Dr. Aaron Edwards has filed a lawsuit against Cliff College, an evangelical Christian college in Derbyshire, England, after he was fired for tweeting about the Bible’s teaching on homosexuality and its status as a sin.
Cliff College is an evangelical Methodist college that claims to be guided by “the Word as our light.” It says on its “What We Believe” section: “The education we offer at Cliff is theology for the real world—rooted in practice, forged in community, grounded in the authority of Scripture and consistently prompting us to face outwards. We proclaim the Gospel and invite everyone to experience the life-changing transformation of a relationship with Jesus Christ.”
However, according to Edwards and his legal counsel at the Christian Legal Centre, officials at Cliff College fired him and even threatened to report him to Britain’s counterterrorism unit for tweeting a Christian view on sexuality and sin.
The tweet in question, posted on February 19, stated, “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 former lecturer posted the tweet in the context of the Methodist Church’s growing affirmation of LGBT activity, relationships, marriages, and more. In 2021, the Methodist Church of Britain’s governing body voted to allow same-sex marriages in places of worship.
The tweet drew harsh criticism and claims that Edwards was homophobic. He further clarified his point by adding,
“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.
I expressed the conservative view as a doctrinal issue, re. the implications for sin/the Gospel. It was not an attack on individuals, it was addressed to evangelicals. It seems that holding the view that homosexuality is sinful is only welcome if it remains ‘unexpressed.’”
Cliff College demanded that Edwards delete the post. When he refused, officials suspended him and issued a statement to condemn his words. Cliff College posted on Twitter:
“We have become aware that one of our lecturers posted some comments on this platform this morning regarding human sexuality. The language used is 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.
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.”
Cliff College conducted an investigation while Edwards was on suspension. The Christian Legal Centre claims that the minutes from the meeting in which the report was read to Edwards show that the college threatened to report him to the U.K.’s counter terrorism and hate speech organization, titled Prevent.
Cliff College later fired Edwards.
As part of his appeal, Edwards is asserting that the investigation lacked fairness.
His attorneys argue that Edwards’ firing violates Articles 9 and 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights. Article 9 safeguards the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion, while Article 10 protects the right to the freedom of expression.
Following his firing, Edwards and his family were evicted from their apartment and have since lost friends.
Edwards has issued a statement regarding he and his family’s ordeal, saying, among other things,
“Anyone concerned about academic freedom, Christian freedoms and free speech should be deeply concerned by what has happened to me.
The reaction to my tweet and the unjust treatment I have experienced by Cliff College and the Methodist Church in Britain completely illustrates the problem my tweet addressed.
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.”
Edwards says that he believes many Christians are afraid to say things that will offend others. He hopes his case will help others to publicly speak their beliefs. “Whether we win or not… it’s going to be helpful because we’re showing that you can’t get away with this, and you shouldn’t get away with it. And if I don’t win my case, hopefully someone else will or people will realize that this is completely absurd, that an evangelical can’t express evangelical views in an evangelical college. Hopefully this will set a precedent and push on the conversation further so that others will be enabled the freedoms that they should have had already.”
When churches forsake the authority of Scripture they cease to be churches of Jesus. The Methodist Church can claim to hold to Scripture and to serve Christ, but it chose to serve a different master long ago. Rather than embrace the unpopular truth of God’s Word it opted for the lies of the world, the very lies Edwards was warning about in his tweet. These lies tell everyone that they can effectively save themselves, that they are just fine living as they please without Christ and His sacrifice for their sins.
If the facts of this case are exactly as they appear to be, then Cliff College fired a professor for tweeting true statements about the false teaching plaguing churches around the globe. Throughout the New Testament letters, Paul, Peter, John, James, Jude, and the author of Hebrews repeatedly tell churches and believers to watch for and stand against false teachers and their false gospels. In Galatians, Paul warned the “foolish Galatians” against the Judaizers, teachers who said the Galatians needed to first become Jews and keep the Old Testament law in order to be saved. In 1 Corinthians, Paul wrote about the Corinth church and the disruptive “leaven” brought in by members who were engaging in sexual immorality. Jude says of similar false teachers in Jude verse 4, “For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.”
Those professing to be a church or a college training people for evangelism but turning the grace of our God into a free pass to engage in whatever actions the flesh desires are not speaking for God.
Edwards’s point is poignant. So many pastors and Christians have stayed quiet, whether to avoid offending someone or to protect their job or social standing, that they are enabling the loss of free speech and religious liberty in Western civilization.
In the U.K. you can be arrested for praying silently on the sidewalk. In Finland, a member of Parliament and a bishop were hounded for years and threatened with jail for writing a pamphlet nearly 20 years ago on the biblical view on sexuality. In Mexico, speaking the truth about biological reality can get you convicted of “gender based violence.” Here in the states? The government will censor you, discredit you, put you on a government watchlist, and have you deplatformed for disseminating information, opinions, and even studies that don’t advance favored, government-approved narratives.
Being quiet for the sake of not offending anyone has led us to this point, and it’s time for Christians and the Church to follow the lead of Dr. Aaron Edwards and others and start boldly speaking the truth. Furthering the lie and encouraging an unrepentant life of sin is not loving because it doesn’t help anyone. It only dooms sinners to the eternal fate from which Jesus came to save them.
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