Labour MP Stephen Timms ‘applauds’ notoriously homophobic church Jesus House despite Keir Starmer apology

Stephen Timms Labour MP East Ham

Labour MP Stephen Timms has ‘applauded’ the work of the anti-LGBT+ church Jesus House just a day after Labour leader Keir Starmer apologised for visiting the church.

Starmer visited Jesus House in London on Friday (2 April). In a video posted on Twitter, Starmer praised Jesus House as a “wonderful example of a church serving their community”. He said he had met young people and church leaders to “talk about how to address inequalities and injustices” that the COVID-19 pandemic “has so brutally exposed”.

Starmer faced waves of backlash online for supporting the notoriously homophobic church, and he apologised via a tweet on Monday (5 April), saying he was “not aware” of the church’s anti-LGBT+ beliefs until after his visit.

Now, it appears that Stephen Timms, a Labour MP for East Ham, has also thrown his support behind Jesus House. Timms tweeted on Tuesday (6 April): “I applaud the extraordinary work of [Jesus House], and of churches and other faith groups, in supporting our communities throughout the past year.”

Like Starmer, Timms has received harsh criticism for his support of the anti-LGBT+ church, especially so soon after Starmer’s apology.

The Labour Party’s LGBT+ arm told PinkNews it was “disappointed” to see Timm’s tweet so soon after Starmer’s apology. LGBT+ Labour said: “We were disappointed to see Stephen Timms’s tweet after Keir Starmer’s apology yesterday. We have contacted his office and will be taking it up with him privately.”

People have been sharing their outrage at Timm’s tweet online. One person shared a screenshot of Starmer’s apology and asked Timms what his stance was on Jesus House’s beliefs on LGBT+ rights. They said: “So where do you stand on their beliefs on LGBTQIA+ rights? Or did you not get Keir’s memo after that blunder?”

Another person, who claimed to be a Newham resident, took the time to explain to Timms the issues with Jesus House. He said: “The issue with Jesus House isn’t their charity work. Various churches, mosques and other such faith communities are a valuable and much respected area of community support.

“The issue was with the anti-LGBTQ+ stance of their pastor, his promotion of the removal of protections designed to protect our community from discrimination, as well as being pro-conversion therapy which is equal to torture, plus being anti-abortion and opposed to equal marriage.

“These are all attacks on highly valued modern principles.”

One commenter pointed out Stephen Timms own record of voting against LGBT+ issues. The person tweeted a screenshot from TheyWorkForYou, which showed Timms voted against same-sex marriage in 2013.

However, the website, which tracks how MPs vote on a variety of issues, showed Timms did vote to permit same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland in 2019.

Jo Grady, general secretary of the University and College Union, said that she believed Timms was aware of the “nasty and upsetting thing” the MP tweeted.

“Given everything that has happened, I fail to believe you don’t understand this is a nasty and upsetting thing for LGBT+ members to see you tweet,” Grady said. “Difficult to see this as anything other than homophobic trolling on your part.”

Stephen Timms told PinkNews that “churches and other faith groups have done an extraordinary job – especially through foodbanks – in supporting families during the pandemic” in his constituency and others, and he said it is “important to affirm that”. Timms said: “Many of my constituents would have had a far harder time during the pandemic were it not for their efforts. One of the churches in my constituency affiliated to Jesus House has played a key role.”

He said, “given the attention this afternoon, he had been in contact with Jesus House. Timms said: “They tell me they don’t practise anything like conversion therapy, and regard homophobia as anti-Christian.”

This copy was edited to include comment from LGBT+ Labour and Stephen Timms that was provided to PinkNews after publication.