Employment tribunal hears case of theology lecturer dismissed over homosexuality comments

Dr Aaron Edwards had worked for Cliff College for seven years prior to his dismissal.(Photo: The Christian Legal Centre)

A theology lecturer who lost his job over comments he made about homosexuality on social media is having his case heard by an employment tribunal today.

Dr Aaron Edwards is claiming harassment, discrimination and unfair dismissal, and seeking damages and reinstatement by Cliff College.

He was dismissed in 2023 after seven years with the college following a tweet relating to the Church of England General Synod's debate on same-sex blessings.

He tweeted, "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."

After a backlash, he defended his comments in another tweet that said: "That is the conservative view. The acceptance of homosexuality as 'not sinful' is an invasion upon the Church, doctrinally. This is not controversial. The acceptance is controversial. Most of the global Church would agree. It is not homophobic to declare homosexuality sinful."

Dr Edwards was dismissed by the Methodist-run Cliff College after refusing to retract his comments.

At the hearing in Sheffield today, his lawyers from the Christian Legal Centre (CLC) will argue that the college violated his rights under Article 9 and Article 10 of the European Convention of Human Rights.

Speaking ahead of the hearing, Edwards said, "It feels like everything I worked for at the college (and for the college) over the last seven years has gone up in smoke.

"Anyone concerned about academic freedom, Christian freedoms and free speech should be deeply concerned by what has happened to me.

"The tweet was not defamatory; it was not an attack on any colleague or individual; it was not abusive; and it was not an extremist religious view. It was addressed to evangelicals as a point of doctrine, and it has been misunderstood by many who wish to cause personal and institutional trouble for those who express that view.

"The impact on me and my family has been very significant. I have lost many friends as a result, and been slandered by people who do not know all of the details but who now see me as an unkind or hateful person.

"The career that I had built over the course of a decade has been severely damaged to the extent that I no longer have a career. I have no choice but to fight for justice."

CLC CEO Andrea Williams said Edwards had been sacked "because he challenged the church to uphold God's teaching on human sexuality."

"Contending for that truth publicly meant that he lost the job that he was so good at, as well as his family's home," she said.

"It is deeply saddening to see a once renowned Bible college losing its way by no longer upholding the truth about marriage. What message does Aaron's sacking send to the next generation of leaders and pastors, and the future of Christian witness?"

She continued, "Our churches, and our society, desperately need courageous leaders. Aaron was committed to raising faithful preachers and pastors for the church. We need more lecturers and trainers like Aaron, not less, to build-up the next generation of Christian leaders to be unashamed of the gospel."

Cliff College has defended its actions, saying that the language used in the tweet was "inappropriate and unacceptable and does not represent either the views or the ethos of Cliff College".

"Cliff College, with the Methodist Church in Britain, is committed to being a safe and hospitable place, where those with differing convictions are welcomed and challenged to live together as faithful disciples of Christ," it said.

"We aim to do this with mutual respect and a generosity of spirit that springs from our biblical and evangelical conviction of God's love for each and for all."