A Christian theology lecturer has been sacked and claims he was threatened with a counter-terrorism referral by a college after tweeting that “homosexuality is invading the church”.
Dr Aaron Edwards, 37, a father of five, was dismissed last week for misconduct by Cliff College, a Methodist college in Derbyshire, after he allegedly brought the college “into disrepute” on social media, The Telegraph has learnt.
The lecturer was told by the college that he could be reported to Prevent, the Government’s counter-extremism programme, and asked how he would pray for same-sex attracted students who approach him for prayer, according to minutes from the college’s disciplinary hearing.
On Feb 19, Dr Edwards posted on Twitter:
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.
This *is* a “Gospel issue”, by the way. If sin is no longer sin, we no longer need a Saviour.
— Aaron Edwards (@aaron_p_edwards) February 19, 2023
The tweet sparked a debate that went viral.
Dr Edwards insists – and clarified in subsequent tweets – that the post was not “homophobic” and that it was addressed to evangelicals who agree with his message but feel they cannot say so for fear of backlash.
He subsequently tweeted: “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.”
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 [the study of the church’s mission especially with respect to missionary activity].
Dr Edwards said he was contacted by college bosses after they were made aware of the post, asking him to take the tweet down as they believed it contravened the college’s staff social media policy.
Dr Edwards refused, saying that it would go against his conscience and be an admittance that he had intended to be deliberately provocative when the tweet was an expression of a deeply held belief.
The lecturer was subsequently suspended while an investigation was undertaken.
Following the disciplinary hearing, he was sacked and is now in the process of appealing the decision. He has argued that the decision to dismiss him was disproportionate and failed to balance his freedom to express his Christian beliefs.
“Anyone concerned about academic freedom, Christian freedoms and free speech should be deeply concerned by what has happened to me,” he told The Telegraph.
Expressing orthodox Christian beliefs should not be grounds for dismissal from a purportedly Christian organisation
He believes that as a result of the sacking, he might not be able to work in UK higher education again.
The incident comes amid a fallout in the Methodist Church in Britain following a June 2021 decision by its governing body to allow same-sex marriages in places of worship.
The Methodist Church globally has traditionally understood that marriage is the lifelong union of one man and one woman, to the exclusion of all others, and the only appropriate context for sexual intimacy.
Since the vote, some Methodist Church leaders and members say they have found themselves in the position of being compelled to affirm same-sex marriage while also continuing to teach the biblical belief that homosexual practice is sinful.
Andrea Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre, said: “This story sets a dark precedent for the Methodist Church going forward and also serves as a warning to the Church of England.”
Toby Young, of the Free Speech Union, said: “Expressing orthodox Christian beliefs should not be grounds for dismissal from a purportedly Christian organisation.”
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.”