Greenwich Council leader Danny Thorpe visited New Wine Church last week to hand out Christmas hampers, cementing the controversial church’s return to the council fold following revelations last year that it hosted sermons critical of homosexuality.
In July 2017, 853 revealed the church’s pastor, who had accepted a civic award from former council leader Denise Hyland earlier that year, had referred to homosexuality and gay marriage as being part of “the darkness”.
The revelation ended many years of public backing by the council for the Pentecostal church, which is based in a former cinema by the Woolwich Ferry.
But business as usual has resumed between the church and the council, with Hyland’s successor Thorpe praising its annual Christmas hamper scheme as “a really great initiative for the whole community and a reminder about how generous people are”.
Earlier this year, Thorpe called on the church to publicly disown homophobia after ads for the church started appearing on the council’s big screen in General Gordon Square, Woolwich.
New Wine has not responded to a request from 853 to clarify its stance on homosexuality.
The church, which began life in 1993 at the West Greenwich House community centre before moving to Woolwich in 2000, secured a prominent position in the area’s public life during Chris Roberts’ term as council leader, frequently appearing in council media and at one point describing itself as “the melting pot for both the civic and religious leaders of the community”. Figures submitted to Companies House show that in 2017, it took over £2.4 million in donations and legacies.
But it has also been known for its extremely conservative social views, which have been at odds with the pronouncements of Greenwich councillors. Founding pastor Tayo Adeyemi, who died in 2013, associated homosexuality with paternal rejection in a video still available on YouTube while his successor Olawore, who died in July, branded homosexuality and gay marriage as being part of the “darkness”, alongside “abortion”, “alcoholism”, “war and terrorism” and “public nudity”. Followers were urged: “It is your responsibility to turn on your light.”
And in 2017, it hosted an event featuring Pastor Enoch Adeboye of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, who has claimed gay marriage will end civilisation.
During that year’s general election campaign, Thorpe told Twitter users that the views of former Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron – an evangelical Christian who prevaricated over admitting he believed gay sex was a sin – “had no place in 21st century Britain”.
Faith groups’ declaration
In October, the church, which has a new pastor, Adekola Taiwo, known as Pastor Kola, joined other faith groups to back a declaration that it would “serve all residents of the borough, on an equal basis, regardless of age, disability, gender, race, religion or belief, sexual orientation or marital status”.
Thorpe told this website: “The pledge sets out a joint understanding between the Council and faith communities, including referring to serving all residents of the borough equally regardless sexual orientation, and New Wine Church along with the other groups present signed it in October.
“I have been very clear about unacceptable homophobia linked to religion and am glad to have brought together a multi-faith group to commit to working for all communities and residents in Greenwich, regardless of individual differences.”
New Wine Church has not responded to a request from 853 to clarify its stance on homosexuality. However, the sermon by Olawore has been removed from its website since 853 contacted both the church and Greenwich Council last Monday, specifically mentioning it.
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