Pastor James McConnell retires over anti-Islam comments
1 September 2014 Last updated at 22:16 Share this pageEmail Print Share this page
Pastor James McConnell retires from Whitewell Metropolitan Tabernacle
A Belfast pastor who earlier this year called Islam “heathen” and “satanic” has announced his retirement as minister at a north Belfast church.
Pastor James McConnell, of Whitewell Metropolitan Tabernacle, was questioned by police in June about his remarks.
Announcing his retirement on Monday, Mr McConnell said he had been considering his position for the last 18 months.
He said it was time to “completely hand over the reins to Pastor David Purse and the pastors who assist him”.
Mr McConnell, 77, had been a minister at Whitewell for 57 years. His retirement is immediate.
In the past three years, he has had a number of health issues, including a major heart attack and subsequent quadruple-bypass operation, and being diagnosed two years ago with prostate cancer.
In June, Mr McConnell apologised for any offence caused by his remarks on Islam.
“I had no intention of causing any offence or insulting any member of the Muslim community,” he said.
Speaking to his congregation in north Belfast on 18 May, Mr McConnell said “a new evil had arisen” and “there are cells of Muslims right throughout Britain”.
“Islam is heathen, Islam is satanic, Islam is a doctrine spawned in hell,” he said.
Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson was heavily criticised when he backed Mr McConnell.
Mr Robinson later visited the Belfast Islamic Centre and made a public apology for his comments.
In his retirement announcement, Mr McConnell addressed his controversial remarks.
Whitewell Metropolitan Tabernacle Mr McConnell was speaking at the Whitewell Metropolitan Tabernacle in north Belfast
“I still believe that radical Muslim ideology and doctrine poses a huge threat to this country and to the world,” he said.
“In support of my stance against radical Islam, I received thousands of emails, cards and hundreds of phone calls and gifts left to the church, from all sides of the political divide in Northern Ireland, all over the UK, western Europe, the US, and indeed some from the middle east.”