the Labour Party became powerful after the 1890s, its ideology was said to owe more to Methodism than Marx.
However in recent years, the church has suffered as the industrial working class has declined and its institutions fallen on hard times.
Leaders have espoused radical thinking – their prayer books refer to God as ‘Mother’ and at one- stage non-believers were even invited to attend its services.
But the church’s membership has continued to fall in Britain. In contract, the U.S. Methodist church is now one of that country’s leading denominations.
The Church of England is also struggling with shrinking congregations.
The initial tweet went viral and sparked a widespread debate, but Dr Edwards later clarified his remarks and insisted he did ‘not intend harm for any individual or group’.
He continued: ‘I also stand with victims of homophobia. What I said is not homophobic.’
Dr Edwards said the tweet was directed at evangelicals who agree with his views, but say they cannot say so publicly due to the fear of reprisal.
Cliff College, where he had worked for seven years, describes itself as providing ‘theological education and training with a particular focus on mission and evangelism’.
Dr Edwards reportedly said he was contacted by the college after bosses were made aware of his tweet.
He was asked to remove the post after being told it breached a staff social media policy.
But Dr Edwards refused, saying that doing so would go against his conscience and provide an admission that he had posted the tweet to be provocative when it is actually a belief.
He said he had been suspended from Cliff College for two weeks pending an investigation the day after his tweet.
Following a disciplinary proceedings, he has now been sacked from the college, though is appealing its decision.
He told The Telegraph: ‘Anyone concerned about academic freedom, Christian freedoms and free speech should be deeply concerned by what has happened to me.’
Dr Edwards believe the termination will now prevent him from working in higher education again.
In June last year, the Methodist Church has become the biggest religious group in Britain to say yes to same-sex marriages.
The move – which followed debates at a Methodist Conference – was hailed by campaigners as a ‘momentous step on the road to justice and inclusion’.
A total of 29 out of the 30 Methodist Synods in Britain confirmed they were in support of provisional resolutions to allow the practice.
The current membership of the Methodist Church of Britain is 164,000, making it the fourth largest denomination of Christian Churches in the UK.
Cliff College, where he had worked for seven years, describes itself as providing ‘theological education and training with a particular focus on mission and evangelism’
While same-sex marriage is not allowed in the Church of England nor the Roman Catholic Church, it is welcomed in the Scottish Episcopal Church, the United Reformed Church and the Quakers in Britain.
The latter three are smaller in membership, making the Methodist Church the largest Christian Church to support gay weddings.
A spokesman for Cliff College said: ‘As internal processes remain ongoing, we are unable to respond to specific issues.
‘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.’