A pastor from Cornwall had said that he was warned by the police after posting a message to social media welcoming the cancellation of a gay pride event.
Pastor Josh Williamson, 34, of Newquay Baptist Church, was asked by Devon and Cornwall Police to keep his views to a "safe environment" after receiving severe backlash for replying to a local news outlet's story which revealed the upcoming 'Cornwall Pride' event had been scrapped due to fundraising issues and concerns around Covid-19.
"Wonderful news," Williamson posted in response.
When the pastor was challenged by a Facebook user as to why he believed it was "wonderful news", he replied: "because I don’t think sin should be celebrated".
Sharing the news update to his personal Facebook page, Williamson declared: "Hallelujah!! We prayed at our prayer meeting on Tuesday night that this event would be cancelled. We also prayed that the Lord would save the organisers. One prayer answered, now we wait for the second prayer to be answered.”
According to advocacy group Christian Concern, the organisers of Cornwall Pride took a screenshot of his post and tagged it with Newquay Baptist Church, misconstruing negative comments made by other users about gay pride and attributing them all to pastor Williamson.
As a result, threats were issued against Williamson's wife, and images of the pastor's face were superimposed onto homosexual pornography and shared online. Supporters of Cornwall Pride then reported the pastor to the police for hate speech, while others threatened to protest his Sunday services, have his church's charity status revoked and even campaign to have him deported to his native Australia.
Williamson was then invited to a meeting with members of the Cornwall Pride team, which he accepted. At the end of the meeting, he handed them a leaflet on what the Bible says about homosexuality. Images of the leaflet were then distributed throughout the LGBT community, making it look like he had been distributing them widely. The outrage continued to grow, and there was even a suggestion that Newquay Baptist Church should be burnt down.
The police told Williamson that it was a "complex" situation and they did not believe the threats would materialise, while also warning him that he should make sure not to offend anyone in the LGBT community in future to avoid breaking the law. They added that they were working with both sides in a bid to pacify the situation.
A spokesperson for Devon and Cornwall Police told Premier: "Following concerns expressed between individuals from the community, and subsequent tensions, police officers have spoken to all parties involved and advice has been given. There are no other associated, ongoing policing matters."
In a statement to Christian Concern, Pastor Williamson said:
“My family and I, and our church community, have been very concerned by the level of anti-Christian abuse and threats of violence that we have been targeted with over the past few weeks. The police have not formally spoken to me about any hate crime or sought a witness statement to look at the various online comments which have included threats to burn down our church.
“As Christians we seek to speak the truth in love and would readily welcome all people to our services. The Bible, however, proclaims a message of repentance which calls on all people to turn from their sin and to trust in Christ. It would be unloving for us to remain silent about what God’s Word says in relation to human sin, including all forms of sexual sin. We therefore, must proclaim the truth that homosexuality is a sin, but that God loves sinners and Jesus can forgive all our sins.
“Newquay Baptist Church is made up of sinners who have been forgiven by a wonderful Saviour; since this is the case, we would invite all people, including the LGBT community, to come to our services. Our desire is that all would come to know and love Jesus.”