Great is Thy Faithfulness!
By Patricia Newman
I will greatly praise the LORD with my mouth; yea, I will praise him among the multitude.
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.
For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.
It is with great joy that I write of the acquittal of Pastor John Sherwood at his trial on 7th April. Please see my original post on his arrest here. Pastor John was arrested in Uxbridge Town Centre on 23rd April 2021 while he was engaged in open-air preaching with Pastor Peter Simpson. Some members of the public had complained to the police that his preaching was homophobic. Pastor John had been expounding Genesis 1:27-28. Following his distressing and unwarranted arrest, Pastor John spent some 21 hours in a police cell. He was subsequently charged under Section 5 of the Public Order Act 1986 with, allegedly, “using threatening, abusive words and behaviour likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress” – a hate crime.
As a result of the prayers of the brethren, and financial support from the CrowdJustice fund set up on his behalf, Pastor John's solicitors secured an experienced defence counsel – Jane Osborne QC – who ably and admirably defended Pastor John at his trial. To God be the glory!
The court gallery was packed with Christians who had come in support of Pastor John. Under questioning, during his trial, Pastor John was able to present the biblical view of marriage, homosexuality and sin. He explained that in his exposition of Genesis 1:27-28, he had been setting forth God’s definition and ordination of marriage as between a man and a woman, the beauty of the same, and how this points to the union of Christ the Bridegroom and His Church, the Bride.
Pastor John was able to read from the Bible, the infallible and highest authority, and set before the court the biblical view of homosexuality. When questioned on his purpose, he said that his motivation was to bring people to salvation. Just as a doctor diagnoses a problem before giving a remedy, so a preacher points people to the fact that all transgression of God’s law is sin. He also said that his motivation for preaching is the love of God, and that he preached with the Day of Judgment in view.
Prior to the hearing, Pastor John, true to the commission of Jesus Christ, approached the police witness for the prosecution who had been involved in his arrest. He told the policewoman that he had not recognised her. She replied that it was probably because she was not wearing her police uniform. Pastor John then said to her, “I am praying for you, for your salvation.” She thanked him. Please pray that the Lord God, in His mercy, will grant repentance and salvation to her.
Article 10 of the Human Rights Act 1998 which sets forth the right to free speech states that:
"Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority". This right is subject to certain restrictions that are "in accordance with law" and "necessary in a democratic society"
In her submissions, Jane Osborne QC presented to the presiding judge the words of Lord Justice Sedley, who said that free speech includes “the irritating, the contentious, the eccentric, the heretical, the unwelcome and provocative. It includes not only the inoffensive. Freedom only to speak inoffensively is not worth having.”
In his summation, the judge ruled that the criminal case brought against Pastor John Sherwood by the prosecution was not proved by the prosecution. The charge against him was accordingly dismissed to the rapturous delight of the watching brethren.
After the trial, outside the court, the supporting brethren led by Pastor John offered a prayer of thanksgiving to God for the result and sang the hymns “Great is Thy Faithfulness” and “To God be the Glory”.
Praise be to God for the acquittal of Pastor John, which put to an end his year-long ordeal. Praise be to God for the much-needed victory for free speech. May we continue to pray for the preservation of the precious liberty of Christian ministers to continue to proclaim the gospel and all that the Bible teaches.
And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.