Ekklesia is source of smears against London's 'Black Hero'

by - 25th October 2011

Pastor Agu Irukwu: ‘inspirational’

A Christian think-tank which campaigns for gay rights is behind a vicious attack on the reputation of London’s ‘most inspirational black person’.

Ekklesia carried unsubstantiated reports in 2009 that Pastor Agu Irukwu presides over a church that ‘admits to carrying out exorcisms of gay people’.

The piece cited unnamed ‘critics’ who compared Irukwu to Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the fundamentalist Muslim cleric who has endorsed death for homosexuals.

The lurid smears were repeated two weeks ago by the Evening Standard, in a clash of minority interests that could embarrass the Mayor of London Boris Johnson as he announces the winner of a poll to find London’s number one black hero later today (Tuesday).

As we went to press, Pastor Agu who heads up Jesus House, flagship church of the biggest black denomination  in UK, was coming in with 51% more of the vote than his next closest rival – Barack Obama with just 3% - in the Metro newspaper online poll.

The Evening Standard’s ‘Londoners’ Diary’ on 13 October repeated verbatim the two-year old report on Ekklesia’s website, despite a lack of evidence.

In what was a clear bid to oust the favourite from poll position, the Standard’s unattributed piece was headed ‘Jesus: Boris has got himself into a religious storm!’.

It described Irukwu as a ‘controversial  preacher’ and likened him to Obama’s pastor Reverend Jeremiah Wright.  It added:  ‘According to the liberal website Ekklesia, the church has also carried out exorcisms of gay people.’

The Diary Editor Sebastian Shakespeare was checking the story again with the reporter as we went to press.

Dr Joe Aldred, Coordinator of Minority Ethnic Christian Affairs at Christians Together in England was shocked at what he called ‘lazy journalism’.

He added:  ‘It is clear the writer has neither met Irukwu, listened to him preach, or has the faintest idea about black American culture, black British culture or religion in general.

‘If quasi "theologians" and journalists are going to start slinging this kind of stuff around and try and pass it off as fact, I suggest they become a bit more religiously literate first.’

Ekklesia, which is Greek for ‘church’, ‘works to promote radical theological ideas in public life’, according to its website.  Director Jonathan Bartley was part of John Major’s campaign team in the 1995 election.  He was unaware of the furore the original article had caused when contacted last night. 

Irukwu  is popular in London, not just with the Redeemed Christian Church of God, whose 3,000-strong flagship congregation, Jesus House, he heads in Barnet, but with mainstream evangelicals and Anglicans. 

In 2006 he controversially led a campaign against exorcisms and other practices in Pentecostal so-called churches that had been exposed by the BBC. 

The campaign culminated in a conference which he hosted in May in Westminster, sponsored by the Metropolitan Police and charities, called Christianity or the Occult?  Emerging Trends in the African Diaspora

Angus Stickler, at the time an investigative journalist on the BBC's Today Programme, who had broken the story, addressed the conference which was chaired by Richard Dowden, Director of the Royal African Society.

Revd Yemi Adedeji, a member of the pastoral leadership team at Jesus House, said last night:  ‘Ekklesia should come to the back side of Africa and see occultism for themselves if they want to understand what deliverance is.'