BELFAST, Ireland — An assistant pastor of a church in Ireland has resigned over his opposition to a co-pastor’s recent Sunday sermon against Islam, which resulted in an official ‘hate crime’ investigation by the Irish government.
As previously reported, James McConnell, pastor of the Whitewell Metropolitan Church in North Belfast, Ireland, discussed the religion of Islam during an evening sermon on Sunday, May 18th. During the sermon, McConnell denounced Islam and said that the contrast between it and Christianity is stark.
“The God we worship and serve this evening is not Allah,” he proclaimed, according to a video of his sermon. “The Muslim god—Allah—is a heathen deity. Allah is a cruel deity. Allah is a demon deity.”
McConnell then criticized the “foolish” British government for attempting to appease Muslims financially, saying Islam is “a doctrine spawned in hell.” He also noted that Christians around the world are persecuted for their faith by the “fanatical worshipers” of Allah.
According to the Belfast Telegraph, McConnell’s remarks were inspired by the current plight of Meriam Ibrahim—a professing Orthodox Christian woman in Sudan. As previously reported, Ibrahim was sentenced to hang after she was convicted of apostasy for refusing to deny her faith and convert to Islam.
But following McConnell’s sermon, the Police Service of Northern Ireland investigated the preacher for allegations of hate crime. Northern Ireland’s Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness described the preacher’s comments as “hate mongering” and said the anti-Muslim statements “must be condemned in the strongest possible terms.”
“Coming in the wake of recent spate of disgraceful racist attacks against families in parts of Belfast and elsewhere, such inflammatory comments only serve to fuel hatred,” McGuinness added, according to the Daily Mirror. “[It is] essential that there is a full and thorough investigation of these comments and their potential to generate further racist attacks.”
Now, the assistant pastor at Whitewell Metropolitan Church has resigned due to his opposition to McConnell’s sermon.
“I spent many days trying to sort this, without success, and I could not continue after the pastor’s initial remarks were not withdrawn,” John McCreedy told the Belfast Telegraph.
“The theological arguments presented by the pastor are a contradiction to my own beliefs—religious, political and moral—in relation to New Testament evangelism,” he continued. “Neither are they the views of many others I have spoken to at Whitewell, who have for years reached out to others from every ethnic background and denomination.”
Although McCreedy said that he parted with McConnell on “the best of terms,” he told reporters that he wanted to be clear that he was leaving because of McConnell’s refusal to retract his statements and not because of any hostility toward Islam.
“It’s important to stress that I don’t want people to think that I left the church because of any animosity towards the Muslim faith,” he said.
According to reports, McConnell apologized for any offense during a recent investigation by police, but did not recant the content of the sermon itself.
While some have harshly condemned the pastor over his remarks, others have rallied to support McConnell. Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson said he has personally visited Whitewell Metropolitan Church several times and was thoroughly impressed by McConnell’s preaching.
“There isn’t an ounce of hatred in his bones,” Robinson stated in a newspaper interview. “This is someone who preaches the gospel.”
“I strongly believe that Pastor James McConnell has the right to freedom of speech,” he said. “I will defend his right just as I defend the right of others to express views with which I disagree. People have the right to express their differing views and indeed the essence of democracy is the ability to do so in a way that is free from fear and intimidation.”