Lecturer stands before tribunal after Bible College sacking

28 May 2024

On 28 May 2024, an employment tribunal will hear the case of a Christian lecturer, theologian, and father of six, sacked by a Methodist Bible college and threatened with a Prevent referral for one tweet on Christian sexual ethics.

Supported by the Christian Legal Centre, Dr Edwards, 39, launched legal action last year against Cliff College in Derbyshire, on the grounds of harassment, discrimination and unfair dismissal. His case will be heard from Tuesday 28 May the Law Courts in Sheffield.

Dr Edwards is seeking damages and compensation for unfair dismissal, a reinstatement, and a declaration and recommendation under the Equality Act 2010.

Lawyers will say that Cliff College violated and unlawfully interfered with Dr Edwards’ rights under Article 9 and 10 of the ECHR.

Twitter storm

Dr Edwards had worked for seven years at Cliff College, but in February 2023, everything changed for him and his family.

At the time, the Church of England (CofE) was debating whether it should allow same-sex blessings in their churches. As a theology lecturer with a strong understanding of the wider implications of these issues, Dr Edwards posted a message on X/Twitter:


“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.”

A Twitter storm followed. Dr Edwards insisted, and clarified in subsequent tweets, that the post was not ‘homophobic’ and that it was addressed to evangelicals who agree with his message, but feel they can’t say so for fear of backlash.

Furthermore, he added that the aggressive response to the tweet illustrated the problem it addressed.

He also subsequently tweeted:

“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.”

He added:

“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.”

Instead of supporting Dr Edwards’ freedom to share a Christian evangelical perspective on these issues, Cliff College released a statement which publicly disowned him and sought to solicit complaints.

They also asked Dr Edwards to take the post down, claiming (wrongly) that it breached the college’s social media policy.

Dr Edwards refused, as he believed doing so would go against his conscience and be an admittance that he had intended to deliberately cause trouble for the college when the tweet was an expression of a deeply held belief which he believed was necessary to express.

Members of the Methodist Church appeared to coordinate a series of complaints against him. One senior member of staff at the Methodist Church in Britain, who holds significant influence over the missional direction of the Methodist Church, wrote that Dr Edwards’ tweet ‘could be extremely damaging’ and ‘impact the college’s core work’ and its ‘business plan.’

They said that the tweet placed in doubt whether Cliff College is ‘safe for both members of staff and of churches and circuits who participate in its programmes and activities.’

Other students, however, wrote in to express support for Dr Edwards. One wrote that “it did concern me that the impression given by Cliff College is that conservative views on sexuality are not allowed to be expressed.”

The student added that they had always found Dr Edwards “to be hospitable in lectures and informal situations to a wide variety of viewpoints.”

Following Dr Edwards being suspended with a pending investigation, David Robertson, a well-known evangelical author and podcaster posted in response to the sacking: “it is difficult to believe that a supposedly evangelical college suspends you for this. One can only imagine what they would do to the Apostle Paul! Or Jesus!”

Sacked for “bringing the college into disrepute”

Following the investigation and disciplinary hearing, Dr Edwards was sacked for misconduct for “bringing the college into disrepute”.

Minutes from the college’s disciplinary hearing reveal that he was told by the college that he could be reported to Prevent, the Government’s counter-extremism programme.

He was also interrogated over how he would pray for same-sex attracted students who approach him for prayer.

Following the dismissal, he and his wife and their five young children had to move out of their house and he had to resort to crowdfunding to cover his family’s living costs while he made new long-term plans.

During this time, Dr Edwards was admitted to hospital with cardiac symptoms due to the stress the situation caused.

‘Gone up in smoke’

Ahead of the hearing Dr Edwards said:

“It feels like everything I worked for at the college (and for the college) over the last 7 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.”

Andrea Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre, said:

“Aaron was 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.

“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.

“This case exposes a collapse in confidence in biblical truth in one of the very places where the next generation of Christian leaders is being trained.

“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.”

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