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Church News

Church of England minister Lee Gatiss receives vitriol online after leading national church service

by Cara Bentley

Evangelical Anglican minister Lee Gatiss has reported a tweet that came across violent to the police but received many more of a similar nature after he spoke at the Church of England's online service on Sunday. 

Mr Gatiss heads up the Church Society, which aims to reform the Church of England with a focus on the importance of the Bible. 

When he was chosen to lead the Church of England's national service online, which has been led by ministers from various parts of the denomination since lockdown, he told Premier "there was a huge amount of vitriol on social media against me."

Some perceived the choice as an insult to the Christian LGBT+ community. 
 
Much of the critcism stemmed from him being from the Conservative evangelical wing of the Church of England and so supporting marriage that is between a man and a woman only, not supporting events such as Pride and believing a church leader should not be someone who has gone through a gender transition. 

Gatiss said: "Even before the service went out (so before anyone heard a word I preached), a coordinated campaign against me had been organised by LGBT activists online. In their Facebook groups they were openly discussing my family and marital status, my 'oh so gay moustache', how camp they thought I was, and so on. 

"The official theology of the Church of England was labelled 'homophobic and abusive', and I was called all sorts of names from 'abhorrent' and 'disgusting' to 'ignorant', 'shameful', and 'a vile homophobe'...The idea of inviting me to lead the service was called a 'spectacularly stupid decision' which Satan would be proud of."

In Sunday's sermon Gatiss spoke on Romans 10 and mentioned that, similar to in the Apostle Paul's day, "there are always campaigns and slogans, badges and flags, for us to signal our virtue on the issues of the day, to show that we’re on the right side of things. If we don’t do that thing, we’re meant to feel ashamed of ourselves, guilty, maybe we’re meant to feel fearful of reprisals, of being tarred with a negative label or of being left out. And we can make ourselves 'righteous' again, by doing whatever the latest campaign says it is that we are supposed to do."

After the service he reported one tweet which said 'Homophobia causes abuse, violence and suicides, Homophobes deserve what they put out coming back at them.'

The police have called it a 'hate incident' but do not think it is a direct threat to kill. 

Gatiss told Premier: "I don't find that very reassuring after the way Christians for LGBTI+ Equality and others have whipped up such hate and vitriol against me over the weekend."

Reverend Christina Beardsley, a trans minister and member of the Christians for LGBTI+ Equality group, responded to the news of the hate received, saying: "hate can never be the way, but it was very unwise to have offered him a platform in the first place given his public statements about LGBTI+ people in the life of the Church."

She has written to the General Secretary of the Church of England saying of his message: "His comparison of equality campaigners, of all stripes, with those whom St Paul regarded as enslaved by the law is unfortunate, inaccurate and offensive." 

You can watch Sunday's service here:

For an opinion piece on this, read this blog from Premier Christianity magazine.

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