After twenty-two-years of good relationship, three schools in Alfreton, Derbyshire have severed ties with a local church, citing disagreements over LGBTQ+ views and the pastor's stance on marriage.
Pastor Ryan Clarke of Watchorn Church said Leys Junior School, Croft Infant School, and Alfreton Park School have formally communicated their decison to no longer use the church for events or welcome members of the church to visit the school.
This decision follows Pastor Clarke's public criticism of Mayor Hannah Jowett-Frost for her social media post during Pride Month in 2023 in which Mrs Jowett-Frost said she wished "all the homophobes a super uncomfortable month".
In a private letter to the mayor, Pastor Clarke stated his concerns with her social media post. He said: ''I’ll admit that it caused several within the church (myself included) some cause for concern because it seemed to distance yourself as mayor and those you serve in the town who would sincerely hold to a different opinion about Pride month.''
His letter, which he told Premier he assumes was later shared with the public, then went on to invite Mrs Jowett-Frost to his house "for tea" to discuss this further.
''Maybe this will help us understand where we are both coming from and understand each other that little bit more," he said.
In response, the head teacher of one of the schools expressed concerns about the church's stance on LGBTQ+ issues, prompting the decision to end the partnership in the name of inclusivity.
Two more schools conveyed their intentions to part ways with the church, citing similar concerns over its beliefs.
Pastor Clarke expressed disappointment at the schools' decisions, emphasising the church's commitment to biblical teachings. He said “I was disappointed because we stand by what we believe is true - which is the Bible. The ease at which the school could pull away from the church, after having historically had so much influence from the church was frightening to me."
In a recent video posted on the church's YouTube channel he said: “The Bible has been teaching us for centuries that marriage is between a man and a woman. I recognise good that goes on within schools and I have admiration for teachers who work hard but the system sadly is corrupt and it has one mind and that is to change the minds of our children into what they think is right which is sadly far from the truth’’.
The schools issued a joint statement explaining their decision.
They said: “When we became aware of the views of Watchorn Church, we can confirm that we informed Watchorn Church that we will no longer be able to use their buildings for school events. This is with great sadness as we have used the church for many years when it was part of the Methodist church group.
“Unfortunately, the beliefs of the group now running the church are at odds with those of our schools, and do not fit with the national curriculum we must follow. All schools have a duty to promote British values of tolerance and respect for sexual orientations. We wish the church and their congregation well.”