What’s wrong with Hereford’s Freedom Church?
STRANGERS have been handing out sweets by the gates at Whitecross School, Hereford.
The school’s headmistress, Denise Strutt, says the adults are “in complete contradiction to everything we teach our children. It is not something we would encourage. I think it was a naive decision by the people who run the church.”
What is the Freedom Church? According to their website, they have branches in Hereford, Cardiff, Cambodia, Uganda and Belgium:
Hereford campus is where it all started! Launching in 2005 in a pub, then on to a high school in 2006, and then in 2009, Hereford campus moved in to its own building, the Freedom Centre. We planted into Cardiff in 2011 and that’s when our multi-campus model began. As the central sending location for the Freedom movement, we have the privilege of training, raising and releasing leaders into locations all over the world as well as being a thriving and passionate church in Herefordshire. People in Hereford Campus love our city, love our God and are always ready for an adventure. We love to welcome people who are coming for the first time and see them join in with the momentum that is happening here in Hereford.
Under “DNA”, the Church features a photo of a boxer aiming a clenched fist at the screen:
PUNCHING ABOVE OUR WEIGHT – In order to impact our society with the gospel, we will act in audacious faith, set impossible goals, take bold, confident steps and watch our God move.
Another photo is of a cake:
CHOCOLATE CAKE – We will have excellence in all of our expressions of church, from the fabric of our buildings to our communication of the gospel.
WILDFIRE – We will express our faith and love with a passion that cannot be measured or contained. We have a raw aggression that appeals to men and values women.
A foghorn aimed at a human ear:
BOOM! – We will ensure that our collective church experience is exciting and fun. Laughter and joy must be at the centre of our homes and church life.
Children are addressed in the section “KIDZ”. It features a set of videos aimed at equating the thrill of religion with riding a big dipper:
We’re pretending to be at Boom Town fun park! While we’re here, we’ll have fun learning how God loves us and how we can love him, taking our relationship with God to a new level
Other sections for “kidz” are named:
PIRATES – We are going to be part of Captain Daisy and friends adventure as they set sail. We will find out that the greatest treasure ever is being able to follow Jesus.
FOLLOW THE LEADER – Having fun learning the bible through songs, stories, loving to pray and hearing from our leadership team as they chat with Dipsy Daisy.
A spokesman for West Mercia Police tells media:
“We don’t think it was responsible behaviour. Freedom Church has agreed to speak to its youth leaders to ensure they conduct themselves in a manner that doesn’t cause concern in the future.”
Josh Snowzell, founder of Hereford’s Freedom Church, said:
“Freedom Church is a local, registered charity, that has been doing youth work in Herefordshire for 20 years. Our youth work volunteers are CRB checked and passionate about serving our city. We are more than aware that there are not a lot of things for the young people of Hereford to do, and one of the things that we provide is a youth club for years seven to eight.”
So. They’ve been handing out flyers at the school gates. And giving Smarties to children.
The Herford Times reports:
The Freedom Church has been accused of encouraging its younger members to seek relationship advice from church leaders instead of parents and is home to a Barbarian group for men “relentless in their desire to be God’s best”.
The church’s lead pastors and founders, Josh and Rose Snowzell, respond:
We were shocked this morning to find that we have again made the front page of the Hereford Times newspaper today. We have seen countless acts of discrimination that have been fuelled by the previous articles that the Hereford Times have run about our church – our young people and children being bullied, with all kinds of verbal abuse, none of which was happening before the Hereford Times decided to print their articles portraying us in this negative way. We have been called ‘cult’, ‘paedophiles’, ‘child rapists’, ‘abductors’. Anyone would find this disgusting. Especially when we are an organisation that is all about loving people the way Jesus loved them.
Previously, the Hereford Times has reported:
THE leader of a church at the centre of ‘cult’ allegations has been filmed calling on young worshippers to marry fellow members so they can start “storming nations”. Hereford Freedom Church founder and pastor Gary Snowzell is seen addressing a congregation and congratulating two newly-wed teenage churchgoers. On camera, Mr Snowzell says that it is incredible the way that God has put them together before adding: “If I could multiply this by a dozen then we can start storming nations. We start causing change.”…
A two-part teaching for Singles, Mr Snowzell says youngsters should go to church leaders for relationship advice and not friends and parents who “aren’t great examples” and come from “different backgrounds”.
The paper has asked:
The Freedom Church in Hereford: church or cult?
On the Church’s website, we read of “BARBARIANS”:
…You might call yourself a Christian, you may not, but if you’re of the male variety you have a great responsibility and opportunity to live a life of courage, no compromise, passion, love, leading, sacrifice…our nation needs men, our nation needs you. Barbarians XXX is a quaterly meeting we have. Sweat, and tears of laughter, come see if you’re man enough…
The Church enjoys the support of the local council:
A church that helps hundreds of young people reach their full potential through music, dance, theatre and performance is to be retained as part of a new urban village planned for the centre of Hereford. Hereford Futures, the company set up by Herefordshire Council to deliver a range of improvements in the city, has agreed to safeguard the position of the Freedom Centre as part of a development of 800 new homes close to new retail and leisure attractions, like the multiplex cinema planned for 2012.
“The Freedom Centre is very much a church for the future, which has quickly proven to be a positive force in Hereford, reaching out to young people in ways the authorities cannot”, said Jonathan Bretherton, chief executive of Hereford Futures. “We felt that while we were encouraging the building of decent homes to help local people get on the housing ladder, and helping to develop stronger communities in the urban village, the Freedom Centre was also helping young people get on the ladder to success. Their work complements our vision of creating a vibrant but safe city in which young people can live, work and have fun”…
On Friday nights a team from the church can often be seen in the early hours working with the police in Hereford’s High Town armed with cakes, lollipops and the settees from their café, talking to young people about alcohol, drugs, bullying, unemployment and sexual health.
Freedom Church this year saw the start of the Creative Academy. Young people from all over the UK and some international students have moved to Hereford to train in this academy. They receive teaching in leadership skills and are also trained in dance, theatre, lighting, media and acting…
The council and police backs the Church, The police admonish the Church. Bit of a mixed message, no..?
In this video Snowzell addresses the New Spring Church, South Carolina. There, the lead pastor is Perry Noble:
“If you’re doing that … just don’t say you love Jesus,” he said. “Don’t show up to church during a worship song and raise your hands when you had your hands all over a girl this weekend. Stop it.”
…”Homosexuality is a sin… I believe it,” he said. “Because the Bible says that we were all born sinners…Just because you were born that way doesn’t make it right for you to act on the way you were born.”
“Maybe there would be less homosexuality in the world today if there were less greedy Christians who actually cared enough to tithe and spread the gospel.”
Does the Freedom Church agree with that? And if it does, why does the local council support it?