London council to spend millions remodelling hall for anti-gay Evangelical Church
More than 4000 residents have signed a petition to challenge a London council spending £3 million renovating their town hall so it can be used by an anti-gay sect of the Evangelical Church.
Merton Council intend to demolish Merton Hall in Wimbledon and offer the space to an Evangelical Church group known as Elim Pentecostal Church in a transaction known as a “freehold swap”.
The swap, which means that the Elim Pentecostal Church will take over management of the Hall, will see the 120-year-old building converted into a “worship” hall and cafe.
“We have been fighting for this for more than a year,” says Merton resident and campaigner John Chambers.
“That Merton Hall has been in the community hands for 120 years and during that time no Council had dared to sell it or demolish it and it should remain that way as a beacon of an inclusive community that is open to all regardless of creed, religion or gender. It is a venue that is badly needed in these challenging times and represents what a great inclusive city we all live in London.
“If it is gifted to this homophobic group then regardless of what this church are saying this will no longer be the case and this unique Victorian Hall will no longer be available to hire to the gay community simply because of the beliefs of 130 exclusive Pentecostalists,” he added.
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Petitioners have raised concerns that the group will refuse to allow gay people to have marriages, parties or other events in the hall as they will allegedly be assessed on a case-by-case basis due to their beliefs regarding same-sex relationships.
“We oppose church services for blessings or civil partnerships and other forms of gay and lesbian relationships as unbiblical and reject any definition of marriage to encompass same-sex relationships,” said the Church.
The Church, which received the funding as a “gift” from Merton Council, appears to be rich in assets.
The Church is made up of 550 Christian congregations in the UK and Ireland, and was founded in 1915 by George Jeffreys.
As of September 2016, its financial report states that it has £66.3m in income and £62.3m in assets as well as the likes of £193.4m in own use assets as of September 2016, recorded the Charity Commission.
The campaigners are collecting signatures for their petition here.
The Hall is due to be remodelled for the Church’s purpose in a fortnight’s time.