Trinity College has agreed to host Christian Concern, the religious group criticised by many for its “homophobic” attitudes. Cherwell photographed the group holding a seminar – ‘How To Engage with Secular Culture’ – in the college’s Danson Room on Monday afternoon.
Christian Concern, whose conference is known as the ‘Wilberforce Academy‘, was hosted by Exeter during the Easter vacation last year. Amidst student protest the college subsequently agreed to donate the profits from the conference to LGBTQ causes.
A Christian Conern seminar held in the college’s Danson Room
OUSU slammed Trinity College on Tuesday afternoon for “ignor[ing] the strong message that Oxford’s students and staff sent to Exeter last year.”
Katie Colliver, OUSU’s VP for welfare and equal opportunities, said that “When an individual college chooses to host a group associated with homophobia, sexism and other forms of intolerance it…damages the reputation of the University as a welcoming and diverse institution.”
The organisation has been labelled ‘homophobic’ in the past as it allegedly supports ‘corrective therapy’ for homosexuals. A Channel 4 documentary in 2008 said that the group’s founder and CEO, Andrea Minichiello Williams, understands homosexuality as a ‘sin’.
In a blog on Christian Concern’s website last year Williams described the legislative fight over gay marriage as a “war [that] is raging between Satan and Jesus for this nation.” She criticised the Church of England for remaining “quiet” when “homosexuals couples said ‘Our love is equivalent and should be protected in law’.
“Same sex rights are no longer just about rights, or even about the redefinition of marriage but about the redefinition of family, society and norms. And the Church starts being persecuted,” she wrote as David Cameron’s same-sex marriage bill made its way through Parliament.
The Christian Concern tweets made reporting the conference in Trinity College
Christian Concern’s return to Oxford this year has been met by a chorus of indignation from student representaives. Priya Manwaring, Trinity JCR’s Diversity Representative, told Cherwell that “I strongly disagree with the college’s decision to host Christian Concern” and promised to “put the matter to the JCR when term resumes.”
The Wilberforce Academy’s website describes itself as “aimed at students and young professionals with a passion to serve Jesus Christ in a variety of vocations including law, politics, education, media, arts and business.
“Our aim is that delegates will be prepared for servant-hearted, Christ-centred leadership in public life, having been equipped with a robust biblical framework that guides their thinking, prayers and activity in addressing the issues facing our society.”
However Andrew Bennison, a Christian Union representative at Trinity, told Cherwell that he was “saddened that Christian Concern has chosen to hold their conference at Trinity.” He described the group as a “fringe organisation whose message of division and intolerance is anathema to the inclusive message of God’s amazing love for all people.”
Christian Concern’s recent campaigns include ‘Equal and Free’, which states that “The influence of radical Islam has grown in the UK and as an ideology it seeks to shape our political and social landscape.
“From the introduction of sharia law and Islamic finance to the implications on freedom of speech and women’s rights, the presence of Islamism in the UK has great repercussions for all of us.” The campaign promises to “support Baroness Cox’s draft bill to stop sharia law being used unjustly against women in the UK and to curb the use of sharia law where it is being used illegally.”
Voices of opposition grew stronger on Tuesday as members of Trinity MCR wrote a letter to Sir Ivor Roberts, Trinity’s President. The MCR Executive Committee told Roberts that they thought Trinity “should not support a controversial group like Christian Concern in any way or form.”
Anna Regoutz, Trinity’s MCR President, told Cherwell that Christian Concern’s use of Trinity’s facilities threatens to “destroy the brilliant work done by JCR, MCR and College members to make Trinity the welcoming and open place it is.”
At the time of publishing neither Trinity College nor Christian Concern had responded to Cherwell’s request for comment. However Sir Ivor Roberts later told the Independent that he had “no idea there was anything controversial about [Christian Concern]” and had approved the conference after seeing it had the support of Lord Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury.