Open-air preacher John Sherwood got here to nationwide media consideration after Metropolitan Cops arrested him final yr in West London.
Pastor Sherwood, then 71, had been preaching on Genesis 1:27 exterior Uxbridge tube station. Passers-by accused him of homophobic hate speech for saying that the household unit as ordained by God consists of a father and a mom, not two fathers or two moms.
The video of his arrest, which Christian Concern described as “brutal”, drew 1000’s of views.
In April this yr, Uxbridge Magistrates’ Court docket cleared him of inflicting “harassment, alarm or misery” below the Public Order Act.
Pastor Sherwood has been Minister of Pilgrim Tabernacle Church in North London for 35 years. He engages in common open-air ministry round London and the Thames Valley and on Sundays at Hyde Park Audio system’ Nook.
He spoke to Christian At this time about his arrest and trial, and the importance of his case for open-air preaching and Christian freedom of speech.
CT: With all of the media protection, how do you assume your arrest and trial have served to spice up the orthodox Christian trigger on this nation?
JS: In reply to that, I might say within the phrases of the Apostle Paul, “The issues which occurred unto me have fallen out reasonably unto the furtherance of the gospel … lots of the brethren within the Lord, waxing assured by my bonds, are rather more daring to talk the phrase with out concern” (Philippians 1:12 – Authorised Model).
So, the outrage on the arrest has positively had a optimistic impression in encouraging others “to enter all of the world and preach the gospel to each creature” (Mark 16:15).
I consider that the Christian trigger has additionally been helped by the ruling of the decide in acquitting me of the alleged public order cost. I hope that many extra Christian preachers shall be emboldened to open the Bible and preach from it, as a result of they’ve the authority of God to take action.
Civil and non secular liberties should proceed in our nice nation, which in occasions previous has been peculiarly blessed by way of wondrous occasions such because the Nice Awakening within the 18th Century, and the Reformation within the 16th Century, when the Bible was translated into our personal tongue from the unique Hebrew and Greek languages.
Could open-air preaching of the phrase of God be as soon as once more revered on this land, and should multitudes who’re within the ‘valley of determination’ (Joel 3:14) search the face of our Lord Jesus Christ within the midst of their fears of viruses, wars, monetary collapse, earthquakes and different such catastrophes.
Simply as our godly forebears preached the eternal gospel and caused, below God, a righteousness which exalted this nation (Proverbs 14:34), so once more might an amazing military of preachers be raised as much as do likewise in our day.
CT: How did you come to be arrested in April 2021?
JS : I and my colleague, Pastor Peter Simpson, who can also be a nonconformist minister, had been preaching between the Uxbridge Underground station and the Chimes purchasing centre. We had been with quite a lot of mates who had been distributing gospel tracts in assist. I used to be holding a Bible in my hand and standing on a two-step ladder, with Scripture posters displayed round me. I used to be not being offensive to any of the hearers.
After some time one male and one feminine police officer interrupted the preaching to say that there had been a criticism. I assured the officers that the content material of my preaching was from the phrase of God. The textual content which I had chosen was Genesis chapter 1:26 and the verses following, which embody the phrases,
“So God created man in his personal picture, within the picture of God created he him; female and male created he them.And God blessed them, and God mentioned unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply” (Genesis 1:27–28).
I had made reference to the wrongful redefinition of marriage in 2013 by the then Prime Minister, insisting that the household – as God had ordained it – consists of a father and a mom and kids, and that it’s biologically not possible for 2 males or two females to breed. When pressed by the police that my phrases had been offensive to the LGBT neighborhood, I responded that each one folks have come into this world by way of a union between a person and a lady.
When questioned whether or not homosexuality was a sin, I defined that it transgressed the seventh commandment, “Thou shall not commit adultery”, which offers with all sexual immorality exterior of the wedding relationship between a person and a lady. I identified that the Bible does converse of homosexuality as a sin, however one of many law enforcement officials mentioned that I used to be flawed about this. In response, I referred to Leviticus 18:22, “Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it’s abomination.”
As extra folks gathered, the police had been put below extra strain, as two members of the general public turned extra outspoken, railing at me and saying, “You’re a homophobe.” The police then determined to cost me with breaking the 1986 Public Order Act, and proceeded to tug me down from the steps and handcuff me. They then frogmarched me off to an awaiting police van. The handcuffing prompted me quite a lot of ache, and there was no consideration of my canine or of the issues of the co-workers round me.
CT: Did your arrest come as a shock to you?
JS: My shock was lessened – in a sure sense – by my being ready for it by an arrest (after which a right away de-arrest) six weeks previous to the Uxbridge incident.
I had been apprehended by the police in North London for an alleged breach of Covid laws. I used to be preaching in an space the place I’ve been doing so for over 30 years, so I used to be at my regular workplace. Below the federal government tips, finishing up crucial pastoral work, I thought of myself to be a key employee, together with NHS staff and people within the emergency providers and charitable sectors.
I used to be providing my hearers the hope of the gospel within the midst of the nice concern which Covid-19 had precipitated. However, I used to be issued with a fantastic. Fortunately, it was subsequently withdrawn by the Central London Magistrates’ Court docket on 20 March 2022.
What significantly stunned me on the day of the Uxbridge arrest was that it passed off after an prolonged interval of affordable and temperate dialogue with law enforcement officials and in a scenario the place there was no risk of escalating public dysfunction.
What additionally shocked me, instantly following the arrest in Uxbridge, was the truth that I used to be really held in custody in a single day on the Heathrow Airport police station. Throughout the police interview at Heathrow I acknowledged that the best hate crime I may ever commit could be to cease preaching the gospel. It’s my responsibility earlier than God to warn my neighbour of the risks of an eternal condemnation for many who don’t take care of the issue of sin by coming to religion within the Lord Jesus Christ.
CT: How did you’re feeling standing trial in April this yr?
JS: My expertise within the many months main as much as the trial was not a cheerful one, with a lot apprehension at what the result could also be.
After a lapse of just about a yr for the reason that arrest, I lastly stood trial on 7 April 2022. Numerous Christians supporting me congregated within the public gallery of the courtroom. The listening to was presided over by a Deputy District decide.
Initially there had been two prosecution witnesses as a consequence of seem, however one in every of them had withdrawn two weeks earlier than the trial date. The opposite prosecution witness testified that upon the day in query I had been shouting abusive phrases which had prompted him alarm, and that I had mentioned that it was flawed for 2 males or two girls to kind a household. Police body-cam video footage of my talking to officers was additionally proven to the court docket as a part of the proceedings.
One of many arresting law enforcement officials gave proof, and upon cross-examination from the defence barrister, a QC, she admitted that the phrases utilized by me when speaking to her about homosexuality weren’t abusive.
In direction of the top of the proceedings the decide dominated that the defence witnesses weren’t required to be known as.
Fortunately, on the day of the trial I used to be fairly rested within the Lord and assured in His sovereignty over all affairs. I used to be very conscious of the phrases that our Lord gave when on trial earlier than Pontius Pilate. The Roman governor reminded the Lord that he was highly effective sufficient to have Him both crucified or launched, to which our Lord responded, “Thou couldest don’t have any energy in any respect in opposition to me, besides it got thee from above” (John 19:11).
This assertion of God’s sovereignty was a consolation to me.
CT: Will you proceed your open-air preaching ministry regardless of what occurred to you?
JS: Over the previous yr since 23 April 2021, my open-air preaching ministry has fortunately continued in and across the London space with out hindrance or interruption from councils or law enforcement officials. I have interaction on this open-air work in adherence to the cost which the Apostle Paul gave to Timothy, “Preach the phrase; be prompt in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.For the time will come when they won’t endure sound doctrine” (2 Timothy 4:2–3).
When the Apostles Peter and John had been arrested, as recorded in Acts 4, they instructed the authorities, together with the monks, scribes and elders, “We can not however converse the issues which we now have seen and heard” (Acts 4:20).
Varied of the Apostles had been then arrested once more (Acts 5:14), and once they had been examined, they mentioned they need to obey God reasonably than males (Acts 5:29). I accordingly consider that, regardless of the threats of the institution, or regardless of their wanting to regulate our actions, we should proceed to evangelise the phrase publicly at each alternative.
CT: Do you concern it’s possible you’ll be arrested once more in future?
JS: In reply to that I might say that concern will not be one thing that ought to overshadow the preaching of the gospel. I hope and pray that the Lord will give energy braveness, and knowledge in all my utterances. There may be all the time some apprehension in any scenario of talking publicly. We reside in an surroundings right now the place there may be certainly a lot controversy over freedom of speech and over the issues that one can and can’t say publicly, and a lot knowledge from above is required.
What I firmly consider is that biblical educating shouldn’t be compromised due to strain from the man-pleasing dictates and the fashions of the day. Over the previous 2,000 years, and going again to apostolic occasions, the disciples of Christ have rejoiced that they had been counted worthy to undergo disgrace for His Identify’s sake.
An important verse on this context is Proverbs 29:25, “The concern of man bringeth a snare: however whoso putteth his belief within the LORD shall be secure.”
It’s value remembering that we not solely obtain criticism for our open-air work, but in addition commendation from passers-by. There are those that come as much as us and thank us for being there and making a stand. This clearly helps to take away any human concern which we’d in any other case have.
CT : Do you are concerned concerning the free speech of road preachers like your self?
JS: We’re inspired in God’s phrase to not be overcome with fear. We all know that God is sovereign over His world. If we have a look at the historical past of this nation and the occasions of nice opposition from spiritual and secular authorities previously, we see that repeatedly the phrase of God and Christian liberties have finally triumphed.
However, we do have to be vigilant. The scenario is deteriorating in respect of Christian freedoms; the proposed Conversion Therapy (Prohibition) Bill is a living proof. This, if handed, may severely hinder completely reputable Christian ministry and the counselling of needy folks within the paths of biblical morality. The Authorities appears to be completely subservient to the calls for of militant homosexual rights activism. They and the police have to keep in mind that Christians may be offended too.
CT: What’s your reply to critics of open-air preaching who say it’s outdated, ineffective as a method of preaching the gospel, and sometimes needlessly provocative to members of the general public?
JS: My reply would once more be to cite the phrases of the Apostle Paul, “I’ll destroy the knowledge of the sensible … Hath not God made silly the knowledge of this world? For after that within the knowledge of God the world by knowledge knew not God, it happy God by the foolishness of preaching to save lots of them that consider” (1 Corinthians 1:19–21).
Therefore it’s not outdated, however it’s the very methodology that God has all the time utilized in saving sinners. The motive in preaching the gospel, which incorporates the necessity to confer with sin, is a motive of affection. As I discussed within the testimony that I gave within the courtroom, simply as a health care provider has to diagnose the illness in his affected person earlier than he administers the remedy, so the seriousness of sin should first be defined, earlier than the treatment of the therapeutic balm of the gospel may be utilized.
If we’d get again to the identical blueprint of forthright preaching which was utilized by the Apostles and by the primary martyr Stephen, then we’d certainly be obeying our Lord’s nice fee. Fact have to be publicly proclaimed, lest it sink into oblivion.
Once more, relating to the outdated difficulty, I might say that the gospel in all ages is addressing males ethically reasonably than culturally, which implies that public preaching can by no means be outdated. I might additionally courteously take difficulty with the phrases ‘needlessly’ and ‘provocative’. I might argue that it’s removed from useless to inform non-believers concerning the hazard that they’re in, and relating to ‘provocative’, certainly the preacher’s activity is exactly that: to impress each society normally and the person non-Christian into serious about religious and everlasting points.
The fruit which comes from such a preaching ministry has been confirmed traditionally, and we now have sturdy proof from our personal expertise that such preaching is likewise getting used right now as an instrument to attract hearers to religion within the Lord Jesus Christ.
Apparently, in the course of the lockdowns over the previous two years, we now have been requested why the church buildings haven’t offered extra management and steering to the nation in relation to the pandemic. The perfect mild for the nation over these two years would certainly have been the general public proclamation of the necessity to repent of sin and belief in Christ, for it’s only the gospel which turns folks from the concern of demise to the wonderful hope of eternal life.