Methodist College principal denies Prevent threat against sacked theology lecturer

Cliff College, Derbyshire

The Principal of the Methodist Bible College embroiled in a row over the sacking of a theology lecturer has denied reports that he was threatened with a counter-terrorism referral after he tweeted "homosexuality is invading the Church". 

The Sunday Telegraph reported on Dr Aaron Edwards's dismissal last week by Cliff College in Derbyshire after he refused to back down over his evangelical views.

The paper said: "He was told by the college that he could be reported to Prevent, the Government's anti-extremism programme and asked how he would pray for same-sex attracted students who approached him, according to college disciplinary hearing minutes."

Responding to the claims, Cliff's Principal, Rev Ashley Cooper, told Christian Today: "We have not threatened him with Prevent."

Mr Cooper added that the college "will make a statement in due course and challenge appropriately".

The Christian Legal Centre is assisting Dr Edwards in his appeal against his dismissal for allegedly "bringing the college into disrepute" over a series of tweets on February 19 after the Church of England's General Synod voted to back same-sex blessings.

Dr Edwards, aged 37 and a married father of five, posted: "Homosexuality is invading the Church. Evangelicals no longer see the severity of this [because] 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."

Branding his sacking "unjust", he said: "What has happened to me demonstrates that conservative biblical views on human sexuality are no longer 'tolerated' in the Methodist Church in the UK. Rather it is clear that those beliefs are to be silenced and stamped out."

Cliff's media statement on the row says: "As internal processes remain ongoing, we are unable to respond to specific issues. As a Methodist institution, Cliff College is 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."

Julian Mann is a former Church of England vicar, now an evangelical journalist based in Lancashire.