Pastor McConnell retires after Islam row

Published Monday, 01 September 2014
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A controversial north Belfast pastor who caused outrage after he labelled Islam "satanic" has announced his retirement.

Pastor James McConnell apologised after he likened "cells" of Muslims in Britain to the IRA during a sermon at Whitewell Metropolitan Tabernacle in the city in May.

He branded Islam a "heathen" doctrine and said it was "satanic" and "spawned in hell".

The pastor was questioned by police over the sermon, however, no charges were ever made.

On Monday, his Whitewell Metropolitan Tabernacle released a statement saying the pastor was stepping down as head of the church he founded.

He said: "This past 18 months I have fought with myself what to do regarding my leadership in Whitewell, and now I feel the hour is come to completely hand over the reins to Pastor David Purse and all the pastors who assist him."

When asked about his recent remarks regarding radical Islam, Pastor McConnell added: "I still believe that radical Muslim ideology and doctrine poses a huge threat to this country and to the world.

"In support of my stance against radical Islam, I received thousands of emails, cards and hundreds of phone calls and gifts left to the church, from all sides of the political divide in Northern Ireland, all over the UK, western Europe, the US, and indeed some from the middle east."

Regarding his future involvement with the church, the minister added: "To withdraw myself is not easy, but it is most necessary to give Pastor David Purse every chance to exercise his ministry and to feel his liberty to do what he believes God wants him to accomplish."

Pastor McConnell's anti-Muslim remarks were initially defended by First Minister Peter Robinson.

The DUP leader said it was "the duty of any Christian preacher to denounce false doctrine", but that he would trust Muslims to "go to the shops for him".

The MLA, however, said his interview had been taken out of context and later apologised to the Muslim community for the distress the comments had caused.

© UTV News
Comments Comments
lucylou in belfast wrote (142 days ago):
Michael in Templepatrick says=='the less hate filled rants from his type the better'. The IRONY!!===nearly fell off my chair laughing! THANKS MIKE!
Steve in Dublin wrote (148 days ago):
He should never have apologised. Liberals don't forgive.
Louie UK in Kent England wrote (149 days ago):
Thank you for the many years of good service, thank you for staying strong and for the many you have helped Pastor in your Godly work, thank for your stance often while hater's surrounded you, often Jesus was surrounded and attached by evil yet He win just as you have, God Bless you and keep you.
Marty in Belfast wrote (149 days ago):
The city, the country and the rest of the world is better off without him and his hate spreading. Northern Ireland is a country for everyone!
Mick in Wales wrote (149 days ago):
The Pastor is a man of God and is only warning the people of Ulster and the World the truth. Fair Play Pastor M the blood is of your garment. You only have to look around the world to see the evidence of what he says. May God Bless him for standing for truth
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