Philippa Stroud Responds to Observer Article

Conservative Parliamentary candidate Philippa Stroud has responded to the Observer article which claimed she believed in exorcising demons from homosexuals. A statement from her has been read out on the radio; Conservative blogger Iain Dale has posted the text:

I make no apology for being a committed Christian. However, it is categorically untrue that I believe homosexuality to be an illness and I am deeply offended that The Observer has suggested otherwise. I have spent 20 years working with disturbed people who society have turned their back on and are not often supported by state agencies; drug addicts, alcoholics, the mentally ill and the homeless that I and my charitable friends in the public sector have tried to help over the years. The idea that I am prejudiced against gay people is both false and insulting.

Dale (a gay libertarian) adds some supportive words, as does Tim Montgomerie of the Conservative Christian Fellowship and ConservativeHome:

I know Philippa incredibly well. I recruited her to run the Centre for Social Justice. I regard her as one of my closest and dearest friends. She has dedicated her life to helping the homeless, people with drug addictions and other very vulnerable people.

The Observer piece, though, did not quite claim that she considered homosexuality to be an illness – rather, that homosexuality is prompted by a supernatural causality:

In 1989, she founded a church and night shelter in Bedford, the King’s Arms Project, that helped drug addicts and alcoholics. It also counselled gay, lesbian and transsexual people.

Abi, a teenage girl with transsexual issues, was sent to the church by her parents, who were evangelical Christians. “Convinced I was demonically possessed, my parents made the decision to move to Bedford, because of this woman [Stroud]… had the power to set me free,” Abi told the Observer.

“She wanted me to know all my thinking was wrong, I was wrong and the so-called demons inside me were wrong. The session ended with her and others praying over me, calling out the demons. She really believed things like homosexuality, transsexualism and addiction could be fixed just by prayer, all in the name of Jesus.”

Further,

Stroud wrote a book, God’s Heart for the Poor, in which she explains how to deal with people showing signs of “demonic activity”.

As I blogged yesterday, the church was a member of New Frontiers International (now Newfrontiers), a Charismatic Christian network of churches. Her husband David Stroud is an elder at ChristChurch, in London, under the authority of the network’s “apostle”, Terry Virgo. The network emerged from the British house church movement of the 1970s and 1980s, although there are some links with American neo-Pentecostals such as Paul Cain.

Of course, it is not much of a surprise that a theologically conservative Christian would have a negative view of homosexuality – and in the context of neo-Pentecostal spiritual warfare, that it would be associated with the demonic. It is not clear just how far Stroud takes demonic causality, but in this strand of Christianity promptings from demons can be ascribed to all manner of day-to-day activities which are judged to fall short of Biblical standards – and it would be odd if homosexuality were not included in any such list. Indeed, Graham Dow, the former Bishop of Carlisle (and one-time university chaplain to Tony Blair) believes in such an association; in 2003 Cumbia Online reported:

Bishop Dow has hit the headlines on several occasions this year after joining the row over homosexuality within the Church of England and after it was revealed he believes evil spirits can be introduced into the world through miscarriages, abortions, oral and anal sex.

In 1990 Bishop Dow, a close friend on [sic] the Prime Minister Tony Blair, wrote a booklet, Explaining Deliverance, in which his views on evil spirits were revealed. He said the spirits could also cause untreatable diseases.

He also wrote that people who repeatedly wear black or always purchase a black car may be possessed by evil spirits. He says clear signs of evil spirits at work are “sexual lust and deviant sexual practice”

Once a demon finds an “entry point” (perhaps an initial exposure to some activity), the victim will be spiritually oppressed and in need of “deliverance”.

Meanwhile, Jonathan Bartley at Ekklesia has drawn attention to Newfrontiers’ views on gender:

The New Frontiers Church that she attends, and of which her husband is one of the main leaders, teaches that a husband has ‘authority’ over his wife, and that a wife should submit to a husband’s will in all things. The husband is seen as the ‘servant leader’. I know this from close personal experience of the church, and that it runs incredibly deep in the church. Indeed, it is fundamental to their religious approach. See this excerpt from the church’s 17 values which suggests that there must be “joyful female submission” in a marriage…

…The question must be asked of Philippa Stroud whether, in the event she was elected to Parliament, she would on any occasion ‘submit’ to her husband’s will and vote in a way that he thought was right, even if it contradicted her own position, the promises she had made to voters, or the manifesto on which she was elected?

A Methodist minister named Dave Warnock has a blog which disccusses Newfrontiers and gender further; in December he noted how the church was described on Wikipedia:

Women are also allowed to preach, as long as it does not undermine their husband. This was highlighted when the wife of David Stroud (Phillipa Stroud, Director of the Centre for Social Justice), who oversees the UK stream of Newfrontiers churches, preached at “Together At… North” in 2006 in the main meeting.

Warnock’s acid commentary on this:

Wow! Amazing! A woman was allowed to preach and she is so so valued that she is described at “the wife of David Stroud”. Oh and it was 3 years ago and not at the main conference.

An essay by Kristin Aune in Congregational Studies in the UK: Christianity in a Post-Christian Context (edited by Mathew Guest, Karin Tusting, and Linda Woodhead, 2004) suggests that Newfrontiers’ views on gender are a backlash against evangelical feminism.

Just in case anyone cares what I think, I can’t see why Stroud’s religious background should be much of an issue – and I’m someone who tries to keep tabs on the Christian Right and who will not be voting Conservative. Her association with neo-Pentecostalism has always been in the public domain, and it seems that performing deliverance rituals is something in her past rather than a current activity anyway. As for the church’s views on gender, patriarchalism is hardly an unusual religious perspective, and one can speculate about hidden spousal influence on any public person. There’s insufficient reason to suppose from the above that she would not act professionally if she became an MP.

Perhaps the most high-profile politican in the west to have involved himself with exorcisms is Bobby Jindal, the Governor of Louisiana.

8 Responses

  1. […] Richard Bartholomew: Philippa Stroud and others responds to Observer article […]

  2. I agree that it’s going to be very difficult to pin Stroud down on this.

    Also, Bobby Jindal may be the highest profile US politician to mention personally attempting to exorcise demons but Duke Aiona has endorsed [Wagner apostle] Ed Silvoso, who endorses the “gay demon” theory of homosexuality. And, I doubt he’s the only one.

    Demons, demons everywhere.

  3. The concern is not that she might become an MP, but rather that she is a major policy advisor as head of the Centre for Social Justice. Belief in demonic possession hardly suggests an evidence based approach to social policy

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  5. I make no apology either for being a homosexual commited Christian, but unlike Philippa Stroud i am not judgemental, though one could be.

    One needs to point out that Christ never actually made any references to homosexuality, and the Bishop of Liverpool is obviously a far more enlightened Christian than Philippa Stroud, read what he has to say here :-

    http://www.virtueonline.org/portal/modules/news/article.php?storyid=7631

    Also, this historically based hate of homosexuals needs putting into context.

    It is historical fact that at the time of Sodom and Gomorrah, after all that is where the modern word ‘Sodomy’ is derived from, that in those historical times homosexuality was not a big issue as it was not as prevalent in society as it is in modern times. The facts are that the Chrsitian God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah for the sodomite sins of the heterosexuals.

    It is a fact that 95% of all paedophile activity is commited by heterosexuals. It is a fact that sodomy is regularly practiced by a higher percentage of heterosexuals than homosexuals, the same goes for adultery, murder, rape, theft, the list is endless, so why do they have the absolute right to take the moral highground. They do not. They should face the fact that as practicing Christians they are absolutely judgmental and do not follow in the footsteps of their Christed one and look for the beam in their own eyes instead of the splinter in the eye of their fellow men and women.

  6. Mental illness does not respond to the words of Christ.
    Mental illness cannot travel into a herd of pigs.
    Mental illness cannot enable a person to speak Latin or Hebrew.
    Mental illness does not give a person super strength. Mental illness does not make a person rise from the ground.
    Mental illness does not cause torment to go away when you ask for forgiveness.
    Chemical imbalances and deficiencies in the brain also do not cause a person to recognise end times and the power of the cross.
    Mental illness does not exist.
    What exists are labellers, deniers, pretend doctors- namely psychologists and those who want to block God from society so that they can have lots of fun and to be able to commit sin.

  7. […] David Stroud, husband of former MP Philippa Stroud, is a pastor within this group, as was widely noted in 2010. However, the name is fairly generic and there might not be any direct […]

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