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Photo Credit: Facebook/ @jesushouselondon
Photo Credit: Facebook/ @jesushouselondon
Photo Credit: Facebook/ @jesushouselondon
Photo Credit: Facebook/ @jesushouselondon
UK News

'We have felt prosecuted, judged, and sentenced unfairly': Jesus House hits back after Sir Keir Starmer apologises for visiting church

by Tola Mbakwe

The London church, which Sir Keir Starmer has apologised for visiting, says it's been thrust into controversy leading to social media abuse. 

The leader of the Labour Party apologised for the "hurt" caused by his visit to Jesus House of All Nations after The Labour Campaign for LGBT+ Rights criticised the church for holding traditional biblical views on homosexuality. 

After posting a video on Twitter on Good Friday praising the church for its work in responding to the pandemic, Sir Keir tweeted on Monday that he accepted it was a "mistake" to visit the church, which has opened its premises up as a vaccination centre, but stressed he was "not aware" of the establishment's views on gay rights.
 

The leader of Jesus House of All Nations, Pastor Agu Irukwu told Premier the whole ordeal has been disturbing. 

"As a child growing up in a Commonwealth nation, one aspect of Great Britain which I found most admirable was its promotion of strong values, including fairness and justice," he said. 

"Over the past 48 hours, I have been disturbed to see these values eroded, especially in the courtroom of social media; we have felt prosecuted, judged, and sentenced unfairly. 

"Some of the language that has been directed at us can only be described as vile, abusive, hateful, and possibly criminal. It is tantamount to cyberbullying and the timing of this attack during Easter, one of the most important events in the Christian calendar, was particularly upsetting for us as a congregation.  

"But Easter is also a time of forgiveness, hope and reconciliation, so we are really keen that despite all that has happened, this can still be a gospel moment."

Pastor Agu has not been contacted by anyone from the Labour Party since the controversy began. 

He said that from his perspective, Sir Keir's visit to the church went well. He said the church received an email from the Labour Party highlighting the vital role Jesus House has played in encouraging take up of the vaccine and the party's 'Let's Vaccinate Britain Campaign' sought to have Sir Keir see the church's efforts in action. 

"Sir Keir Starmer had a chance to see the pop-up vaccination centre setup, and to speak with some of our NHS frontline health care workers," Pastor Agu said. 

"He also had a chance to chat with young black members of our church and to hear their views on the vaccine and its impact on our community. 

"He also had an opportunity to see our foodbank operation and especially how our pop-up foodbanks are responding to the dire needs of some of the more deprived areas of our community due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic."

Although the church has been criticised for being anti-LGBT and supporting conversion therapy, Pastor Agu maintained that "it is incompatible with being a true follower of Jesus Christ to be anti-anyone". 

He added: "We do not engage in any form of conversion therapy. We, as a church, provide appropriate pastoral support, including prayer, to all our members, whatever life situations or circumstances they find themselves in. This is consistent with the basic fundamentals of freedom of speech and freedom of religion and the government's current position."

Pastor Agu told Premier he's "very concerned" for the thousands of churches and millions of Christians who hold traditional biblical understanding of marriage and sexuality.

"At the same time, I am reassured that so many Christians around the world hold to the traditional biblical teaching on marriage," he said. 

"There is an increasing atmosphere of bullying and intimidation which is a cause for concern, but we do not take our lead from politicians and others. Easter is a constant reminder that Jesus is victorious and our hope is found in him."

Many Christians have defended Jesus House including Christian Labour MP Stephen Timms who said he hopes to talk to Sir Keir about the issue when Parliament returns. 

For Pastor Agu's full response, click here

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