Pastors Dave and Jenny Gilpin of C3 affiliate Hope City Church in the U.K. will step down from their roles following “concerns around the issue of racism” in the church, according to a statement released to church members on June 16 by trustees.
Hope City Church Trustees said in the statement that the Gilpins would leave the Sheffield, U.K. branch of C3’s Global Church, which has churches across Europe and the U.S., amidst “concerns recently brought to light around the issue of racism and the leadership culture that has allowed this to happen.”
“The subsequent risk this represents to the church and charity has contributed significantly to this decision and we have agreed this has been the right direction to take,” trustees said:
We are writing to let you know that following discussions over recent days, we have been informed by Pastors Dave and Jenny Gilpin of their intention to step down from their roles as Senior Pastors of Hope City Church.
We realize that for many people this will come as a shock and a surprise. It has become clear that Dave and Jenny recognize a season change for themselves and a desire to pass on the leadership of Hope City Church to the next generation; a church they pioneered almost 30 years ago.
As Trustees we believe this has been the right decision both for Dave and Jenny and for the wider church community, despite this being a challenging and saddening time for everyone. Concerns recently brought to light around the issue of racism and the leadership culture that has allowed this to happen, and the subsequent risk this represents to the church and charity have contributed significantly to this decision and we have agreed this has been the right direction to take.
Notwithstanding recent events and Pastor Dave’s subsequent apology, we hope you will join us in celebrating all that has been accomplished across the world by Hope City Church through the pioneering spirit of Dave and Jenny Gilpin.
In a statement emailed to Heavy by Agent Public Relations, Colin Davies, chairman of the Hope City Church board, said:
Speaking on behalf of the Board of Trustees, we are taking recent allegations of racial discrimination within the leadership of the church in Sheffield very seriously and we wish to make clear that racial discrimination is in no way commensurate with our church’s values or those of the wider Christian faith.
We are implementing a detailed internal investigation to understand the extent of the issues raised and to ensure complete resolution of those issues. …
New Lead Pastors for our Sheffield congregation have been appointed alongside a newly formed Interim Executive Team, who will help to guide and strengthen the church through the coming months.
Beyond mentioning racism, trustees have not provided any additional information about the nature of the “recent events” that led to the Gilpins’ resignation. Heavy has contacted C3 for further comment but has not received a response.
The statement to church members says C3 Global has “established an Executive Leadership Team comprising members of the Trustees and a delegation of Lead Pastors, to help steer the whole church through the coming months and bring both strength and direction as we explore the future”:
From previous statements concerning reports of racism and discrimination, you will know that we are intent on creating conversations across the church which will bring repentance, healing, understanding and change. This process will not be affected. It represents a crucial part of our practical apology to those affected. We remain committed to this process and believe wholeheartedly that it will be instrumental in shaping our future as a diverse community of people united in our desire to love God and love one another as Jesus commanded.
Whilst we remain full of faith for the future, we understand that this is a significant change for our church. We also understand that change needs time to settle and to allow each of us to come to terms with the change. We would like to encourage you to help us to forge a future of openness and communication by talking to those within your location who are in pastoral oversight.
Dave Gilpin personally addressed “the hurt we have caused to people along the way, particularly members of the black community in Hope City Church.” He said, in part:
We are writing to you to inform you that we are in the process of resigning as Senior Pastors of Hope City Church.
We are so sad to be announcing this during this unparalleled, unforeseen season.
We are deeply sorry for the hurt we have caused to people along the way, particularly members of the black community in Hope City Church and those hurt as a result of events that have come to light recently.
Gilpin had already commented in a video labeled “Hope City Sheffield – Dave Gilpin Official Statement,” which was uploaded to YouTube on June 6.
In the video, which is posted below, Gilpin says:
I have always had a vision of creating a diverse, multicultural church. Because we were getting, for a period of time, fewer white people attending in Sheffield, I tried to make the church more appealing to what I thought white people wanted.
I realized in the past week that this is completely racist. That I have contributed and added to generations and centuries of racism over the earth, and I’ve hurt many people – both in the past and in the present. And I am deeply sorry.
Church, of all places, should be a safe place. A place of justice for all people. But this has not been the case.
I am aware that an apology is not enough. I want to change. I want to learn. I want to listen. I want to work with people around me to make things better.
Members & Former Members of the Church Have Spoken Out
Heavy spoke with former Hope City Church intern and organizer of the 2016 Sheffield Black Lives Matter protest, Annalisa Toccara, after she tweeted on June 7, claiming Dave Gilpin was accused publicly of racism “by multiple church members.”
She told Heavy she completed an internship at Hope “15 years ago when I was 18 … through the course which I was studying at the time.”
Toccara told Heavy “around 500 comments” were made on an Instagram post on Dave Gilpin’s account, and “[the] majority were accusations of racism. Dave then blocked and unblocked those accusing him. … Since then he has deleted the original post and made his account private.”
The original deleted Instagram post can be viewed in its entirety on Facebook. In the post, which is addressed to a woman in the church named “Steph” and refers to the death of George Floyd, Gilpin apologizes for the “tirade of pain” that saw “a number of black people leave the church.”
Gilpin writes, “the answer to present ourselves as more multicultural by widening the people mix on teams was hurtful, harmful and destructive. [We] tried in the wrong way … to stop white people … heading to almost all white churches except ours.”
Toccara sent Heavy more than 100 screenshots of the deleted Instagram comments, several of which are linked below.
The screenshots include conversation around the exclusion of photos of black people on the church’s Instagram account and the exclusion of black people on the worship team.
Some black members of the church community came out in support of the Gilpins:
The previously mentioned Facebook thread contains various publicly viewable comments regarding racism in the church:
The original Facebook poster refers to a woman being “hounded out” of the church.
“We want you to … realize that the system you built to marginalize black people has affected some black people so badly that some people have had to or [are] undergoing counseling,” she said.
One comment discussed on the post is a screenshot from Dave Gilpin’s former assistant, Jo Willis, who will take over as lead pastor for the Sheffield, U.K., campus, according to the church trust media release:
Dave Gilpin’s Twitter Account was Deleted & His Instagram was Made Private
A Google search on June 17 showed Dave Gilpin had deleted his Twitter account and made his Instagram account private:
The URL on Dave Gilpin’s private Instagram account links to a discussion at Hillsong Church on racism.
Twitter user ‘Sharmmaine’ or @MissFuramera spoke at length on Twitter about the situation. “Hundreds of black people have repeatedly complained over the years about spiritual abuse,” she said in her posts:
C3 Church has previously spoken out against racism, including in a recent conversation on racism and justice at C3 Toronto on June 7:
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