U.K. police recently told a Christian pastor that if he offends the LGBTQ community, he could be breaking the law.
On Aug. 13, Pastor Josh Williamson, 34, of Newquay Baptist Church in southwest England, responded to an article on a local news outlet’s Facebook page, which reported that this year’s Cornwall Pride event would be canceled. He simply posted: “Wonderful news!”
Williamson then shared the news article on his personal Facebook page with the message:
“Hallelujah! We prayed at our prayer meeting on Tuesday night that this event would be canceled. We also prayed that the Lord would save the organizers. One prayer answered, now we wait for the second prayer to be answered.”
According to Christian Concern, the organizers of Cornwall Pride saw Williamson’s post, took a screenshot of it, and then reposted it, tagging Newquay Baptist Church.
Once the post began making its rounds on social media, online threats against the pastor’s wife began and a pornographic image with Williamson’s head superimposed was shared online.
Cornwall Pride then called on its many supporters to report the pastor to police for hate speech. The LGBTQ activists also threatened to protest at the Newquay church’s Sunday services, have the church’s charity status revoked by the government, as well as have Williamson deported back to his native Australia.
In an effort to peacefully resolve the situation, Williamson accepted an invitation to meet with two members of Cornwall Pride. During the meeting, he shared his Christian beliefs and welcomed members of the LGBTQ community to attend his church. Before leaving, he asked permission to leave a leaflet with the pair on what the Bible says about homosexuality, to which they agreed.
Images of the leaflet were later shared widely throughout the local LGBTQ community, creating the illusion that Williamson was mass distributing it. This resulted in further calls for police to investigate the pastor for a “hate crime.”
More harassment followed, with several social media users threatening to burn down Williamson’s church.
When he reported the threat to Devon and Cornwall Police—which sponsors Cornwall Pride—Williamson was told that the situation was “complex” and that authorities did not believe the threat would materialize.
Police also warned Williamson to be careful not to further offend members of the LGBTQ community lest he be charged with hate speech.
Yet Williamson refused to back down.
“As Christians we seek to speak the truth in love and would readily welcome all people to our services,” he said. “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.”
He went on to invite all people—including those who identify as LGBTQ—to visit his church, because his “desire is that all would come to know and love Jesus.”
Andrea Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre, which is supporting Williamson, said: “It’s becoming worryingly common in the U.K. to see threats and calls for violence against Christians for voicing their simple opposition to LGBT Pride. Police forces should show Christians they take this seriously by protecting their free speech against mob threats rather than by seeking to keep Christians quiet.
“Christians are called to repay evil with good—I have no doubt that Pastor Williamson will continue to share the reality of sin and the Good News of Jesus Christ with the people of Newquay.”