Jesus House’s leaders have said they have been “cyberbullied” after Keir Starmer described his visit to the London church as a “mistake”.
The church’s senior pastor, Agu Irukwu, a high-decibel opponent of LGBT+ rights, described how Jesus House has been “prosecuted, judged, and sentenced unfairly” amid backlash against Starmer’s stop-off at the church. This “upset” the church, he said.
Starmer attended the Barnet church’s pop-up NHS vaccine centre last week, describing the work it had done for the local community as “wonderful” in a since-deleted social media video.
Amid searing criticism for visiting a church with a troubling track record on LGBT+ rights, Starmer apologised Monday (5 April). He sought to distance himself from the church leaders’ anti-LGBT+ beliefs – ones, he claimed, he did not know of beforehand.
For Irukwu, a sense of betrayal. He told Premier Christian how “disturbing” the last few days have been, with the church being “cyberbullied” throughout Easter as a result.
And in a series of liked tweets that make the church’s response to Starmer’s apology all too clear, comments lambasting the “two-faced” Labour leader’s “intolerance”.
Jesus House is part of the international megachurch network Redeemed Christian Church of God.
Jesus House pastor has been ‘cyberbullied’ amid Keir Starmer saga
In the interview, Irukwu explained: “As a child growing up in a Commonwealth nation, one aspect of Great Britain which I found most admirable was its promotion of strong values, including fairness and justice.
“Over the past 48 hours, I have been disturbed to see these values eroded, especially in the courtroom of social media – we have felt prosecuted, judged, and sentenced unfairly.
“Some of the language that has been directed at us can only be described as vile, abusive, hateful, and possibly criminal.
“It is tantamount to cyberbullying and the timing of this attack during Easter, one of the most important events in the Christian calendar, was particularly upsetting for us as a congregation.”
Irukwu sought to stress that “despite all that has happened, this can still be a gospel moment”.
“Forgiveness”, he said, is crucial.
But while the pastor urged “hope and reconciliation”, Jesus House’s Twitter account – which boasts more than 15,200 followers – had a vastly different tone.
Tweets – from a lecturer, an estate agent and a user who has “choose life” in all capital letters in his bio – were initially retweeted by Jesus House Tuesday (6 April) but have since been removed. All three, however, are still liked at the time of writing.
“I am saddened and disappointed that Sir Keir has shown such intolerance towards genuine Christians who hold traditional views on sexual ethics!” wrote a user in a tweet the church liked.
“Can we not show some courtesy to those who hold different views?”
In another liked tweet that same day, a user wrote: “We apologise for Keir Starmer being so two-faced after being your guest.”
The user responded to a tweet by Irukwu, where he shared various photographs of himself, Keir and Labour MP Dawn Butler during the Friday (2 April) visit.
Jesus House also liked a tweet sent by academic and author Adrian Hilton, who questioned Starmer’s apology.
“Will Sir Keir Starmer (as leader of the opposition or as PM) never be visiting a mosque, an Orthodox/Masorti synagogue or a Roman Catholic church again, or is it only Evangelical Christians who are beyond the pale?” he tweeted.
“Or is it only [Irukwu and Jesus House]?”