Tribunal to weigh firing of theology lecturer from Methodist college over tweet on homosexuality

Aaron Edwards
Aaron Edwards | Christian Concern

An employment tribunal in Sheffield, England, will review the controversial dismissal of Dr. Aaron Edwards, a theology lecturer at Cliff College in Derbyshire who was terminated after he tweeted about Christian sexual ethics, which sparked backlash. 

The hearing, scheduled for Tuesday, will assess claims of harassment, discrimination and unfair dismissal, seeking damages, reinstatement and a declaration under the Equality Act 2010, according to the rights group Christian Concern.

Christian Concern's legal arm, Christian Legal Centre, represents Edwards and will argue that Cliff College violated Edwards' rights under Article 9 and Article 10 of the European Convention of Human Rights.  

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In February 2023, as the Church of England debated same-sex blessings, 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. This is a 'Gospel issue,' by the way. If sin is no longer sin, we no longer need a Saviour."

Following the tweet, a "Twitter storm" ensued, prompting Edwards to clarify his stance, asserting that his message was doctrinal, not personal. He stated at the time, "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's response was swift and unequivocal.

The Methodist institution asked Edwards to retract his statement, alleging it violated its social media policy — a claim Edwards contested. His refusal was based on a belief that retracting the tweet would compromise his conscience and his role as a Christian educator. This led to his suspension and subsequent dismissal for misconduct. Edwards was accused of bringing the college into disrepute and potentially breaching the Prevent program — Britain's counter-extremism measure.

The response from the Methodist Church in Britain was also mixed, with significant figures expressing concern that the tweet could harm the college's core mission and its standing with staff and church members. Some students and Evangelical leaders supported Edwards, reflecting a division within the community over the expression of conservative views on sexuality.

During a disciplinary hearing at the college, Edwards was allegedly told that he could be reported to a government counter-extremism program and was interrogated about how he would pray for a same-sex attracted student if one ever asked for a prayer. 

Following his dismissal, the 39-year-old father of six and his family have faced significant personal and financial strain, according to his lawyers. Edwards reported hospitalization due to cardiac symptoms induced by stress and had to rely on crowdfunding to sustain his family.

"It feels like everything I worked for at the college (and for the college) over the last seven years has gone up in smoke," he said ahead of the hearing. 

Christian Legal Centre CEO Andrea Williams contends that Edwards was "sacked because he challenged the church to uphold God's teaching on human sexuality."

"Contending for that truth publicly meant that he lost the job that he was so good at, as well as his family's home," Williams said in a statement. "It is deeply saddening to see a once renowned Bible college losing its way by no longer upholding the truth about marriage. What message does Aaron's sacking send to the next generation of leaders and pastors, and the future of Christian witness?"

Williams argues that the case "exposes a collapse in confidence in biblical truth in one of the very places where the next generation of Christian leaders is being trained."

"Our churches, and our society, desperately need courageous leaders," she concluded. "Aaron was committed to raising faithful preachers and pastors for the church. We need more lecturers and trainers like Aaron, not less, to build-up the next generation of Christian leaders to be unashamed of the gospel."

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