Hope Not Hate Claims that Paul Golding Used to Attend James McConnell’s Church

From Matthew Collins at Hope Not Hate:

Much news in Northern Ireland today about the outrageous comments made by Belfast’s Pastor James McConnell and then the support he received for his comments by the First Minister, Peter Robinson.

James McConnell described Islam as “heathen” and “satanic”, during an address at the Whitewell Metropolitan Tabernacle Church over a week ago…

Well, it will come as no surprise to people who have followed the rise of Britain First that the leader of the street gang, Paul Golding, who turns up uninvited in Mosques to hand out bibles, is a regular attendee at the church…

 Although Golding no longer resides in Northern Ireland, when he was living there for nearly two years working under his paymaster Jim Dowson, he became something of a born-again Christian, but obviously not a very nice one.

As I noted in February in the wake of Britain First’s “Christian Patrol” in East London, Dowson – formerly of the BNP – is a “Reverend, and the group was set up in 2011 to protect “British and Christian morality”. The group’s website shows an active interest in promoting Christianity as an aspect of traditional values: Golding writes of a “Holy Crusade” and of “Christian soldiers and fellow patriots”; there is a “Sunday Sermon” section “on the fundamental role that Christianity played in our long and glorious heritage”; and the site includes attacks on a “sordid” sex education video and on Boris Johnson for vetoing “an advertisement from two Christian groups regarding homosexuality”. However, until I read the above, my assumption was that the group’s Christianity is not likely to go deeper than a half-remembered collection of romantic cultural motifs. It’s still difficult to picture Britain First Bible study or hymn-singing sessions.

The Tabernacle, meanwhile, is a mega-church (reviewed by Ship of Fools in 2010), and McConnell attracts a congregation from across Northern Ireland; there is no reason to suppose that he has ever personally met or had anything to do with either Dowson or Golding. Also, it should be noted that the church self-consciously avoids the kind of Ulster nationalism associated with Ian Paisley; as the sociologist Steve Bruce wrote in 1994 (Edge of the Union: The Ulster Loyalist Political Vision, p. 35):

In 1986 unionist-controlled councils signalled their attitude to the Anglo-Irish accord by displaying large banners which read ‘Ulster Says No’. Pastor James McConnell’s Metropolitan Church of God in north Belfast put up a similar-sized banner which used the same design style to say: ‘Ulster Needs Christ’. When, two years later, the councils replaced the first banners with ones reading ‘Ulster Still Says No’, McConnell changed his to read ‘Ulster Still Needs Christ’!  

And journalist Marcus Tanner observes (Ireland’s Holy Wars: The Struggle for a Nation’s Soul, 1500-2000, 2001, p. 428):

Pastor McConnell has discarded the baggage of history and divorced nationalism from worship. McConnell may have started out preaching to an audience of ten in an Orange hall but Orange or Union flags are seen in the Tabernacle and there are no slogans about God and Ulster on the walls. When Pastor McConnell claims, as he did the evening I was there, that ex-IRA people sit in that vast throng, I feel inclined to believe him.

McConnell is a Pentecostal – Tanner says his biography includes “frequent encounters with devils and a direct meeting with an angel in September 1973” – and his theology is fundamentalist (in the broad sense) and focused on the need for urgent evangelism in the end times. His views on Islam are what you might expect them to be, although his sermon failed to make the fine distinction he is careful to draw when it comes to Catholicism; in 2011 he responded to claims of anti-Catholicism by telling Radio Ulster that “he criticises the Catholic Church and its priests, he does not criticise Catholics.” But in contrast, when it comes to Islam and Muslims:

 …People say there are good Muslims in Britain. That may be so, but I don’t trust them. Enoch Powell was right, and he lost his career because of it. Enoch Powell was a prophet. He called it that blood would flow in the streets, and it has happened…

The reference to Powell is utterly gratuitous, and is actually more striking than his archaically-formulated attack on “heathenism”: Powell’s “prophecy”, made on 20 April 1968, was about race relations rather than religious fanaticism, and it included the claim that:

That tragic and intractable phenomenon which we watch with horror on the other side of the Atlantic but which there is interwoven with the history and existence of the States itself, is coming upon us here by our own volition and our own neglect. Indeed, it has all but come. In numerical terms, it will be of American proportions long before the end of the century.

Powell’s “intractable phenomenon” diagnosis came just two weeks after the assassination of Martin Luther King; things at the time may have looked bleak, but history has proven that it was the man who had the dream who saw the future, and not the supposed “prophet” over here. But there’s no need for me to rake over an infamous subject that others have tackled with more acuity than I could ever muster – this post by Oliver Kamm is a good starting point.

Apparently, McConnell is now being investigated by police for “a hate crime motive”; I’d very surprised if that goes anywhere. However, UK Christian Right  lobby group are on the case; according to a statement:

Andrea Williams comments: “Islam does not provide a coherent basis for peaceful coexistence. Pastor McConnell is right to recognise the danger that Islam represents not just in places such as Sudan but here in Britain. For the sake of society, it is vital that the freedom to critique is maintained and freedom of speech safeguarded.”

Williams recently addressed a rally in Jamaica, where she reportedly urged a crowd spread the word that homosexuality is linked with paedophilia. Christian Concern’s statement makes no reference to McConnell’s enthusiasm for Powell.

One Response

  1. Enoch Powell was indeed a prophet ahead of his time! It is very encouraging to note that there are those today – in the Britain First movement and in the churches of Northern Ireland – who are carrying on the torch of truth which he bravely carried in those dark days of the 1960s.

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