Protesters gathered outside a Peterborough church on Saturday in opposition to a “homophobic” film which was due to be shown.
The Peterborough International Christian Centre in Lincoln Road had taken a booking from the UK based Billy Graham Evangelistic Association to screen Flying Blind.
The 22 minute film features four people who discuss their ‘sins’ and how they had found redemption through Jesus, including a man with a pornography addiction and a woman who had been a lesbian.
The association denied it was discriminatory, stating that the church accepts all believers of Jesus, but that the Bible states only a man and woman can be married.
Billy Graham was a renowned evangelist preacher who advised a number of US presidents.
The film was due to be aired on Saturday evening but was cancelled by the church which said it had notified the protesters, although that did not stop several turning up on the night.
The group featured representatives from Inclusive Peterborough Social Group, LGBT Labour Peterborough, Embrace at the Ostrich, Peterborough Pride and Inclusive Church Peterborough.
Vicky Brett said the “vigil” took place because adverts for the film were still being shown, despite it being cancelled.
She added: “It is incredibly damaging to the mental health of LGBT+ people to be told that their identity is unholy and impure and they need to repent and change who they are.
“People cannot change who they are – and failure to change makes the shame and guilt put on them worse.
“We stood peacefully outside on the public pavement and only spoke to passers-by if they stopped and talked to us.
“We had a few people swear at us and drive past giving us rude hand gestures. Someone called the police to report us; presumably they though being gay in public was a criminal offence.
“The police agreed we were not doing anything wrong, they even offered to provide protection and support if we do another vigil.
“A lot more people, however, offered support - they stopped, chatted, waved or beeped their horns and gave a thumbs-up. One young girl was in tears as she said ‘thank you for what you are doing’.”
Pastor of the Pentecostal church Tim Jones said: “We did take an external booking from the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. After taking the booking a few issues arose and we took the decision to cancel the film.
“We did notify everyone to say the film was no longer being shown.
“There were a number of issues. We do take seriously any accusations of inequality or discrimination. That was one of the considerations because we are not discriminatory in any way. But it was not the only reason.
“When we looked at the whole situation we decided not to show the film.
“I understand there was sadness and anger and I’m not happy people in the city felt like that.”
Lee Searle, director of ministry at the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, said he was not aware there had been a protest, but explained the film’s message was that Christians needed to read the Bible and its teachings.
He added: “We can’t get round what the Bible says. The film says if you want to know about Jesus, read the Bible.
“You will find that every major Christian denomination in this country says marriage is between a man and a woman.”
Asked if the film was homophobic, as the protesters claimed, he quoted John 3:16, which stated: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
Mr Searle said the church accepts all believers of Jesus, adding: “It’s very clear the Bible does not discriminate but does say marriage is between a man and a woman.”