Keir Starmer condemned for meeting with anti-LGBTQ+ pastor over Easter weekend… again

Keir Starmer has been slammed for holding an Easter weekend meeting with a pastor who has links to an anti-gay megachurch and evangelical Christian groups that call homosexuality and same-sex relationships a “sin”.

On Easter Sunday (9 April), the Labour leader shared a video to his Twitter account where he met with church leaders in Manchester to discuss how they support communities through tough times, including the COVID-19 pandemic and cost-of-living crisis. 

It was quickly pointed out that the video features Glyn Barrett, who is a senior pastor at !Audacious Church, national leader of Great Britain’s branch of the World Assemblies of God Fellowship – the world’s largest Pentecostal denomination – and a member of the Evangelical Alliance council

The Evangelical Alliance has a controversial stance on many LGBTQ+ issues.

On its website, the organisation outlines its views on homosexuality, same-sex relationships and same-sex marriage as incompatible with the Bible.

It states marriage is “the only form of partnership approved by God for sexual relations and homoerotic sexual practice is incompatible with His will as revealed in Scripture”.

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Alongside this, the Evangelical Alliance stated it “opposes” moves by churches to to “accept and/​or endorse” same-sex relationship as a “legitimate form of Christian relationship”, describing such unions as “unbiblical”.

The organisation said it does welcome gay and lesbian members, even noting they can become leaders in their churches, but says they will eventually need to be “transformed” to live in line with Bible and “homoerotic sexual activity without repentance” is inconsistent with church membership.

In 2021, the Evangelical Alliance published a letter to then-prime minister Boris Johnson airing the group’s concerns about the government’s proposed ban on so-called conversion therapy.

While the letter states the organisation recognises the role the church has “sadly played” in perpetuating anti-LGBTQ+ stigma and they oppose abusive practices, they state their caution that the proposals would have “the consequence of restricting individual freedom and impinging on essential religious liberty”.

“For evangelical Christians, the teaching of the Bible is clear that sexual activity is restricted to monogamous marriage between one man and one woman.

“For Christians who hold to this biblical teaching, it is essential that those who experience sam- sex attraction are free to pursue and receive support to help them live in accordance with their beliefs,” the letter reads.

In regards to trans rights specifically, in 2018 the Evangelical Alliance published guidance for members on how to respond to the government’s consultation on reforming the Gender Recognition Act (GRA).

In the guidance, the group states religious organisations should continue to be exempt from employing trans people if this conflicts with their beliefs.

Also stating that clergy should not be required to perform marriages for trans people because without “sufficient protection” ministers may be “tricked” into performing same-sex marriages.

!Audacious pastor Barrett is also named as a contributor to anti-gay megachurch Hillsong on its own website.

The New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) Connections website also links Barrett to Hillsong as well as the Billy Graham Association, which describes homosexuality as a “lifestyle” choice and a sexual “sin”.

Hillsong has faced numerous controversies for its views on LGBTQ+ people, stating that it does not affirm “gay lifestyles” and that same-sex relationships and same-sex marriage are not compatible with scripture.

In 2015, Josh Canfield was forced to step down from his leadership at Hillsong Church after appearing on TV show Survivor and revealing he was a gay Christian with a boyfriend.

!Audacious Church has been described by a number of people as a “theologically Conservative church”, where marriage is stated as between one man and one woman only. 

This reflects the views outlined in documents by the Great Britain branch of the Assemblies of God as well as its overarching international body, which states the church has a responsibility to lead those who “struggle with broken families or homosexual temptations, orientation, and conduct”. 

“There is no doubt that there is absolutely no affirmation of homosexual activity, same-sex marriage, or changes in sexual identity found anywhere in scripture,” the World Assemblies of God Theological Commission wrote. “The witness of scripture is strong enough to serve as an important factor against homosexual behaviour and it should be the foundation in the church’s response to its assertions.

“The scriptural definition of marriage is the best defense for marriage.”

Keir Starmer dubbed a ‘threat’ to the LGBTQ+ community

This is not the first time the Labour leader has courted controversy for meeting with contentious religious figures. 

In 2021, Keir Starmer was forced to apologise for visiting Jesus House in London, a well-known anti-LGBTQ+ church facing years-old accusations of carrying out conversion therapy and the pastor of which, Agu Irukwu, vehemently opposes LGBTQ+ rights.

Jesus House denies carrying out conversion therapy but says it does offer prayer for “any situation in life”, and the church once compared being LGBTQ+ to bestiality.

Pastor Irukwu is also associated with the Evangelical Alliance

When he visited, Starmer praised Jesus House as a “wonderful example of a church serving their community”.

Welsh Labour Grassroots, organisation of the Labour left in Wales, said: “This is now the second time the Labour leadership has been caught out visiting openly homophobic churches.

“Alongside retrograde prevarication on trans rights, a pattern is beginning to emerge and it isn’t a very pretty one at all.”

Norwich County Council councillor Alex Catt also noted that this is the second time Starmer has met with a church which has contentious links.

“He obviously doesn’t care,” Catt said.

Adding: “This blatant homophobia and transphobia is being stoked by someone who leads a party that self-proclaims to be the party of equality.

“The Labour Party under Keir Starmer is a threat to the LGBTIQA+ community. I don’t want to see anyone promoting Labour at Pride.”

PinkNews contacted the Labour Party in regards to Starmer once more meeting a pastor with anti-LGBTQ+ links. 

When asked for comment, a spokesperson for Labour instead provided a comment from Stuart Keir, the chair of the Audacious Foundation. 

Keir said: “The Audacious Foundation is a charity established by the Audacious church to provide practical support to people in need across the community, regardless of background, faith, ethnicity, gender or sexuality. 

“Neither Audacious Foundation nor Audacious Church support or engage in any type of ministry or activity that is coercive or manipulative. 

“Audacious Church is not part of Hillsong Church.”

Labour has been asked for a comment directly from the party but none has been as yet provided.

PinkNews has also contacted !Audacious Church and Glyn Barrett for further comment.

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