On Friday 23 April, Pastor John Sherwood, the minister of a north London church, was preaching the gospel in the centre of Uxbridge (in Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s constituency).
Several police officers arrived on the scene and a conversation with Pastor Sherwood ensued. When he refused to stop preaching and come down from the steps on which he was standing, a police officer took away the Bible in the pastor’s hand and pulled him from the steps. Three officers quickly gathered around the 70-year-old minister, handcuffed and arrested him and took him to a detention centre near Heathrow Airport, where he was kept overnight and not released until around noon the next day.
You can read an account of the arrest in this article written by Peter Simpson, who was preaching with the pastor at that time.
In the article, Mr Simpson asks, ‘what kind of nation have we become that the minister of a Christian church is arrested for upholding in the public square the very truths which Her Majesty the Queen promised to uphold in her Coronation Oath in 1953, with a Bible in her hand?’
Pastor Sherwood had been proclaiming the truth of Genesis 1:27, God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. A few days later, Maya Forstater, a former think tank researcher fired over ‘trans-critical’ tweets, was back in court to defend her right to free speech. She had lost her job at the Centre for Global Development after tweeting her opposition to gender self-identification, and stating that ‘men cannot change into women’. It may be several months before a judgement is made.
In a unanimous decision by five judges the Supreme Court has upheld the appeal by Ashers Baking Co against a ruling that by refusing to produce a cake bearing the slogan ‘Support Gay Marriage’ the company unlawfully discriminated against Gareth Lee on the grounds of sexual orientation.
The ruling upholds free speech and prevents the law from forcing businesses to express views with which they profoundly disagree. Repeated throughout the judgment is the Court’s finding that the family’s objection “was to the message, not the messenger”.
In a statement given outside the court, Daniel McArthur, who has spearheaded the family firm’s fight for justice, said, “I want to start by thanking God. He has been with us during the challenges of the last four years. Through the Bible and the support of Christians, He has comforted us and sustained us. He is our rock and all His ways are just.”
The cost of the cake that Ashers declined to bake would have been £36.50; legal costs borne by the state-funded Equality Commission for Northern Ireland, which brought the original case against Ashers, were £250,000 and by the Christian Institute, which represented Ashers, £200,000.
We give glory to God for the outcome of this case and pray that its ramifications will be felt far and wide wherever Christian businesses are coming under pressure to compromise on what they believe and stand for. This has been a ‘David and Goliath’ case and we recall the words of David has he stood before the giant: “You come to me with a sword, a spear, and a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have taunted. This day the LORD will deliver you up into my hands … that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, and that all this assembly may know that the LORD does not deliver by sword or by spear; for the battle is the LORD’S and He will give you into our hands.”
This morning I was reading Hebrews 11 with my colleague.
And what more shall I say? For time will fail me if I tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets, who by faith conquered kingdoms, performed acts of righteousness, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, from weakness were made strong, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. Women received back their dead by resurrection; and others were tortured, not accepting their release, so that they might obtain a better resurrection; and others experienced mockings and scourgings, yes, also chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were put to death with the sword; they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated (men of whom the world was not worthy), wandering in deserts and mountains and caves and holes in the ground. And all these, having gained approval through their faith, did not receive what was promised, because God had provided something better for us, so that apart from us they would not be made perfect. (Hebrews 11: 32-40)
So if this happened to the apostles and the early church, why should we as believers be surprised at the curtailing of our freedoms? I always believed there was freedom of speech in the United Kingdom, but I am now getting to the the point where I believe we are now living in an Orwellian society. If you are a Christian or white Caucasian you have no rights. It is quite acceptable for other faith groups and non-Christians to profane the name of Jesus and the Holy Bible, but if you were to burn a Koran, as one lady did quite recently, you would be imprisoned. As street preachers we have to be very careful what we say otherwise we come face to face with the rule of law. We have seen the nonsense in Northern Ireland with Ashers Baking Company if we refuse to do things through conscience.
Jesus Himself said in Matthew 24: 12,
“Because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will grow cold.”
and in Matthew 24: 37-39,
“For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; so will the coming of the Son of Man be.”
For this reason we are seeing much of this today in our so-called civilised society: the push of the left wing for freedoms for feminists, LGBT and other groups has pushed the balance of our society away from truth. We now call evil good and good evil. We have a problem where if we speak out against certain groups we are called racist. Our nation is in chaos. Our politicians have lost the plot. We are overrun by illegal immigrants and economic migrants.
If you are a true believer in Jesus Christ I believe the time will come one day that they will even make it illegal for us to say that Jesus Christ is the only way to God. We see around the world the attacks on Israel and the Arab nations preparing for war. Many of the signs that have been prophesied have come to pass.
My brothers and sisters, we are running out of time. I believe it is the time for the British church to get down on its knees, do away with its church politics and get back to the Bible. I agree with Don Francisco’s song: I do not care how big your church’s steeple is if it’s sitting on a cemetery. I don’t care if your pastor’s super-powered and your programme’s always new.
Are there others out there that feel the way I do? I am not saying like Elijah that I am the only one, as I know in my heart there are many who sit in congregations every week who feel the same as I do. If you feel the same way and want to put out fires again, see souls saved and see a true restoration and revival in our nation I should love to hear from you. Please contact me as I believe we need another spiritual revolution as in John Wesley’s day and I should love to pray with you.