A visit to a church building in the weekday

We all need holidays.  I’ve been on holiday for a week, and I’ve largely stayed away from the computer, and instead I have just enjoyed the weather, neither too hot nor too cold.

On Friday I decided to do a trip out, and I went up to the Peak District.  This is quite a run, a round-trip of some 400 miles; but in fact I never saw what I went to see, which was the Peaks.  Instead I saw something much more important.

I was nearly there when, while driving along a dual-carriageway, I saw a sign that indicated that I was very near to the location of a church that I follow on Facebook, but had never seen.  This, I thought, it might be nice to look at.

Not quite sure where I was going, I indicated and came off the dual carriageway, and sought out the area where it meets.  I thought perhaps that there might be a church office open, and maybe some literature about the history of the church.  I was in for a surprise.

I’d never attended the church.  It’s far too far from home, and in addition is attended by a family of good people whom, for personal reasons, it would be embarassing for me to meet.  In fact I’d never even been to that town before.

But I knew that the church must have been very alive when it was founded.  Someone from my younger days, a very enthusiastic Christian, had attended it, almost from its foundation in the early 80s right through to recent times, so it could hardly be a dead loss.  It came out of the restoration/charismatic movement of that period.  After I became aware of it,  I made it one of the churches that I follow on Facebook, for encouragment and a source of topics for prayer.  But it is very hard to get any impression of what God is doing from internet pages.  And I thought that it might be interesting to see the location itself with my own eyes.

A few wrong turns later, I found myself there, in an industrial unit, wondering where on earth the church was.  I got out of my car, and was accosted by a man who asked if I was looking for the building.  It was, in fact, right in front of me, but unsigned because of renovation work in progress.  The building is a small converted warehouse.

The man who spoke to me was working there.  During the week the building (and an adjoining one, also owned by the church) hosts conferences and meetings, so apparently there are always staff there during the week.  Unfortunately the church office was closed.

But this worker belonged to the church, and told me about it, showed me the auditorium, and indeed prayed with me.  In short he did a fine job of welcoming a casual visitor, and had I not been a believer, I am quite sure that he would have shared the gospel with me too, in a wholly unembarassed fashion.  In short I felt that I came into contact, not just with the building, nor even with church officials; but with the church itself, and God within it.[1]

I drove away, rather impressed, and profoundly encouraged.  Clearly the church is busy, and doing what God wants it to do.  Hundreds of people belong to it, and it is, as the name implies, a thriving community of people dedicated to God and his work.

Very little of this could be known to anybody who didn’t go there.  I didn’t know it, despite taking an interest in the church for the last three years.  You could only learn any of this by meeting those involved.

In fact it became clear from what I learned that the work of God is very much alive and making progress in these northern towns, in a way that does not seem to be the case in my own town.  Praise God for this!

God is at work among us now.  We won’t hear this unless we are actually in touch with it.  But that doesn’t mean that it isn’t happening.  God is not interested in making a media splash, but in converting ordinary people like ourselves from our pointless lives, and leading us to accept Jesus as Lord.

This is important for believers to remember.  Many of us on the web live rather isolated lives.  That means that, in truth, we don’t really know what is going on.  Never rely on what the media or the web say.  God’s work has always taken place, sub rosa, away from the publicity.  It is still the case now.

So if you were in the middle of God’s work when you were younger, when everything seemed to be happening; and then found yourself in a desert, do not be discouraged.  Jesus also went into the desert.  It is a normal thing, in a Christian’s life.  Just remember that the absence of life in the desert does not mean that there is no life anywhere.  The silence and absence forces you to work out what you really rely on.  We have all known people, apparently believers, who turned out only to be going along with the crowd.  God takes us into the desert, I believe, that we may grow reliant on Him directly.  Some of us will live our lives in the desert.  But we must never forget that He is alive!

In countless lives, in ordinary people, in ordinary places, the kingdom of God is at hand, and people work out their salvation, trusting in God and blessing as many as come within the circle of their lives.  It was rather humbling to see this.

Praise God for that church.  I pray for its leaders and its people, that they may be blessed, and bless others; and that many may come to know Christ through its ministries.  Amen.

UPDATED: I’ve removed details of which church this was: it’s not important to the article.

  1. [1] Mind you, he also managed to introduce me, before I could prevent him, to precisely one of the people that I was eager to avoid!  Ouch.  Luckily I was able to keep a straight face and escape without being detected.  I’d expected to be safe during the week!  Oh well.

More on the “arrest” of Josh Williamson

I’ve been blogging about the arrest (twice) of preacher Josh Williamson in Perth, Scotland.  He said that he was arrested and was taken to a police station, where he was refused a solicitor.  The police have denied that he was arrested.  He was arrested again last Saturday.  The circumstances of all this seem very unclear, and the police seem disinclined to clarify matters, which raises the worst suspicions.

Today I learn that the Spectator has run an article by Rod Liddle, Josh Williamson is arrested for preaching the Christian gospel in public.

Freedom of speech is alive and well in Scotland, then. Pastor Josh Williamson took the Christian gospel to the streets of Perth last week, before he was arrested by the old bill for a ‘breach of the peace’. Asked why he was being arrested, Plod No 1 said because you’re too loud, pointing to the electrical device the clergyman was carrying. That’s an MP3 recorder, he replied, it’s not an amplifier. Then Plod No 2 claimed it was the content of his sermon, although he could not put his finger on what it was exactly. Hauled down the nick, refused the right of a lawyer, Williamson was eventually released with a verbal caution and the comment from another copper: ‘You seem like a reasonable man, why not just stop preaching?’

I wonder if that would have worked with Christ? The cops also arrested a man who had been enjoying the sermon, for asserting that he had been enjoying the sermon. They have since denied Williamson was arrested at all — but this is a lie, because the pastor recorded the copper saying ‘I am arresting you’, and I’ve heard it.

Emphasis mine.

This all sounds very bad.  But we’re not getting the full story here, I sense.  Why are the police doing this?  This is what makes no sense to me.

People like Josh Williamson have stood in the streets, preaching the gospel (to a handful of supporters, in the main) for at least 50 years.  What is the new urgency that means that the police now need to harass them?

Some may wonder why this blog, which is mainly focused on patristics, is devoting space to this issue.  But it seems rather difficult to focus on the confessors and the martyrs of the past, when I read that new ones are being created on the streets of Britain and the USA right now.

Oh for happier days, when such things were unheard of in a free country.

Update: While looking for an illustration, I happened across this 2012 article about another preacher being arrested (and acquitted) in Inverness:

Clutching his bible and carrying his placard, the former bricklayer is not only a visible feature but very much an audible presence — although his direct approach is not always appreciated by shoppers and passers-by, as he recently discovered.

For the 66-year-old recently found himself in the dock at Inverness Sheriff Court, accused of making offensive remarks and warning people they would “burn in hell” if they did not turn to God.

Having denied the charges, Mr MacDonald, of Lochiel Road, Hilton, was subsequently acquitted of behaving in a threatening and abusive manner.

Does modern Scotland, founded by the fiery preacher John Knox, really have no place in it for a man like this?

preacher kenneth macdonald

UPDATE: 25th September.  The Perth Courier has a follow-up story on the man who queried the “arrest that wasn’t an arrest” (according to the police):

Joe McLoughlin, 43, stepped in when police ordered Mr Williamson to stop his sermon because he was “too loud”.

The pair were driven to Perth police station where officers attempted to issue Mr McLoughlin with a £40 fixed penalty notice. But the Letham resident, a full-time carer for his elderly mother, refused to sign the paperwork and plans to take legal action against Police Scotland.

He said: “I did not accept. I refused this ticket. I don’t feel like I was properly charged with anything. They talked about breach of the peace, obstructing justice and section 13 of the public order act. They’ve left me in confusion. I don’t know what I was arrested for.

“I’ve made a statement and it’s in the hands of my solicitors.”

Mr McLoughlin claims officers were heavy-handed when he refused to stop speaking up for the clergyman. He said: “One of them put my hand up my back and frogmarched me to a van. He told me now I am being arrested for ‘making a fool of myself in the f*****g High Street’.”

A police spokesman said: “We can 
confirm that a 43-year-old man was arrested and subsequently issued with a fixed penalty notice following an incident in Perth High Street on September 18.”

Despite his ordeal, Mr McLoughlin was back in the High Street yesterday, bible in hand, preaching to passing shoppers.

He said: “It’s 10 years since I did this and you could say I was inspired by Josh. The thought behind it is, if we don’t use this right we’ll lose it.

“My granddad fought for the right to have freedom of speech and what the police did insults everyone who fought for that freedom. That’s really what is at stake here. I was scared by the police response to Josh. I feel like he was exercising his right to freedom of speech and I was defending his right to freedom of speech.

“It’s given me an incentive to go back out on to the streets and I got quite a positive reaction. A couple of people stopped and spoke to me.”

This is all very bad.  It is horrible to see this level of police incompetence and unprofessionalism, all of it merely to harass some harmless street preachers.

UPDATE: The story now appears in the Daily Express, and the Scotsman.

And yet another (!) street-preacher arrested in the UK

No details as yet.  The preacher was a certain Josh Williamson, of Operation513 ministries.  I learned of the arrest via a tweet from Tony Miano, the US preacher arrested at Wimbledon for the same “offence”.  JoshWilliamsonTweet1


The Facebook post:

I was arrested for “Breach of Peace” in Perth, Scotland. I was told the content of my message is illegal. After putting me in the van, and taking me to the station they issued a verbal warning and released me.

They’ve said in future that if they have complaints they’ll go through the process all over again.

No details as yet. I shall write and ask the police for a statement.

This must be the 4th or 5th incident this year.  It still seems astonishing to me, brought up in better days, that the police are systematically engaged in arresting street-preachers.  It would have been unthinkable even 5 years ago.

I think the sooner that one of these cases is brought before a proper court the better.

UPDATE:  Josh Williamson has now given an account of the incident.  This is a strange one.  The police received a “complaint”, apparently; but seem to have been quite unsure what, if any law, had been broken.

[The police officer] told me to stop, as I was breaking the law. I asked him what law I was breaking, and he replied that I was in breach of the peace. When I asked him to explain, he pointed to my mp3 recorder and said I was too loud. I pointed out to the officer that I wasn’t using amplification, but just my natural voice. I then asked him what a reasonable sound level would be. The police officer replied that the noise level isn’t the issue, but rather that a complaint had been made. I tried to reason with the officer, explaining that such argumentation is subjective as anyone can claim anything is too loud.

It was around this time I spoke to another officer who told me that I was being arrested. Again, I asked what law I had broken. It was at this point she told me that the content of my message was illegal. I found this amazing, since I was only preaching the Gospel. She also said people had accused me of swearing at those in the crowd. I pointed out that was a lie, and that I have an mp3 recording of the whole open-air.

After a few more minutes I was placed in the back of a police van. Behind me was the protesting man.

We were driven through the city centre of Perth to the police station. On arrival I was told to sit and wait. The police nicely left my Bible with me, so I was able to read from Psalm 37 as I waited.

They first dealt with the protest man, and then they took me into an interview room. The police began to speak, but I interrupted and asked that the interview be recorded and that I have my legal representative. They refused to allow this. As a result I used my right to silence.

Towards the end of my interview the officer said to me, “You seem reasonable. Why don’t you just stop preaching?” I replied by saying, “Let me ask you a question, is it better to obey man or God?”

With that the interview was over, and I was given a caution. The police also told me that if I preach again then we will go through the process all over again.

It would seem that the police have some questions to answer here.  None of this seems normal or reasonable conduct by the police.  What on earth is really going on here?

I can only infer that Someone Important complained; someone far more important than a couple of bobbies, and the latter were so scared that they ignored any normal procedure or process.  In which case … who precisely complained?

I have written and enquired myself: but my query has not been acknowledged.

Something smells about all this.  We’re not getting the whole story here, that’s quite obvious to me.

UPDATE:  It seems that Williamson has had difficulties before; that time from Moslem hecklers.  John Knox must be revolving in his grave!

UPDATE (19th September 2013): The police have replied as follows:

“Due a number of  complaints   from members  of the public about the noise being made an individual in Perth’s High Street  yesterday, a man was asked to attend at Perth Police Station where he was spoken  to.  He was issued with a  warning.”

Hmm.  “Asked to attend”?  In a police van?  I will enquire whether Mr Williamson agrees with this statement.

UPDATE: He says that he has a recording of the whole conversation, in which the police state repeatedly that they are arresting him.  The matter is in the hands of Christian Concern.

UPDATE (23rd September 2013): On Saturday 21st September the following appeared on Twitter:


FB link here.  The item has now appeared in the local paper, the Courier here:

“I met some friends who were handing out literature and preaching,” said Mr Williamson. “I got up and a handful of minutes later the police came across and stopped me.

“They said they had received a complaint and it was a breach of the peace as I had upset people with what I was saying.”

Mr Williamson said that at the time he was preaching that Jesus Christ had come into the world to save sinners.

He says that the two officers told his friends not to film the incident and following a discussion about his actions he was “manhandled” into a police car and taken to Perth police station and detained for five and a half hours.

He understands the evidence is being evaluated to see if he will face charges. Police Scotland’s Dundee control said they weren’t in a position to comment on Mr Williamson’s version of events.

What is going on?

Yet another street-preacher detained for endless hours

From Christian Today (6th September) comes news of yet another political arrest of a street preacher in Britain, this time in Basildon in Essex (also at Christian Concern):

rob-hughes-street-preacher-arrested-in-basildonA street preacher was arrested in Basildon on Wednesday following a complaint by a member of public.

The Christian Legal Centre reports that Rob Hughes was held for seven and a half hours at Basildon police station before being released without charge at around 11:30pm.

The CLC reports he was detained under Section 5 of the Public Order Act on the grounds that he “caused harassment, alarm or distress”, an accusation he denied.

The centre assisted him by providing a solicitor to help him during the police interview.

“I am so grateful that the Christian Legal Centre was able to react quickly and effectively in my situation,” said Hughes afterward.

He added that he felt Christian street preachers were being “presumed guilty until found to be innocent”.

“This is happening alarmingly often now,” said the Christian Legal Centre.

Holding a man in a cell for seven and a half hours, right up until almost midnight — clearly some kind of legal threshold beyond which they will get into trouble — smells very bad.  This is what Wimbledon did to Tony Miano.  No normal arrest would be held so long.

Rob Hughes is associated with Rev. Josh Williamson of Craigie Reformed Baptist Church in Perth.  The latter tweeted that Rob was released without charge.  The two were working with Operation 513: Essex, who have an account of what happened here:

The Operation 513 Team evangelized Basildon today and we were blessed with fabulous weather.  The team consisted of Rob, Chuck and Myself and a young man named Sasha who lived nearby and had contacted me through the website.  We set up and prayed.  This was Rob’s first time in Basildon and it was his first outreach since coming back from Canada, therefore it was his job to start !!  Rob began to preach using his new amplifier which is very loud and clear; he was soon approached by a man who said “the ten commandments were great advice for life”.  However, as Rob unpacked the commandments the Holiness of the Law began to expose the man’s sin to which he began to get angry and walk away.

As Rob continued more people gathered to listen and/or heckle.  A young couple came up and began to ask “why we were forcing our beliefs on people” etc.  Rob dealt with the arguments very succinctly and soon the girl confessed to being a pagan.  The conversation was cut short by a lesbian yelling that we were “judgmental”, to which Rob turned the accusation against her and asked her not to judge us either.  Another lady asked about Bible translations and was thankful for the answers she received.  A girl named Sarah who grew up in a Christian home also had a number of good questions and the Gospel was preached to her.  Also a grandmother and her daughter and grandchildren came up and asked “the problem of evil question” relating it to specific events in their life.  Rob responded with empathy and decorum to which the grandmother kind of appreciated his response but her daughter was not interested.

We eventually encountered a  “christian” lady who said we were not preaching the Gospel but preaching condemnation.  She was very frustrating and tried to stand infront of Rob and tell everyone that “God loves everybody and has wonderful plan for thier life”.  It made me question if she had ever read Ps 5:5, 11:5, Mal 1:3, Rom 9:13 etc or the large number of passages that explain about Gods hatred and anger towards human wickedness and sin.  Anyways, Rob countered these foolish objections by reading John 3.16-20 which makes clear that God’s love is for those who repent and those who do not repent are already condemned.

During the course of the afternoon many hecklers came and went but the content of the message had obviously offended the lesbian, because she called the police.  Soon enough the police arrived and questioned the crowd of angry bystanders who were telling all sorts of lies about us.  The police did not ask Rob to stop preaching but waited till he had finished before questioning him.  Eventually the police arrested Rob for breaching Section 5 of the Public Order Act claiming that he had used language that “caused harassment, alarm or distress”.  Rob was taken to the Basildon Police Station and I called the Christian Legal Center for help.  Later that evening the CLC lawyer arrived and had an interview with Rob and the Police and all trumped up charges were dropped with no further action to be taken !!

Rob was vindicated but felt vilified.  It does remind me of when Jesus tells His disciples “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” Matt 5:11-12.  By Gods grace we live to preach another day, Praise be to God!! SDG.

All of this should lead us, as Christians, to prayer.  Let us thank God for the witness of the gospel on the streets, and the courage of Rob Hughes and his fellow-workers in Christ.  Let us also praise God for the work of the Christian Legal Centre.  Let us also pray for this poor country, where the preachers of the gospel may be arrested at the whim of any malicious person.  Finally, let us pray for that poor woman who informed on the evangelists.  May God have mercy on her and show her the more excellent way.

Finally let me pass on the appeal of the Christian Legal Centre (via Anglican Mainstream):

Can you help us keep our free legal hotline open for Christians like Rob? (Donate here)

And please pray for street preachers up and down the country, that God would use them to bring many people into the Kingdom.

In fact, we are also handling another case of a street preacher who was arrested in London earlier this week. We cannot say anymore at this stage for legal reasons but please pray for a just outcome.


More on the arrest of a preacher in Norwich for objecting to homosexuality

Further to yesterday’s post, I have now seen the email which caused “Norwich Pride” to report Dr Clifford to the police.  It is entirely innocuous.  Every word of it is benevolent, and addressed to sinners, calling them to repentance.  I would post it here without a second thought except that I find myself asking…. would I be safe in doing so?  Would I find the police at my door?  Had I better ask a solicitor?  Or the police for permission?

I hope someone in the USA posts this material soon.

The email consists of a circular sent to friends and supporters (and cc’d to the organisers of the march), recording the actions of Dr Clifford and four friends in protesting at the Gay Power march in Norwich, and written in a mild and positive way (although we may ask just when parliament decided that the police should decide how we write?).  Nothing about it is unreasonable.  Two tracts are attached, not specifically attacking homosexuality so much as calling the sinner to repentance.  Neither seems in any way offensive to me.

Nothing in any of this material could cause any reasonable person to fear for himself or his friends.

The email ends with the following words:

In the end, the whole event seemed less aggressive than in previous years. We were able to make a visible witness, and a good quantity of leaflets were taken. Apart from the leading [police] officer, his fellow officers were quite friendly and helpful towards us. If we are spared, another witness will be made next year (DV). In the wake of the Same-sex Marriage developments, only time will tell if our relatively-low key witness will be tolerated in the future. It would be worth it if only one soul was saved. We leave events to God and His sovereign and gracious purposes. May HE have mercy on our city and country.

These were prophetic words, it seems.

I have also seen Dr Clifford’s account of the police interrogation.  Unfortunately we do not know very much of what the policeman asked (although Dr Clifford states that he did not feel bullied).  In particular refusing a suspect a copy of the statement he has been asked to sign must be unlawful, I would have thought.  In what kind of legal proceeding is the defence refused a copy of the statements by the accused?

A blog entitled the Libertarian Alliance adds a little in this article:

On Saturday the 27th July 2013, the Norfolk LGBT Project held a Gay Pride demonstration in Norwich City Centre.  ….

We further note that the Norfolk LGBT Project is a registered charity (No.1129770). According to its 2012 accounts, its entire income was £41,021. Of this, £734, or 1.8 per cent, came from donations. £38,666, or 94.25 per cent, came via the National Health Service from the taxpayers.

How do you think the NHS should be spending our tax money? Should it be on providing medical treatment free at the point of use, or on paying for Establishment hate groups to go after dissenting ministers of religion? You may care to write to the relevant funding agencies…

If that is their funding, then we are discussing a tiny band of extremists using intimidation to coerce people like the mayor, the police, and others, it would seem.

UPDATE (4th Sep.): An article at Suburban Banshee makes the very excellent point: why did the recipients open the attachments?  You get an email from a total stranger: do YOU open the attachments?  In these days of email-bombs and trojans?  Not likely!!  The only reason you would do that is if you were looking for trouble, and knew very well that the sender was harmless.

UPDATE (7th Sep.): An overseas blogger has now posted Alan Clifford’s email, the tracts and his description of what happened here.

English clergyman informed against, harassed by police for saying homosexuality is a sin

There was a Gay Power march in the quiet rural city of Norwich in England a month or so ago.  I remember thinking how offensive it probably was — and was intended to be — to the conservative inhabitants of the city. I remember thinking how much it was a triumphalist proclamation of gay power over the people, and how even objecting was now not allowed.

It seems that one courageous man did object, and, being a free-born Englishman, said so.  An article in the Spectator reports the horrifying story:

You’re at home, enjoying a summery Saturday afternoon with the bees and nasturtiums on the patio, when the doorbell intrudes. You’re greeted by an impeccably courteous, fresh-faced police officer from the Norfolk Constabulary – ‘Dedicated to this neighbourhood’, according to their website – and he’s come to speak to you because there’s been a complaint.

Not, you understand, about the troubling number of burglaries, rising car thefts, incidences of property vandalism or madhouse music accompanying balmy barbeques. No, someone has reported you for sending them two gospel tracts by email, one entitled ‘Christ Can Cure – Good News for Gays’; and the other ‘Jesus Christ – the Saviour we all need’. Some people might have simply deleted them both and directed all further correspondence from you to ‘spam’, but these people got offended. Very offended. The allegation against you is that of ‘homophobic hate’.

The officer politely offers you a choice: you can either admit your guilt there and then, accepting an on-the-spot fine of £90. Or you can contest the allegation, provide a signed statement in your defence, after which it will be for a senior police officer to decide whether or not to refer your case to the Crown Prosecution Service.

It is not clear at this stage upon what basis the police have judged the tracts to be ‘homophobic’. But it is made crystal clear that you may have committed a homophobic crime, having communicated by electronic means something likely to annoy or cause offence. You are the subject of a criminal investigation.

This was the scenario which confronted the Revd Dr Alan Clifford, Pastor of the Norwich Reformed Church, the weekend before last. In theory, he could have declined the fine and refused to provide a statement, but Dr Clifford is a helpful and accommodating sort of chap. So, at 5.45pm on 17 August 2013, instead of settling down in front of the telly, he set about responding to a series of probing questions.  ….

Dr Clifford says he was not permitted to make a copy of his statement, so the precise details of his interrogation may not be exactly as recounted.

These kinds of tactics belong to the police state, and are outrageous.

But he recalls being asked why he had sent the e-mail in the first place – whether it was purposely to annoy or cause offence to the recipient(s). He responded: ‘No. I was reporting to the gay-pride people our Christian complaint against the public display of their homosexual propaganda, which we find offensive.’

In the hierarchy of competing rights, of course, offence is a one-way chase. He was then asked if he was aware that he’d actually committed a homophobic offence as defined by the official police leaflet which the officer then presented to him. It apparently defined such an offence as ‘any incident which is perceived to be homophobic by the victim or any other person’.

The article continues in the same depressing vein; a policeman demanding to know, not what a clergyman has done, but what he thinks.

[The police] had, it seems, already determined Dr Clifford’s guilt on the basis of a complaint by someone at Norwich Pride, hence the immediate offer of a £90 fine to make it all go away. This is speed-camera homophobia: capture an image of the incident; pay a reduced fixed penalty now; or dare to defend yourself in protracted court proceedings which might result in a greater fine and/or even a custodial sentence.

A decision has now, in fact, been taken: a senior police officer at the Norfolk Constabulary has got a whiff of homophobia under his nostrils, and the case has been referred to the CPS. The Revd Dr Alan Clifford, BA, MLitt, PhD, Pastor of Norwich Reformed Church, now awaits a decision on whether he will indeed be prosecuted.

I have read these tracts, and there isn’t a word of hate in them.

I wonder where we might obtain copies of these tracts?

I have written to Norfolk Police and enquired simply whether the article is correct.  I encourage others to do likewise.  Evil loves darkness, and the bully demands that his victim says nothing.  It costs nothing to send a polite email of enquiry, and to thereby remind them that their actions — immoral, certainly, and probably illegal under the Human Rights Act — are visible to the world.

I have also written to “Norwich Pride” to enquire what precisely were the phrases that were so “extreme” that they felt the police had to be involved.

I will let you know what either say.

UPDATE: 3rd September 2013.  Lots of auto-response emails from the police.  No substance yet.  Response from the press office at “Norwich Pride”: “Sorry, we are not forwarding the email.”  Of course I didn’t ask them to; only to tell me specifically what phrases were so “extreme” that the police had to be involved.

Links on the Wimbledon preacher arrest

The BBC has chosen to ignore the story of how a street preacher was sworn at by a woman and then arrested, for daring to mention homosexuality among a number of sins (see here and here and here).  Others have not. Cranmer broke the story, and the Daily Telegraph ran with it.  A few more links.

The Huffington Post (UK) gives couple more details, which actually sound even more sinister:

According to the Christian Legal Centre which is representing Miano, he was offered a £90 fine to secure his release, but after being interviewed with a solicitor present, the police told him they would seek prosecution because he said he believed his remarks were “100%” acceptable” and that he planned to say them again.

This explains, then, why they kept him in a cell for seven hours.  They were hoping to get him to admit the “offence” and pay a fine, for his temerity.

Cranmer’s Curate makes the point that a tough ex-police-officer like Miano was far better equipped to push back at such nonsense than most of us would be.

There are also stories at Opposing Views, Christian Today, Christian Post, The Christian Institute, Canada Free Press, Charisma News, Cross Map, and others.

On the other hand we have this from Pink News, Homophobic street preacher arrested in London, and Gay Star News, Wimbledon tennis preacher arrested for gay hate.  The comments in both are pretty vile.

UPDATE, 6th July 2013: Not part of the same story … or may be it is: Christian preachers brutally beaten at Gay Pride Festival.

Police statement on arrest of street preacher in Wimbledon

Further to this and this, I have now received confirmation of the basic details of the story from the police at Wimbledon.  My enquiry was as follows:

I read online a report that the police arrested a street preacher and held him for seven hours while quizzing him on his beliefs.  According to the report the reason given was that, in preaching about sin (which he was against), he mentioned homosexuality.  The report and a video may be found at the Archbishop Cranmer site.

May I ask whether the report is correct?  Is there a press release on this incident?

I received the following answer:

Police were called to Wimbledon Hill Road, SW19, at approximately 16.30hrs on Monday, 1 July, following reports of a man speaking through a public address system who was alleged to have made homophobic comments.

Officers attended and arrested the man, aged 49, on suspicion of offences under the Public Order Act.

He was taken to a south-west London police station and spoken to by officers before being released with no further action later the same day.

This more or less confirms all the statements made by the victim Tony Miano.

UPDATE: Cranmer has now posted the full transcript of the police interrogation here, which began four hours after his arrest, at eight minutes past nine at night, and concluded half an hour later.  In one respect it doesn’t quite confirm what Miano said, but, quite frankly, considering that he was grilled without having a record himself around 14 hours after he got up, we can forgive the lapse of memory.

The transcript reads like something out of the 17th century.  There is no question of the accused having done anything; it is what he thinks that is being questioned.  And this, in a free state, is unacceptable.

From my diary

Well, that was a day that I intended to spend with Mithras!  But a member of staff decided to turn up at 1pm, rather than at 9am, and that put paid to that.

However a few interesting stories have emerged in the media today.  There is a volcano erupting in Russia and temperatures of -20 C in Moscow on Wednesday, for instance.

Via eChurch blog I learned of an update on the story of the Exclusive Brethren, whose charitable status was removed by the Charities Commission on grounds that seemed to involve turning itself into a regulator of “approved” and “unapproved” Christian groups.  Law and Religion UK have the story:

Anthony Collins Solicitors LLP has now issued a briefing on the latest developments in the controversy which repays reading in full. It reports the outcome of a meeting on 11 December between the Commission’s Chief Legal Adviser,  the Commission’s Head of Policy, two representatives of the Evangelical Alliance and Phil Watts (a Senior Associate in the charities team at Anthony Collins) at which the following clarifications and assurances were obtained:

  • that under the current law the provision of services of public worship which are genuinely open to anyone to attend is in itself sufficient to satisfy the public benefit requirement even if, in practice, the numbers attending such services are small;
  • that there is no difficulty in restricting access to the sacrament of Holy Communion in accordance with denominational requirements: difficulties only arise if restrictions are imposed upon access to the worship services of which the sacrament forms a part;
  • that the Commission will not involve itself in matters of doctrine except where the outworking of particular doctrinal beliefs impacts upon the public benefit of the organisation: in practice, the Commission understands this to mean situations where the outworking of particular doctrines may give rise to detriment or harm, in which case this must be weighed against the positive public benefit in order to determine whether or not, on balance, charitable status is appropriate; and
  • the Commission’s decision-making process is likely to become more streamlined, increasing the likelihood of appeals concerning decisions of the Commission having to be made to the First-tier Tribunal.

The Tribunal’s latest directions hearing was on 3 December.

In the House of Commons, Peter Bone, Conservative MP for Wellingborough, successfully presented a Ten Minute Rule Motion on 19 December that “leave be given to bring in a Bill to amend the Charities Act 2011 to treat all religious institutions as charities; and for connected purposes”. The motion was approved by 166 to 7. However, his bill is highly unlikely to make any further progress…

I think that the action of the Evangelical Alliance was very appropriate, as they represent considerable numbers of small independent congregations, each at risk of being targeted in exactly the same way as the Exclusive Brethren (who are not EA members, but, as far as I can make out, are more like the British equivalent of US groups like the Amish or Mennonites).

Peter Bone MP’s action was also a good thing, indicating a very proper desire that the Charities Act should not be used as a pretext for attacks on Christians.  The Charities Commission now seems to be moving back from the extreme position that it had adopted, and this can only be welcome.

It is an old maxim that an unpopular ruler may make himself secure by operating a policy of divide-and-rule; by stirring up resentments between different sections of the population, making each afraid of encroachment by others, and therefore ever on the look-out for such encroachments.  In our unhappy society, our ruling class creates ever more privileges for this group and that group, and sets one against another.  In the process we find bigotry spreading its wings, that once would have been dismissed out of hand.  We learn of just such a story via eChurch blog is at the UK Human Rights blog.  A Catholic school is proposed for Richmond.  Some atheist group or other, boiling with hate at the thought that Catholic parents might send Catholic children to receive a Catholic education, rather than have them indoctrinated in the values of our masters, has objected and demanded a judicial review.  In times gone past, in a free country, they would have been sent about their bigoted business; for what business is it of theirs?  Our rulers, however, would much rather interfere, and make sure the Catholics know that they are only permitted to exist by our masters’ good pleasure.  Such is the way of serfdom.

Another eChurch blog story highlights that the mobile phone companies in the UK are censoring the internet.  In this case, churches associated with the New Wine movement are being blocked because … yes … they must be about alcohol!  I hadn’t realised that our masters had introduced prohibition, tho.  The Open Rights Group has the story.

About this time last year we wrote about a church that had been blocked by O2’s mobile Internet filters. Following this, we set up www.blocked.org.uk, a site which allows people to report ‘over-blocking’ on their mobile networks.

With somewhat uncanny timing, this morning someone used blocked.org.uk to tell us about another church (St. Mark’s in Southampton) that is blocked – this time on Vodafone. We have confirmed that it is also blocked by Orange. The site is blocked on O2’s highest blocking setting, but not on their ‘default safety’ service.

Using O2’s very handy ‘URL checker‘, we have established that they classify the site as ‘alcohol’. It is likely that this is the category that has led to its blocking on other networks, but this is not confirmed.

These stories may seem funny; but they aren’t actually funny at all.  I have long known that US right-wing political site Five Feet of Fury is blocked by O2.

Oh, how I long, sometimes, for the days before all these censors!  How I long for the simpler days before all these people determined that they would stop other people doing this, saying that, looking at this.  Censorship is entirely defensible on moral grounds, by appealing to the Law of Moses, to the Ten Commandments, to the Natural Law.  But no-one is doing that.  Instead we are drifting into a censorship of whatever those in power do not want seen, heard, said.

Scottish congregation evicted and sued by Church of Scotland

A story of evil-doing by the Church of Scotland officials came to my attention this week.  It has been kept quiet by the establishment, who are really responsible.  The Scottish Herald reports:

LEADERS of the Church of Scotland have been accused of heavy-handed tactics after law officers disrupted a prayer meeting to demand the return of bibles, hymn books and an organ.

The serving of a writ was the latest move in an increasingly bitter wrangle between Kirk leaders and the congregation of one of Scotland’s best-known churches, St George’s Tron in Glasgow.

The congregation has been threatened with eviction from the premises after it split from the Kirk in opposition to the ordination of gay ministers.

As the Kirk intensified its efforts to reclaim property, more than 100 church members were left stunned when Messengers-at-Arms arrived to serve legal papers demanding the return of a number of key items.

The church minister, Rev Dr William Philip, described the arrival of the law officers as frightening and humiliating. He said: “To disrupt a prayer meeting in that way and demand the organ and other key items that were gifted to the congregation, just weeks before Christmas, truly beggars belief.

“Not content to evict us, it seems they are determined to publicly humiliate our leaders and frighten our members, some of whom are vulnerable people.

“It is shameful. Having law officers disrupt a church meeting and intimidate a church is something we associate with China or former Soviet dictatorships but is the last thing we expected from the so-called national Church.

“We have sought to avoid going to the courts at every opportunity which is why we took the decision to vacate the building rather than fight for it, trusting God as we enter this new phase of ministry to which he has called us. But to do this we need resources like our hymn books, organ and bibles, so we have been left with no other option but to contest this petty and ridiculous action.”

The incident comes after The Herald revealed the congregation and minister clashed with the Church of Scotland over ownership of church buildings when it quit the main body of the Kirk over its stance on allowing gay ministers.

Mr Philip added: “My family is now living in fear that the manse will be stormed in the same way to force us out of our home on to the street before Christmas. It is horrible.”

My first reaction was to wonder what all this was about.  The Christian Institute has more details.  Apparently the Church of Scotland, at the bidding of the non-Christian world, intends to ordain gays as ministers, albeit with much hand-wringing and delays.  We all know that unnatural vice is one of many evils prohibited in scripture, and this is probably why the world demands that the church submit and endorse it.  This is what persecution looks like, after all – some minor issue is used as an excuse to persecute for non-conformance. 

St. George’s Tron is a large church in that denomination.  Rightly supposing that the processes can have only one end, they have rightly decided that they cannot in conscience remain part of that organisation. 

The response has been vicious.  The Church of Scotland officials have, as I understand it:

  • demanded that the congregation either surrender or vacate the building (which they recently spent 2.5 million pounds — around $4m dollars — to put in order);
  • demanded that the congregation also pay them 1 million pounds (around $1.5m) to repay a loan, made by the denomination to its congregation to refurbish a building which the denomination claims to own;
  • demanded that the congregation also hand over the minister’s house, or manse, which the congregation purchased for its minister, thereby rendering him and his family homeless;
  • demanded that the congregation also hand over its bibles, hymn books, etc.

All this seems to be pure spite, of course, and to intimidate the many congregations that might do the same.  The Church of Scotland has many empty buildings, so it has no need for the St Georges Tron building.  It proposes to install a “new congregation”; but of course this is just a fake group, with an eye to probable court cases, for if the Church of Scotland could create viable congregations by fiat, it wouldn’t have buildings standing empty.  Likewise it is pretty cheeky to demand that a bunch of people kicked out pay for a building that they don’t own; this demand is designed to load the congregation with a debt, hopefully causing it to disband.

St George’s Tron chose to leave their building rather than litigate.  The Church of Scotland apparently is determined to force them into the courts, by means of the demand for money.

What I would like to know, however, is the effect on giving in the Church of Scotland.  For who on earth would donate a penny to it, if so doing can be repaid so vilely?  Why refurbish your parish church?  It isn’t yours, and may be taken from you at a moment’s notice.  Why pay for clergy housing?  Why buy hymn books?  And so on.

I thought that the days of this kind of religious viciousness were over.  It is sad to see them return.