An evangelical college in the United Kingdom has sparked a debate over Scripture and tolerance after it fired a lecturer for a tweet labeling homosexuality a “sin.”
The controversy started in February when Cliff College lecturer Aaron Edwards posted a tweet affirming the historic, biblical position on sexuality.
“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,” he tweeted. “This *is* a ‘Gospel issue’, by the way. If sin is no longer sin, we no longer need a Saviour.”
Homosexuality is invading the Church.— Aaron Edwards (@aaron_p_edwards) February 19, 2023
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.
Edwards received pushback from some on social media but stood by the tweet, saying in a subsequent post that “most of the global Church would agree” with his position. “It is not homophobic to declare homosexuality sinful.”
Cliff College administrators, though, quickly distanced themselves from his position, saying in a tweet that the “language used is inappropriate and unacceptable” and “does not represent either the views or the ethos of Cliff College.”
“Cliff College, with the Methodist Church in Britain, is committed to being a safe and hospitable place, where those with differing convictions are welcomed and challenged to live together as faithful disciples of Christ,” the college said.
Cliff College, with the Methodist Church in Britain, is committed to being a safe and hospitable place, where those with differing convictions are welcomed and challenged to live together as faithful disciples of Christ.— Cliff College (@CliffCollege) February 19, 2023
The college, according to its website, “provides theological education and training with a particular focus on mission and evangelism.” It is Methodist.
Cliff College held a disciplinary hearing for Edwards on March 8, according to the Christian Legal Centre, which is representing and supporting him. He was then fired. The college also said it was considering reporting him to Prevent, the government’s counter-terrorism watchdog, according to the Christian Legal Centre.
Edwards is appealing the decision and considering his legal options, according to the Christian Legal Centre.
Andrea Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre, said the college is failing to abide by its own beliefs. The college’s statement of beliefs reads like many statements found at Christian colleges in the United States. It says it is “grounded in the authority of Scripture.” Further, it says, “We proclaim the Gospel and invite everyone to experience the life-changing transformation of a relationship with Jesus Christ.” The college adheres to the Evangelical Alliance's Basis of Faith, which itself affirms “the dignity of all people, made male and female in God’s image to love, be holy and care for creation, yet corrupted by sin, which incurs divine wrath and judgement.”
“A Christian theologian working for a Christian bible college tweeting about the biblical Christian teaching on human sexuality has been sacked and labelled as a potential ‘terrorist,’” Williams said. “This is an intelligent, learned, respected father of five children who has been kicked out of a bible college for expressing views and beliefs shared by millions of Christians across the globe. It is saddening and very concerning to see the Methodist Church, and a once renowned bible college, lose its way by no longer upholding marriage as God defines it, or supporting those who express it.”
The Methodist Church in the U.K. affirmed same-sex marriage during a 2021 vote.
Edwards said the controversy is evidence of a lack of tolerance for Christians who affirm orthodox beliefs on sexuality.
“The reaction to my tweet and the unjust treatment I have experienced by Cliff College and the Methodist Church in Britain completely illustrates the problem my tweet addressed,” 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,” he added. “Rather, it is clear that those beliefs are to be silenced and stamped out.”
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Master1305
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.