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Sheffield megachurch pastor steps down following racism row

by Marcus Jones
Dave Gilpin.png - Banner image
Youtube/Hope City Church

Dave Gilpin, the senior pastor of Sheffield's Hope City Church has resigned just a week after he admitted trying to appeal to white people.

Along with his wife Jenny, Gilpin founded the church back in 1991, moving from their home in Australia, feeling called to Sheffield in the wake of the Hillsborough tragedy.

The church, which is linked to the C3 network, has seen huge growth and now meets at twelve different locations, mainly across the UK but also in Germany and Ghana.

In the light of the death of George Floyd and the increased attention to the issue of racism, Gilpin released a video message in which he said he realised some aspects of his leadership were racist.

"I have always had a vision of creating a diverse, multicultural church," he said. "Because we were getting, for a period of time, fewer white people attending in Sheffield I tried to make the church more appealing to what I thought white people wanted.

"I realised in the past week that this is completely racist. That I have contributed and added to generations and centuries of racism over the earth and I've hurt many people - both in the past and in the present and I am deeply sorry."

Numerous accusations in regards to his decision-making have emerged on social media. 

Past members of the church said Gilpin had sought to ensure white people were seen on stage and in images posted online.

These comments were later removed and trustees of the Church said a full review would take place.

On Wednesday, Gilpin posted a video to his private Facebook page in which he announced his immediate departure and said he would be returning to Australia.

In a subsequent long statement posted online, he said: "We are so sad to be announcing this during this unparalleled, unforeseen season.

"We are deeply sorry for the hurt we have caused to people along the way, particularly members of the black community in Hope City Church and those hurt as a result of events that have come to light recently. 

"This has been everyone's season to review and re-evaluate God's Word and His plans for each of us. It's so true for us."

It had already been announced that Pastors Jo and Lois Willis would take on the leadership of the Sheffield Church - a decision which was made in Easter, before the controversy emerged.

They've been given a mandate to bring about "a place of healing and restoration". 

In a statement to Premier, Colin Davies, chair of the board of Hope City Church, said: "We are taking recent allegations of racial discrimination within the leadership of the church in Sheffield very seriously and we wish to make clear that racial discrimination is in no way commensurate with our church's values or those of the wider Christian faith.

"We are implementing a detailed internal investigation to understand the extent of the issues raised and to ensure complete resolution of those issues."

Premier has contacted Dave Gilpin for comment.

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