A lecturer dismissed from Methodist institution Cliff College after sharing his “evangelical” views on homosexuality says he was surprised by the school’s actions as he describes “a horrendous amount of suffering and persecution”.
Dr Aaron Edwards' dismissal occurred amid the Methodist Church's movement towards accepting same-sex marriage, which impacted the college's doctrine on relationships.
Dr Edwards argued that maintaining an evangelical stance was crucial for the institution's student base and heritage.
In response to the Anglican Church's decision to bless same-sex relationships, Dr Edwards tweeted “robustly against homosexuality from an evangelical perspective”.
The tweet read: "Homosexuality is invading the Church. Evangelicals no longer see the severity of this b/c they’re busy apologising for their apparently barbaric homophobia, whether or not it’s true. This *is* a “Gospel issue”, by the way. If sin is no longer sin, we no longer need a Saviour.”
The college initially asked him to remove the tweet – he said he could not delete it in good conscience, as he believed in its message.
The tweet led to his suspension after receiving considerable backlash online, from Christians and non-believers alike. After being accused of bringing the college into disrepute, and threats to take the matter to counter-terrorism team Prevent, Dr Edwards was fired.
In an interview with Premier Christian News, he said he was surprised at his suspension and defended his tweet as a biblical approach to sin “encroaching” upon the church.
The dismissal has had a significant impact on Dr Edwards' family, leaving them with no income. At the same time, they face eviction from their home within a matter of weeks.
He said: “We don't know what's going to happen, but we know God's going to provide.
“We're in a loving church. I've had so many people praying and prophesying over us over the last month, and that has been amazing.
“Though there's been a horrendous amount of suffering and persecution, and also people attacking me thinking I'm trying to be a martyr, because I'm talking about it - and I just don't think they understand what it's like to go through these things.
“At the same time, my church has been right behind me, and people have been supporting us in all sorts of ways.
“We've got a Crowdfunder up now where we've asked people to if they want to contribute, I've got a vision for theological education in the future that I'd like to explore further, and so I think we're going to be okay, because I just believe God's got us in his hands.”
Dr Edwards is currently considering legal action and appealing his termination with support from Christian Concern.
In response to the dismissal of Dr Edwards, a spokesperson for Cliff College said: "As confidential internal employment processes remain ongoing, we are unable to respond to specific issues at this time."
They have reassured concerned parties that they are committed to being a "safe and hospitable place where those with differing convictions are welcomed and encouraged to live and learn together as faithful disciples of Christ.”