Persecuting Preachers in Perth

Persecuting Preachers in Perth

(Note – there have been many comments on this blog – I try to publish those that are not libellous, blasphemous etc. But I will not publish anonymous ones unless you give me your name and a very good reason why you should remain anonymous.  Its always ironically sad to get hate mail from anonymous Christians all done in the name of ‘love’!  

I have also written a follow up to this blog which you can read here –

http://theweeflea.wordpress.com/2013/10/08/is-it-time-for-the-church-in-the-west-to-grow-up/

And there is a further follow up since Tony Miano, Josh’s friend has now been arrested in Dundee…   http://theweeflea.wordpress.com/2014/01/13/crying-wolf-is-free-speech-being-suppressed-in-the-uk/

As I am heading to Perth tomorrow, ironically to speak at a conference of Christian lawyers, on the law and Christianity, I thought it might be appropriate to reflect on the most recent case of a street preacher being arrested in the UK, Josh Williamson, the Australian Reformed Baptist Minister of Perth (Scotland not Oz!).  Is his case yet more evidence that the police in Britain are being used to prevent Gospel preaching?  Have we entered the era of a state controlled public morality that brooks no opposition and uses the police as an instrument of public policy to control and suppress Christianity?   There have been several cases which would seem to suggest that we are heading that way, so when I heard of the latest I was suitably outraged, shocked and ready to put hand to keyboard to slay the dragons of the PC Pcs.

However I have taken some time to look at the case of Josh Williamson, and I’m afraid the question is not as black and white as might at first appear.  This has resulted in some Christians being horrified at the actions of the police and others being horrified at the actions of Mr Willaimson.  Before suggesting a ‘middle’ way let me suggest that you have a look at the following videos:  The first from the Dundee Courier.  And the second a full one of the arrest and following:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V1_rwtjvOfw#t=23

https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=UmKTPHNEc-o

You can also read Josh’s own testimony here – http://www.joshwilliamson.org/home/86-arrested-for-preaching-the-gospel.html

At one level I have a great deal of sympathy with Josh.  It takes a great deal of courage to stand up and preach to passing people who mock, yell abuse and more often just ignore you.  I have to believe that his desire is to communicate the good news of Jesus Christ.  I also do think there is an increasing tendency towards intolerance and bigotry towards Christians in this country. But….and you could probably sense there was going to be a ‘but’…after watching the video recordings of these events, I’m afraid that I have to support the police on this one.  In fact I think that this case is at best a sideshow from the main problems we are facing in the UK church today, and at worst it is only likely to encourage further persecution.  So for better or worse here is my analysis and why I think the police were correct in what they did.

1)   Was Josh Arrested for Preaching the Gospel?  If you watch the two videos you will see that Josh is NOT being arrested for preaching the Gospel.  He is being arrested for breach of the peace.  And this is not the police being clever.  He was breaching the peace. He was arrested because the police had received a complaint about the level of noise.  Having watched the videos I’m sorry but if I were a shopkeeper I would have complained.  He was standing shouting at passers-by.   There were other street preachers there that day who were not arrested.   SO when Josh yells to the camera that ‘this is what happens when you preach the gospel of Christ”, he is just wrong.  It is what happens when you stand yelling at people on the street, and refuse to stop when a police officer having received a complaint (understandably) asks you to desist and you refuse.   The police have to respond when there is a complaint – no matter how daft or unreasonable it may be.

I remember when I received a joke death threat on the Dawkins website.  It was not very pleasant but it was clearly meant to be a kind of sarcastic joke.  However someone complained to the police and they were obliged to visit me – which they did.  I told them I did not want to press charges but I would prefer that it was removed.  Thankfully this was done before the police had to ask (a week after it had been put up).  The point is though that once a complaint is made the police HAVE to assess that complaint.   Many of my neighbours are Muslims who belong to a particular small branch of Islam. Once a year they have a big three-day party that spills out on to the street.  It is a bit inconvenient (parking, noise at night etc.) but not intolerable.  However if they insisted on their prophet standing out in the middle of the street and preaching, I would object to the police.  Freedom of speech does not include the right to yell at people in public places.

2)   Was this a set up?  I do not like the way that Josh set up the police for the second arrest.   And it certainly does appear to be a set up.  Deliberately going back to the place you were arrested in the day before, taking a camera, having advice from the Christian legal centre, and then secretly recording the conversation in the police car.  Even as I listen to that conversation I have to say my sympathy is entirely with the policewoman.  She was gracious, polite, reasonable and behaved impeccably.  I think to anyone looking at the first video and then the second, it is clear that Josh went out on the second day if not intending to get arrested, at least intending to provoke what could only result in arrest.   I’m sorry but I do not like the martyr complex and I think it is very foolish for any Christian to behave in such a manner.  The bottom line is that there is no way this case can be used as evidence for the persecution of Christians in the UK.  This was just a policewoman doing her job. Despite quite deliberate provocation.   Such provocation is not wise and indeed can only do the rest of us harm.

3)   Is this the way to proclaim the Gospel?    Look at the videos.  Preaching is not just as Josh says ‘by nature projecting’.   It is proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ to people who are listening.   I was once playing football in The Meadows in Edinburgh with lots of my non-Christian friends.  They pointed out a man with a bible who was standing several hundred yards away from us, apparently shouting at the trees.  “Isn’t that one of your lot Dave,?”  A little embarrassed (not because I was ashamed of the Gospel), I went over and asked him what he was doing.   “I’m preaching the Gospel”.  “But no-one is listening”.  “Yes, but Spurgeon was once preaching and there was a man hiding up a tree who heard him and was converted”.  So because of a story from the 19th Century this Christian brother was standing yelling bible verses at trees!    Of course we can cite an honourable history of open air preaching in the UK (I have done it several times myself), but a man standing on a busy Scottish street yelling at passers-by, when no-one is listening, cannot really claim to be the heir of John Wesley or George Whitefield.  It’s a basic principle and a basic rule – you can’t preach if no one is listening!

4)   Is this about the people of Perth or the ‘ministry’ of Josh Williamson?  Sometimes as Christians we have to ask one another the hard questions.  I have to confess that there have been times in my own ministry, and probably still will be, when I have focused too much on MY ministry, and MY work, and forgotten that it is Christ’s work.   My point here is simply that if our primary concern is the people we are seeking to reach, then we need to ask if our methodology is the best way to do it.  IMHO standing on a street shouting at people is not the best way to do it.  I realise of course that the standard repost to this is Moody’s great response to those questioning his methods, “you may be right, but I prefer the way I evangelise, to the way you don’t”.  The trouble is that to use this repost implies that other Christians in Perth are not communicating the Good News.  I know there are many who are.  And some in very effective ways.  The danger actually is that much of this good work will be undermined by Josh’s approach.

It can be very seductive to have yourself declared a Christian martyr for the truth, to be asked to appear on American Christian talk shows and have them empathise with your plight, and, lets be frank, it doesn’t hinder the fundraising.  You will note that Josh has a plea at the end of his own testimony asking people to donate so that they can support the ministry of Josh Williamson.   I don’t want to suggest that he did this for money and of course I know that gospel work has to be funded.  I am happy to receive money from Christians to help the work of the Gospel in St Peters and through Solas.  But I am distinctly uncomfortable in linking an incident such as this with fundraising.   At one point Josh is challenged by a stallholder “I’m trying to make a living”.  His response is ‘So am I”.  Perhaps that was an unwise slip of the tongue.  But my fear is that there may be more than an element of truth in there.

I make my living from the Gospel.  I know the enormous dangers that there are in that.  I have to watch my own motivation and soul.  All I will say in this case is that surely the motivation for preaching the Gospel is that people will be saved.  And how can they be saved if they do not listen?  If I really care for the people and have more than a mechanistic view of preaching I will first of all want to get in a position where people will hear.  Paul did not walk into the streets of Corinth, Ephesus and Athens and just start preaching at people.  He went to places where he would get a hearing, the synagogue, the lecture hall of Tyrannus and the Areopagus.  Yes, he experienced opposition and rejection, as we all will.  But only after people listened to him.  They rejected the message after they heard it.  They did not reject the message because of the manner of the messenger.

It also does not help if you have a persecution complex or see yourself as a martyr.  I get hate mail pretty well every day.  There was a time, in my more immature days, when I would have been quite proud of this or at least taken it as a badge of honour.  Now I just hate it, am depressed and sickened by it (especially when it comes from professing Christians as is sadly all too frequently the case- and ironically will be increased when some read this!).  I feel immense sorrow for those who I have provoked or who just are so filled with hatred that they have to pour out their bile on someone they don’t really know.  But in my view it has very little to do with me and rather more to do with the natural antipathy that many people have to the Gospel, or their frustrations and anger at many different things.  There are a lot of hurt, angry, broken and confused people out there.  We must not ourselves respond in like fashion when we experience some of that.   The bottom line is that we should expect opposition and persecution but we should neither seek it nor necessarily regard it as a mark of faithfulness.  Moreover in this case I have to again stress that by no stretch of the imagination could this be considered persecution.  I find it a little depressing that much of the Christian media has focused on this case while it takes a secular magazine like The Spectator to show us where the real persecution is.  Please read this – http://www.spectator.co.uk/features/9041841/the-war-on-christians/

  So where do we go from here?  First of all lets not feed or exploit the fear and persecution complex that many Christians in this country have (take note Christian media and lobby groups) – this is not persecution.   Secondly we need to fight the more important battles – the spiritual ones.  Our weapons are the armour of the Spirit, not the weapons of this world.   Thirdly we need to weep, pray and seek the Lord for the best possible ways that we can communicate the good news of Jesus in this day and age.  And we must learn to believe the Bible.  Why should we be surprised when non-Christians act like non-Christians?  If we are persecuted let us both cry out ‘how long, O Lord, how long?’ and at the same time rejoice that we are counted worthy of suffering with Christ.

Can I also make a personal plea to Josh?

Repent:    I mean it.  It is good when we can admit our mistakes and errors.  The Christian life is one of continual repentance.  You got this one wrong, brother.  If I were you I would go to the police and apologise for the attitude and the provocation, for refusing to do what they asked, for the recording and tell them that you accept you were guilty of breach of the peace.  Go to the shopkeeper who was so upset and tell him that you are sorry for disturbing his business and that you hope he will forgive you and not reject the Gospel just because of the way it was conveyed. Go to the churches in Perth and apologise for giving cause for the name of God to be blasphemed amongst the ‘Gentiles’.    Write to The Courier and apologise to the people of Perth and the police for bringing unnecessary opprobrium on them.   That will transform everything.

Listen:   Perhaps you do this already but it’s worth repeating anyway. Listen to what people are saying.  Listen to the local culture.  Mix amongst them.  Hear the questions, the heartaches, the blasphemies, the joys and sorrows – and weep, and learn and love.  Listen to the Lord.  I’m sure you love his Word and desire to communicate it, but don’t presuppose that you already know all that is to be known from it. Let God communicate afresh to you every day the glorious gospel again and again.  When that happens to you and I, we will be far better equipped to communicate the Good News.

Preach the Word:  Continue to do open air preaching.  You have a good voice for it. But find a suitable venue, get permission for an amplification system, take ‘rent-a-small-crowd’ from the church with you, have people handing out leaflets, don’t harangue people, learn to do dialogue, try music and drama and preach the word, in season and out of season.   And when you are opposed don’t call down fire, don’t provoke to unnecessary wrath, be prepared to both persist and to shake the dust off your feet – and pray that the Lord will grant you the wisdom to know which one to do when.  And I pray that God will richly bless your ministry and those of other faithful believers so that Perth, this ancient centre of Scotland will become a future centre of the Gospel in Scotland.

David Robertson

Dundee

October 2013

119 thoughts on “Persecuting Preachers in Perth

  1. Brother, Josh did not go out to be arrested, and it is unworthy of you to say so. I think that the value of what you are saying is greatly reduced by your speculative and unfair attribution of motive here. If you think he wanted to be locked up all night before a busy Lord’s Day, then you must be mad!

    1. I am sorry but if you look at the video you will see that he turned up at a place he had been told not to preach (in his style), he came with a camera, an MP3 and a lawyers instruction. He refused to move when asked to do so. If he did not expect to be arrested then I would suggest that there is at the very least a lack of understanding! I just don’t believe he is that daft. Was he locked up all night?

      1. If I had been arrested falsely by the police — who later denied arresting me — for doing something perfectly ordinary, I should most certainly obtain a lawyer’s instruction, and tape and record EVERYTHING.

        You don’t explain why he shouldn’t preach in the same place. He had a perfect right to do so. Unless you know different?

        It is rather too much to jeer at a man for being arrested for preaching in the street — in Scotland!

      2. Bruno – please re-read what I wrote. He was not arrested falsely. He was not doing something perfectly ordinary. He should not have gone back to the same place because the police told him not to – he had no right to do so and to continue when he was asked not to. And I am not jeering at him for preaching in the street. I am saying that the police were right and they should not be falsely accused – and that this is not a good gospel witness. Now go, lie down, take a deep breath, pray and think – and you can then come back with a more reflective and accurate post…All the best..

      3. But, why do you speculate that he set himself up to be arrested? This is judging a brother, as only the Lord can know his motives. It is not our place to speculate. Speculate is gossip, and is the Devil’s tool to divide the brethren.

      4. Jenny your question is answered in the article. I don’t know his heart or motives. I am talking about his actions in returning to an area where he knew he would be arrested. I am assuming some degree of intelligence and that he was aware, having been arrested before, he would be arrested again for doing the very same thing. I would not want to accuse him of being stupid – would you?

  2. It is only Gospel preaching if you have a willing audience? Preaching the Gospel of peace is a breach of “peace”? I find your arguments against this brother to be trite, your logic lacking, and your discernment deficient.

    1. I am very happy for you to comment on my blog – but please comment on what I said – not on what I have not said. I did not say you have to have a willing audience. But you do have to have an audience who are listening. Preaching the Gospel of peace is not a breach of the peace – you will note that two other preachers were not arrested. It is incredibly rude of you to accuse me of being trite, lacking logic and having deficient discernment. If you choose to do so then at least argue against what I have said and don’t make things up.

      1. Who was listening when John the Baptist began to preach in the wilderness of the Jordan? I suspect his audience was a babbling brook and an occasional coyote. But God, in his sovereign grace, sends people by to hear the Gospel – even if it is far out of their way. He alters people’s paths to put them in front of the preacher. You most certainly do not need a “listening” audience (which is the same thing as a willing audience). That, sir, is exactly what you have implied. I am fully convinced that if I should preach to the prairie dogs out in my Montana prairies, God will strand a motorist who needs to hear the Gospel. Furthermore, we don’t need so-called brothers who will scoff and laugh at us and be “ashamed” because you believe the preaching of the cross to be foolishness along with the kindling of this world that will not heed the message preached. And before you attack a brother, you best have a Scripture and verse to stand on. Concerning the others not “breaching the peace,” the officer did not have sufficient explanation for why he – without amplification – was breaching the peace and they were not except for the caveat that there had been a “complaint.” Now what kind of discernment does a man have to believe that this complaint was really over volume and not over content? That’s naive at best. Congratulations, you are now part of the suffering that makes Joshua blessed for righteousness snake.

      2. I am not sure that I have anything to say to a man who believes that preaching to prairie dogs will result in motorists in Montana hearing the Gospel! Just because God can speak through the mouth of a donkey does not mean we should behave like donkeys! Who was listening to John the Baptist? I believe all Jerusalem came to him (at least that is what the Bible says). He did not stand on the street corners yelling at them. And you have no scriptural warrant for suggesting that he preaching to a brooks and coyotes.

    2. I take exception Bro. Weeflea. You have much to say to a man who attributes fair-mindedness to the infliction of suffering…but I doubt such a one would listen.

      Kinda goes back to the donkey thing.

    3. Jd, David already said that it wasn’t the fact that he was preaching in the street. However it is the manner in which he did so. He refused to listen to the shopkeepers – he refused to talk to an old lady who quietly spoke to him about his manner. He shouted at people, rather than talking. If someone were to continualy shout at me I’d be tempted to call the police, regardless of the subject.

    4. No, he is not stupid. However, the fact remains he considers himself as lawfully allowed to preach, and would not be suing the police on the first instance if he did not believe the decision was wrong. Therefore returning to preach, is just assuming his liberty, as the law normally allows. The Gospel will be hated, and won’t exactly have a response as to have people hearing being very happy.
      I believe it is wrong to spend time on examining someone’s motives, especially given that he is having to deal with this situation. At a time, he could use our support, not condemnation, even if there are issues we disagree with.

  3. Wow. Brother you have lost the plot. stop writing blogs on other Christians, and start praying for your country!!! Rejoice with Paul that the gospel is preached, whether from envy or not. I doubt Josh is preaching just to get arrested. Your country is ruled by Satan. He hates gospel preaching. Do you hate goal preaching? As for you, if men can have peace with you, then your message is somewhat false (Luke 6:24).

    1. Thanks for the wackiest and most amusing post I have yet received on any subject. My country is ruled by Satan? I may not like Alex Salmond but I am not sure I would call him Satan! Not sure which country you are from but are you implying that your country isn’t?! And I hate Gospel preaching? I am a gospel preacher. Still don’t let that get in the way of you misquoting and misapplying scriptures. And you want me to stop writing against other Christians – and what do you do? Write against me! Totally off the wall…

  4. I have known Josh Williamson for eight years. I’ve served alongside him, preaching the gospel on the streets of Los Angeles, Woolwich, and Wimbledon. I’ve broken bread with him. I’ve participated in family devotion with Josh, his lovely wife Louise, and their beautiful son Thomas. I know Josh Williamson.

    Josh did not stage either his first or his second arrest. To suggest otherwise is nothing more than unhelpful conjecture.

    Yes, yes, you are entitled to your opinion and to articulate it on your blog. But what you’ve written here is irresponsible and serves to do little more, if anything more, that to bring more discouragement to a young family who left home a half-a-world away to answer the call of God to pastor a small church in Scotland and to bring the gospel of Jesus Christ to the people of Scotland.

    A “breach of peace?” The people cry “peace, peace” where there is no peace.

    1. Tony, I’m afraid that you have fallen into the trap of personalising this. I don’t know Josh Williamson. Which is why I have made no comment about him personally, nor his ministry, life etc. I merely commented on the incidents that are recorded in the videos and the publicity that has followed. I do not think that what I have written is irresponsible. I have a responsibility to bring the gospel to the people of Scotland and therefore it would have been irresponsible for me not to have critiqued a situation where I think that work is actually being hindered. For you to personalise and make it about one person is deeply irresponsible and betrays (sadly) the kind of immaturity which so often attends these kind of debates – people personalise and take sides according to how much they know of the person, how nice they perceive them to be etc. It is completely irrelevant whether Josh has a lovely wife or a beautiful son (I’m sure he does) to what we are discussing. Can I ask you to reflect on your last sentence, which doubtless you think is a clever play on words, but is in reality a twisted misuse of Gods holy Word.

      1. Without all the language of Zion, I agree. On the surface looks like some consequences were not taken into consideration from,, shall we say, a teleological perspective?

      2. Erm, you know, you attacked Williamson’s character. It’s a bit much to claim that you aren’t personalising it. You have done just that.

        And, by the way, you’re overdoing the “language of zion”. You sound like an unbeliever putting it on.

        Those of us who have endured amplified crap in marketplaces will look with amusement on the idea that a non-amplified preacher could possibly be “too noisy”.

        Now, I have no opinion on whether or not Josh Williamson is circumspect, vulgar, or whatever. I wasn’t there, and I don’t much trust in videos either. There are certainly charlatans who make a living off the gospel, although I don’t know of many willing to do the tedium of street work for nothing to do it.

        But I do have a definite opinion that, if I encountered such a one, and I heard that he had been arrested, I wouldn’t start anonymously screaming at him in public. Why would anyone? I wouldn’t write priggish articles attacking a man in the hands of the police for being noisy. You don’t do that, and I’m sorry that you don’t see this. Never jeer at a man being harassed by the authorities. The very idea of locking up people for preaching the gospel in a loud voice in the streets of Scotland … John Knox would have a fit! Is it possible that you don’t know the history of Scotland? Of the Wee Frees?

        You’re in the wrong here, mate. If you have concerns, you should have expressed them to him privately. The church to which you claim to belong — all your claims look dubious, because you write anonymously — is a body known for its commitment to principle, and might reasonably mediate.

        But the basic principle is that we don’t have policemen locking up preachers who are preaching. Not for any reason, on any pretext whatever.

        If you are ever to preach yourself, you might consider adopting the same principle. If only in self-protection. 🙂

        Don’t be a conformist. Don’t rush to suck up to the state. If the Wee Frees stand for anything, it is that they do NOT do such things.

      3. Sorry Bruno I don’t accept that I attacked his character but I guess that is the way you want to see it.

        Please read the blog and get some information before commenting on it. He was asked to stop because the police received a complaint about the noise – they would have done exactly the same with anyone else. Plus in Scotland you have to have a permit to have amplified music/speech so those who do will probably already have permission.

        Sorry that you think my article is priggish – but I really suspect you are just name calling rather than making any kind of real description – all done of course in the name of the Gospel.

        There was no harassment by the authorities. Do watch the video.

        He was not locked up for preaching the Gospel – he was for breach of the peace. Again read the article, stop, think and you will be able to work out the difference.

        Given that my degree is in history and I am a Free Church minister who specialises in Scottish church history I suspect that I might know something about it. One thing I do know is that calling the Free Church of Scotland ‘the wee frees’ is derogatory, inaccurate and insulting. I assume it is just ignorance that made you use it?

        As to the claim that I write ‘anonymously’ I suggest that you open your eyes and read a wee bit more. There is nothing anonymous about this blog. I am named and shamed throughout it.

        What I do privately remains private (the clue is in the word ‘private’). What is done publicly and brings public disgrace on the gospel deserves and will get public comment.

        The notion that policemen are not allowed to lock up preachers ever – not for any reason….is just absurd.

        I am a preacher – I don’t need self protection. I don’t conform or suck up to the State. And I don’t demonstrate the level of ignorance and illogicality that your post sadly exemplifies.

      4. I greatly admire both Tony and Josh but I did see problems in the videos. If someone complains about noice you comply, you don’t argue with them. If the police come, you comply completely (avoiding arrest). The second video, as much as I love Josh stunk of arrogance. As far as I could see he was quite rude to the police. Preaching needs to be apropriate to the situation and it seems raising your voice is not apropriate for Scotland law. One to one preaching in this case is a better option. Please know I do admire both Tony and Josh but he needs to humble himself and admit his error. Legal right or no legal right, he has a moral obligation to be a servant to all.

    2. Tony; My understanding is that he left a dis-affectioned church in NZ to come to the UK to see if some people here could help him find somewhere to pastor. Not that he ‘left home a half-a-world away to answer the call of God to pastor a small church in Scotland.’ There is a big difference.

  5. This is ludicrous.

    Beyond presuming to judge motivations, let’s look at the reality of the situation.

    Anyone who open-air preaches knows these days that standard equipment includes an mp3 recorder AND video cameras. As a pastor of a local church here in Syracuse, NY, I keep Christian legal counsel in my speed dial. Why? Because of police officers who often make up the laws as they go rather than enforcing those laws.

    In recent years in the United States (and in the UK), this footage has helped: 1) clarify noise ordinances and issues such as breach of the peace in relation to freedom of speech, 2) prove the unlawful arrest and citation of dozens of street preachers, 3) establish the freedom to preach the gospel in places where it was previously not preached in the open air.

    If you have a better way, prove it. Go to Perth, stand on the corner, and show us how it is done. Put up or shut up, as we say. Perhaps if the local preachers would consistently do what they are called to do, actually herald the gospel in the open-air, missionaries from Australia and the United States would not have to do it for you. Stop hiding behind your relevance and unleash the power of God’s Word amongst the lost and not just where it’s comfortable. We don’t need to help the gospel out with dramas and sock puppets. You may as well strap a toy pistol on the end of a nuclear weapon to give it a little more power.

    1. I’m afraid your post smacks of the arrogance from some US christians that does give the gospel a bad name in Europe and does make it harder for those of us who actually live here and love the people, to communicate the gospel. Thankfully most of the American Christians I know are not like that and are themselves deeply embarrassed by the kind of attitude displayed in this comment. I could (and probably will) write an essay on what is wrong with your commments, but for now let the following suffice: I hope you are prepared to listen!

      1) The standard equipment for open air preaching does not include a camera and recorder. Indeed if your desire is to reach people and communicate the gospel to them (rather than grandstand and show your own people how ‘faithful’ you are), then the last thing you take with you is a camera. Why would a non-Christian want to be filmed by an evangelist?!

      2) In this particular incident however the cameras prove that the arrest was not for preaching the gospel but for breach of the peace – and shows why that was necessary. The arrest was lawful.

      3) The arrogance of your comment ‘if you have a better way prove it’ is breathtaking. ‘put up or shut up’ is the kind of aggressive, demeaning and arrogant attitude which is what I referred to at the beginning. I don’t need to boast to you how I do evangelism or engage with non-Christians. The Lord judges that. All I will say is that anyone who actually knows me will laugh out loud at the notion that I hide behind my relevance and personal comfort!

      4) Your cultural arrogance and ignorance is exemplified when you boast that missionaries from Australia and the US have to come to the UK because us local preachers are unfaithful. I am immensely grateful that I work with American missionaries in my congregation who are the very opposite of the crass and crude simplifications you espouse.

      5) Please read the article again and this time think. Think about what is being said. Think about what is best for the Gospel here and how we communicate to people. And the next time you want to respond to such an article, pause, pray and then put your pen down, until you actually understand what is going on.

      Oh – and a small request. Until you get a better grasp of both the gospel and culture…please stay away from Scotland. We really don’t need that kind of hinderance in proclaiming Christ.

      1. You wrote, “The arrogance of your comment ‘if you have a better way prove it’ is breathtaking. ‘put up or shut up’ is the kind of aggressive, demeaning and arrogant attitude which is what I referred to at the beginning. I don’t need to boast to you how I do evangelism or engage with non-Christians. The Lord judges that. All I will say is that anyone who actually knows me will laugh out loud at the notion that I hide behind my relevance and personal comfort!”

        What? You mean you don’t like it when someone you don’t know judges your motivations and your ministry? Hmmmm.

      2. Jon – no I don’t like it when someone who is ignorant of them judges my motivation and ministry. I am actually very happy to have people judge, help, critique and guide me on what they see me do and say in public. It is actually very helpful.

    2. The “reality” of the situation is, electronic devices or no devices, the “street preacher” was practically encouraging the arrest. His posture toward the police was confrontational throughout. I even heard him rejecting the female police officer’s suggestion for a peaceful resolution that would have allowed him to keep speaking.

      Dumb mistake he made was getting sidetracked and baited into an argument with a heckler.

      Stage persecution with camera in tow IMHO.

  6. I was as concerned as any Christian would be when I first heard of this story but when I explored it in further depth, I couldn’t help thinking that it wasn’t just a simple case of Gospel censorship. Watching the videos, I felt not a little embarrassed. In the words of the Apostle, ‘Let every person be subject to the governing authorities.’ The article expresses extremely well how I, and I’m sure many others, feel about the incident. It also manages to convey helpful brotherly love toward Josh. Wise words indeed.

    1. I must agree with Rod. As a baptist christian in the U.S. I’m likewise embarrassed by some of the other comments posted on this thread. You’re right, we ain’t all like that.

  7. Belfast Evangelist – I tried to edit and reply to your comment but to be honest it was too much hard work. Please feel free to resubmit it without repeating the whole of the article, and I will be happy to deal with your criticisms. Thanks…

  8. “it is clear that Josh went out on the second day in order to get arrested.”

    let me ask you a question in Acts when Peter and John went straight back to preach at the exact same place where they were arrested did they deliberately go out to be arrested or to preach the Gospel? And is it not perfectly feasible apart from your bias, conjecture and speculation paraded as fact that Josh like Peter and John went out to preach the Gospel not to be arrested?)

    1. David – I can only approve one of your numerous posts – to be honest most of the points are raised elsewhere or dealt with in the article. I have posted the one that makes the most sense. Peter and John in Acts 4 did not go out and preach on the streets – they went and reported back, prayed, were filled with the Holy Spirit and then continued to proclaim the Word of God boldly. All this after performing a miraculous sign. If you really wish to compare this with what has gone on in Perth, there is nothing I can add.

    2. Try this one. I don’t care what Peter and John did in that situation, the Bible doesn’t say whether they were in willful disobedience of a zoning ordinance or not. I’m assuming they were not.

      We ain’t them.

      Their arrest had to do specifically with what they preaching not where they were preaching.

      Some things (even scripture interpretation) involve a little common sense.

  9. I work and live in Perth, I too was concerned by the arrest of someone preaching the Gospel on the streets and I started to research the legalities of breach of the peace and I also found Josh`s website. I had hoped to see Josh on the Saturday, but he did not arrive until later, however friends saw him there and were shocked at how different the preachers were and Josh was there to get arrested, if I might be as bold as to judge him. I feel that some of Josh`s writing on his website allows one to see into his psyche a little and this allows me to judge upon all of these things.
    Yes David, I agree he should take stock of how he approaches evangelism as he is unaware of the context he is preaching in. I have been working on the night-time streets of Perth for a few years and now work in a fresh expression of faith and I wonder how mush damage he has done to the good will we have had in the past from the people of Perth. Yes the people will judge him, they have only the news papers and possibly a brief few seconds to be bellowed at from on high (that is another issue altogether) to make up there minds and that is not how relationships are made.
    I realise that 1 Peter 3:15,16 is not about street evangelism, but it is about how we are to conduct ourselves and there are so many more. Josh please take stock of what you are doing on the streets of Perth and look back at your website and critically evaluate it from the perspective of another person.
    God`s Blessings on you all.

  10. Thanks for posting this, it was thoughtful, articulate and well reasoned. Although i am not a fan of this type of evangelism (for a start it removes any aspect of relationship from the process) i think people should be free to do it, but they must do so within the framework of what would be generally considered decent and polite behaviour, not to mention being legal. The preacher in question failed in each of these aspects and clearly sought to be a martyr for the Gospel, and true enough his fame is spreading on Twitter and Facebook, meanwhile he makes the rest of us who preach the Gospel look like fools. Thank you for providing a different perspective.

  11. Very well said. The police were really reasonable and said he could preach if he was less noisy. Every time anyone tried to speak to him he would bark at them rather than listen….

  12. Thank you for a well-written and well-thought-out blog on this. Being someone who lives in Perth, and happened to witness the second arrest, I’ve been thinking and reflecting on the event and whether it was persecution.

    I can’t presume to know his motivations (particularly in the second outing), but my suspicion is that it’s just miscontextualisation where methods that are assumably successful in Aussie are presumed to be successful in Scotland. I’m not judging, it’s an easy mistake to make. I did the same when I went to New Zealand. As someone who has the privilege of telling the Gospel to people who’d never go anywhere near a church, I can say that discussion-based dialogue is a model that receives listeners (with God’s blessing, of course!). To reference a Biblical analogy: Perth has fertile ground, you just need to know how to sow. I’m sure that as Josh spends time in Perth and learns the culture, his ministry techniques will be honed and we’ll see his church grow.

    I’m sorry that you’ve received poisonous comments. I’m encouraged to see that your responses hold as much grace as your blog.

  13. I’m sorry D, while I know you and love you, I have to disagree, at least in part. While I have major issues with how Josh went about his ministry in Perth, especially the second attempt, and certainly would question his motivation myself, I cannot in all conscience criticise….for these reasons:

    1. Who am I, to judge another person’s ministry, regardless of its effects? Unless there is ‘false teaching’ to be challenged.

    2.Using the wisdom of Gamaliel (Acts 5) I would say, if this is of God it will succeed, if it is not it won’t! And the situation Gamaliel was addressing was exactly the public presentation of the Gospel that was upsetting some!

    3.We are accusing a man of false motivation, without knowing that motivation. rather judgmental.

    4.Following Isaiah 55:11 – the Word of the Lord will not return onto him empty, however it is delivered. Who are we to judge who will and will not respond.

    5.The example of Jonah. Who reluctantly went to Nineveh and preached in the most unloving manner, yet the whole city repented.

    6.By opposing the preaching of the Gospel (however inadequate we may feel it is) we are in danger of opposing the work of God.

    7.The ‘wider’ reputation of the Gospel and other ministeries does not need defencing or protecting (I remember you saying that very thing yourself).

    8.Other people (I hope myself included) may very well have more success in reaching people than Josh – but the effectiveness of all will only be judged in eternity. I would think it rather arrogant to suggest that I am more effective than Josh!

    9.The relational method of ministry – getting to know your people and their culture – is no doubt effective, and Christlike, but then there is Jonah, and many of the minor prophets who didn’t take the time to ‘understand’ the people as their message was simply to urgent. Anyway, paying too much attention to culture simply brings compromise, (as I know so well being a minister of the ‘national’ church!)

    I completely agree with your summary of Repent / Listen / Preach. But it should be directed at all of us, not just Josh.

    In summary – Josh may have been shouting – we don’t know that no one was listening – I may not like his style – but unless his teaching is ‘false’ I cannot oppose him – regardless of the impact it has on MY reputation as a Christian minister in the same town.

    1. Philip – I hope you will forgive me saying this but your post contradicts itself. You complain that it is wrong of me to ‘judge’ and yet you ‘judge’ me for doing so! Gods word will not return to him empty so it doesn’t matter how it is proclaimed? Really? So if I strip naked and run down the street shouting John 3:16 thats ok?! I am not opposing the preaching of the Gospel. And Josh is not Jonah. And of course we all need to repent – I never said otherwise. You SHOULD be concerned about the impact that such preachers have on the gospel in a particular area. That is your responsibility.

      1. Hi David.

        First of all of course I forgive you, for I myself have been forgiven so much, I can do no other. But I’m afraid I still disagree.
        We don’t know that NO ONE was listening to Josh.
        We don’t know the eternal impact of Josh’s altercation with the authorities.
        I liked the story of someone preaching to the trees – I often think that is exactly what I do every Sunday- it has about the same result! – Or does it? Because even I don’t know the eternal impact of my own ministry.
        If you were to strip naked and run through the streets of Perth shouting John 3:16, I would certainly come, with camera, to video the episode. But it’s hardly an argument for or against Josh – even then it is still possible that God would use such stupidity for his glory!
        So again, while I wouldn’t recommend the manner of Josh Williamson’s preaching I can’t fault him. He is doing much more than most of my denomination, clergy and all would ever do!
        And just on that point. I personally am fed up belonging to a denomination that thinks that it is the only show in town, and that considers the likes of Josh Williamson to be intruding on its territory! And I’m afriad David some of your comments sound a bit like what I hear from the CofS.
        You end by saying that it is my responsibility to be concerned about Josh williamson’s manner – The responsibility of my ordiantion is to preach, teach and adminster the ordinances of the Gospel. As part of that ministry it is my job to draw attention to oppose and correct false teaching. But our argument is not that Josh is guilty of such false teaching, just that we don’t approve of the manner in which he preaches!
        Back to running naked through the streets shouting John 3:16. As a gimmick to draw attention to the Gospel It really is no worse than some of the other gimmicks I hear happening in many churchs around Perth! In fact it might even be more effective…..now you’ve got me thinking!!!

        Phil

  14. A very interesting post David. I agree with most all of your “diagnosis”. In particular, I think a very useful concept is the one where you quote “you can’t preach if no one is listening”. A big part of the power of evangelism is the building of relationship and engaging the listener. I think you are right, that there are many good ways of preaching and being effective, that don’t involve provoking police and tape recording them while they are just trying to do their job. I was deeply concerned about the Christian witness to the police officers.

    One area I think I disagree slightly is with your conclusion, where you state he needs to repent. I don’t disagree with the logic, but I question the appropriateness of the statement.

    There is an unintended irony I think, in that you have done what Sinead O’Connor has done with Miley Cyrus and written an open letter asking for a change of behaviour and heart (which some could argue is what this street preacher was trying to achieve). This is similar to preaching to someone who isn’t listening, in that we need to take time to engage with individuals on a personal level and show them that we are also listening and speak with good intentions and love. I feel that asking an individual to repent via a blog posting will not have the desired effect. Sinead O’Connor’s letter was very well received by most people, with one clear exception… the intended recipient, who launched a counter offensive via twitter.

    This is not to say there is no value in constructively evaluating the methods. The flavour of the comments so far I think shows how many of us respond defensively to what we perceive as attacks on something we hold dear, which rarely leads to a change of view in my experience.

    1. Thanks – the irony is of course that as Christians we of all people should be prepared to repent. And it is not wrong of me to ask Josh to do so – any more that it is you asking me to do so! The other thing to bear in mind is that this is written not primarily for the individual but rather to deal with the issues raised and the concerns that many Christians feel about what has happened.

      1. Thanks for your reply David. I didn’t mean that it was wrong (in terms of correctness) but when you wrote “Can I also make a personal plea to Josh?”, it is here that I think I would suggest the method might detract from the intent. Likewise, Josh was not wrong to preach, but perhaps the way he did it was the problem.

    2. “A big part of the power of evangelism is the building of relationship with the listener.” That’s one thing you can’t find in Scripture. The power of the Gospel is in its proclamation, not in the preacher’s ability to make friends.The wee flea has more in common with Mary Queen of Scots than John Knox. It’s a “roaring lion,” not a “purring kitten.”

      1. Yes, J.D. I would agree that the power of the Gospel in its proclamation.

        But I don’t see anywhere in scripture where “proclamation” has to fit your particular definition. Also don’t see where David’s practice of searching the scripture to see if these things be true can likewise be faulted in this misunderstanding.

        I rejoice that the gospel was preached, and saddened by the fact that Josh didn’t have any better plan for the even than to prompt an arrest.

        Don’t worry Bro. Flea about such tirades.

        Would appear that our “prairie dog” friend from Montana has more in common with J. Frank Norris than John Knox.
        .

      2. JD – you won’t find that quote, but you will see that behaviour exemplified in our Lord Jesus Christ. Is there a scripture that says the power of the gospel is in its proclamation? I would also argue that the gospel is lived out and shown in more than (but including) our words.

  15. We may not agree on many things theologically, David, but I support you wholeheartedly in this critique. To present this episode as being arrested for preaching the Gospel is fundamentally dishonest. Haranguing passers-by is not preaching. As far as the second episode being a setup is concerned, it seems to me that just happening to have a professional Christian film-maker on-hand at this convenient moment is a coincidence too far.
    (And if I may be allowed a small piece of pedantry – the word you are after is riposte, not repost, I think.)

  16. This really warrants careful thought, and 1 Peter 3 speaks to it:

    “Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened.” But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. For it is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.”

    We must speak out, fearlessly, yes, but with ‘gentleness and respect’. We follow a Lord who ‘did not cry out in the streets’ and who, when He was accused, opened not His mouth. The Spirit of Christ must rule the street preacher, and we have no right to expect special treatment if we are aggressive and offensive in our approach. The only offence here should be the offence of the Gospel itself, not any kind of offensiveness on the part of the preacher. That will put an obstacle to hearing in the way of the very people we are attempting to reach.

  17. David – we do not often agree – but on this occassion I whole heatedly support your post. You have put into words what many of us have been saying. Thank you for your extremely well written and helpful post.

  18. Shuna and others like myself who often disagree with you have said it all.There has been some unfortunate consequences of his preaching style on that day for a young family which is going to take a lot of sorting out if they are to remain in the fold.

  19. Just thought I would add a positive note to the subject of street evangelism.
    As it so happens my wife and I were on a weekend break to Perth last weekend and we shared fellowship with Christians at the local Free Church.
    On hearing that we were from the Glasgow area, a lady related the story of a Free Church minister who had became a Christian by means of a gospel tract received on Sauchiehall Street, Glasgow on his way to a nearby nightclub.
    This story was of particular encouragement to myself as I have been involved with an an open air team who have evangelised Sauchiehall Street for many years handing out many thousands of Christian leaflets in the process.
    It does not matter if it was our group involved or someone else it was just great to hear of this man’s resulting conversion and subsequent call to the ministry.

    Our team uses amplified equipment but have been careful not to upset the authorities for all the a wrong reasons! So far the preachers have been able to preach the uncompromising truth of the gospel while still maintaining good relations with the police.

    1. Martyn – totally agree. My post was not against street preaching (hence the advice at the end). I have done it several times – though not in recent years. Hope things go well with your work.

  20. An interesting post – thank you.

    I’m nervous about this one. Something doesn’t feel right about this case to me.

    On the one hand I find it very hard to believe that people really genuinely get arrested for making a noise in our (incredibly noisy) streets. Nor do I like the idea of the police arresting street preachers. On the other hand I note that Williamson and his friends are also in court in the Gold Coast, again under circumstances that are less than clear.

    I don’t like the idea that the police claim that Williamson “was asked to attend a police station” when in fact he was put into a van and taken there. I don’t like the idea of a policeman saying “I am arresting you” when in fact he was not.

    The police have a duty to keep the peace, and are the servants of the authorities of this world (who don’t like Christians).

    Preachers have a duty to obey the authorities except when so doing would involve betraying Christ. I’m not quite sure that we are duty bound to preach in one particular place, tho.

    The push against Christians is led by the establishment, who have licensed gays, moslems, etc, to harass us. So we are experiencing harassment. It is inevitable that street preachers will be among the first to be harassed (far better so, than the cold evil targeting for ruin of that elderly couple in Cornwall by Stonewall). Everyone knows that the harassment is wrong. Those who do wrong, and yet are determined to do it anyway, invariably find pretexts for their wrong-doing. Thus in the Soviet Union preachers were convicted of “hooliganism”, rather than the real ground for prosecution.

    Which is the case here? I don’t know.

    David … have you considered writing privately to Josh? A blog post may not be the right way to address this. Although hole-in-corner stuff is not good either, I know.

    And … can the Free Church perhaps intervene? Mediate? Nobody would accuse the Free Church of lack of Christian principle (unlike the Church of Scotland, who seem to have reached bottom and started to dig).

    I wasn’t there. I don’t know the facts. But I feel nervous.

    I think this could usefully have a solid, committed Christian body look into it. Really I do. If Josh is doing something wrong here, then a Godly rebuke would come best from those who bear the wounds of Christ in His service. But if not, such a body could back him.

    1. Roger – thanks for your post much of which I agree with. However I would suggest that it is a bit simplistic and paranoic to suggest that ‘the police are the servants of the authorities of this world (who don’t like Christians). I actually know some of those authorities and some police – some of whom have contacted me – who love Jesus and who agree with what was done here. What I am doing privately will remain private – if thats ok. But thanks for the suggestion.

      1. I entirely agree about private stuff.

        I think we may be at cross-purposes over “the police are the servants of the authorities of this world (who don’t like Christians)”. I hope we’re all aware that there are many Christian policemen, and I believe that nearly all policemen are honest and dedicated to their communities.

        Rather I was trying to make the point that, even though the authorities of this world are hostile, and the police are their servants (you didn’t mean to deny that the police are indeed at the disposal of the authorities, I hope?), the scripture tells us to be obedient to that authority. The context of that instruction is when the “authorities” is Nero!

  21. David, I am deeply troubled by your certainty in your accusations against Josh. 1) I wish you would at least get the facts right. Josh was out on Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday at the same spot. It has a high amount of pedestrian traffic. Please note, Josh has not been charged with any offense. 2) audio and video are necessary equipment when people accuse you of saying outrageous things which you never said 3) stating with certainty that Josh’s arrest was intended and purposely staged is flat out false. I ask you to repent.

    1. Sorry Chuck. I did get my facts right. But you do seem to be struggling with the concept. I never said that he was not out those nights. I never said that there was no pedestrian traffic (the video clearly shows there was – and I live in the area and know what it is like – indeed I was there today). And nobody accused Josh of saying outrageous things. And I still think that all the evidence is that Josh expected to get arrested and provoked the whole thing. So sure – I will repent when you give me something to repent of. Meanwhile I suggest you heed your own advice and please try to get facts right – perhaps then the next time you write on my blog it will be helpful!

      1. Josh’s 7-hour detention was on Saturday, not on Thursday. The Saturday outreach had been planned for weeks in advance with Noman Kenneth and Jedediah A-Akhbar from Glasgow. The fact that you write two weeks after the fact makes me wonder. So your pious certainty that Josh planned and intended to be arrested is patently false.

      2. Chuck – I waited a couple of weeks to pray about, think and investigate what was going on. And also to ask whether it would be worth posting anything. However because this happened in my local area and has done harm to the church and the cause of the gospel here I felt I had to respond. I’m not sure what your point is about the detention or planning is. I have no doubt that Josh had planned the outreach with the other gentlemen. And equally there is no doubt from the evidence of the video that, having been warned on the Thursday, he went back to the same place, behaved in the same manner and got arrested. If he had any sense at all (and I am assuming he clearly does) then he must have known what would happen. The evidence of the video is that he rather relished all this. That is all that I was saying – that it was provocative and harmful.

    2. Are you sure your inward consternation is not because of Josh’s conduct as opposed to David’s reflection on the event?

      Think I’ll go with my lying eyes on this one. Josh needed to be taken aside by the police after allowing what was a pretty good sermon to be derailed by a heckler. At that point, you’ve got a possible “situation” brewing and I thought the police handled it in a much more “Christian” manner than Josh.

      1. Scott, you don’t seem to know a lot about street preaching. A heckler is a street preacher’s best way to gather a crowd. What law did Josh break? He has not been charged with anything.

  22. David is absolutely right here.

    Breaking the law of the land, resisting the authorities, making a public nuisance of onesself, attention seeking, and deliberately setting onesself up as a martyr is not only a detraction from the Gospel, but also a detraction from those around the globe (and occasionally closer to home) who DO face strife, opposition and persecution for their faith.

    Boorish “I’ll do what I want because my cause is right” behaviour is not what Christ would have wanted to see from his followers.

  23. As a street preacher and banner carrier I have mixed feelings about this. I have had dealings with the police many times and occasionally have been asked to stop preaching when no laws have been broken. The message is not popular and opposition goes with the territory.What we need is the mind of Christ for every circumstance and sometimes our rights have to be laid aside for the sake of Christ. But over the years what wonderful things the Lord has worked!

    Street preachers and banner carriers have never been popular inside or outside the church, but we are not here to please men.

    We go out as a team sometimes and we never film. I believe we have to trust the Lord not cameras.And although it has blessed my heart to see young men taking to the streets its also a concern that there seems to be a celebrity type mentality creeping into street ministry in general. I am airing my concerns, knowing the battles I have had and do have with my flesh..

    I do not know Josh’s motives, however I do not believe he broke the law.After viewing the videos I do think he could have dealt with the situation differently, and maybe in time and on reflection he will come to the same conclusion.

    We should pray for Josh and all of us who seek to advance the gospel for we do not wrestle with flesh and blood.

    1. “I do not know Josh’s motives, however I do not believe he broke the law.”

      Were your eyes, ears, and understanding not influenced by the video? Not only was Josh treading on the toes of some human ordinances, looks like he might have overlooked some spiritual laws in his comportment with the police officers.

      Give Josh an “A+” on sermon content.

      “D” on diplomacy

      “F” on his dialogical interaction with the police.

  24. After posting this report http://christiannews.net/2013/09/19/scottish-street-preacher-arrested-for-breach-of-the-peace-over-illegal-gospel-message/ to a police friend from Perth, she replied:
    “It seems a bit over the top in the part of the police! I really don’t see, if that WAS all that happened, what grounds they had to make an arrest. Pretty flimsy implementation of the Breach law! I think asking it to be turned down would have been legitimate and dealing with the people shouting abuse at the preacher! But hey…I wasn’t there but that’s my gut feeling based on the article!”

    1. It would then have been very helpful for her to watch the video rather than just comment on a written report on christiannews.net. She would then have noticed that he was asked to turn it down. The trick is – never go by gut feelings if you are going to make public comment.

      1. David you said:It would then have been very helpful for her to watch the video rather than just comment on a written report on christiannews.net. She would then have noticed that he was asked to turn it down. The trick is – never go by gut feelings if you are going to make public comment

        Isn’t that what you are doing when you say that Josh set up the arrest?
        Not only that but it is also littered with inaccuracy, I would know I was there. If a person can get arrested for being too loud with out the amp and breaching the peace the. We have big problems, I can assure you that a Muslim doing the same thing as Josh would not have been arrested. Christianity is in the state that its in today because of no public proclamation of the gospel, because churches have made that which was suppose to be a public affair into a private affair.
        Maybe you should have contacted Josh personally and privately before writing this article as a way of showing brotherly love and in keeping with church discipline.

        This article is shameful and slanderous.

      2. Nope – its not what I am doing. Unlike your police officer friend I took some time to look at the evidence available and changed my mind. My gut feeling was that this was an outrageous breach of Christian liberty and yet another example of Christian persecution. Now you tell me you were there and that my article is littered with inaccuracy. And yet you cannot cite one of those. I don’t share your feeling that being arrested for being too loud means we have big problems. I don’t share your view that a Muslim doing the same thing would not have been arrested. I don’t agree that Christianity is in the state it is in today because people are not going out shouting on the streets. And I love the hypocrisy of your last sentence – because if you really meant that and thought that was the way to proceed – you would not have written this in public but would have contacted me privately and personally before accusing me of shame and slander! What I have written and done with Josh privately remains just that – private.

  25. Josh stated in his blog that the police told him he was being arrested for the content of his message.

    “On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus *stood and said in a loud voice*, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink.”” – John 7:37 (emphasis added)

  26. http://www.joshwilliamson.org/home/89-a-public-reply-to-the-lies-and-slander-spread-by-reverend-david-robertson.html

    I’ve read your article and viewed the attached media, as well as his response to your article. It is in my opinion that the sin rests on you for your slander of a brother that not only goes out on the internet for the whole world to see (1 Corinthians 6:1-7) but also because it is directed toward a brother whom you do not know and, therefore, cannot rightly judge (Matthew 7:1-2)

    I see that these comments must be read and approved before they are posted (a wise thing to do on the internet I would say). It does not matter to me whether this comment is posted or not because my heart is to reach out to you, the writer. It is in my opinion that what you have done here is not right, and I therefore implore you, for the name of the Lord, to remove this article and reach out to Mr. Williamson in a spirit of repentance, reconciliation, and most of all love.

    -A nobody twenty-year-old fellow believer.
    In Christ
    Dean M. Dickens

    1. Dean,

      The problem with your post is that it is self contradictory – you state that it is wrong to criticise a brother you do not know on the internet by criticising a brother you do not know on the internet! I am sure you would not wilfully do something that is wrong, therefore it cannot always to wrong to criticise a brother on the internet. You will also forgive a little cynicism from someone who has been in the ministry for longer than you have been alive. I don’t like faux-pas humility. If you really thought you were a nobody you would have no need to say that. Its a bit like boasting about your humility!

  27. Very tough situation to judge, but having watched the videos, which Josh himself repeatedly states are being recorded as evidence, a witness to the facts as they happened, this does the gospel no favours. This is not persecution for believing in Jesus or preaching his word in his name. This is a result of immaturity and a lack of wisdom in delivery and as someone has already said smacks of self inflicted martyrdom.
    It also is insulting to his brothers across the world (middle east, Indonesia, China etc.)who are being slaughtered just for believing in Jesus, to have deliberately provoked and recorded this situation and then claim persecution for the name of Christ.
    If you really want to get to the lost and preach, I bet there were several homeless people on the street that day who you actively could have shown the love of Christ to (food, clothes, personal care) and shared the good news with. I admire your courage, but I regret your behaviour in this specific instance. It is no embarrassment to you to take advice and guidance from some brothers, who love the Gospel and Scotland and go back out there with a revised M.O.

  28. Hi David,

    Having just read carefully your post, I have to say I agree with 95% of what you write, even the point of apologising. On my way home from church tonight my own thoughts were I’m going to buy the woman whose office i preached outside at the Conservative conference a box of chocolates and apologise for giving her a headache. And I never did realise I was that loud. The public nor the police are our enemy. We should seek to win souls and not put them off.

    I’m still not sure though on your points as to his motives, even if he was being unwise. I always try and go out of my way to respect what the police say, and on 99% of the occasion they have been great.

    Thanks for the stimulas!!
    Stephen Holland

    1. Thank you. Appreciated. I can only say one thing about the motives – I pointed out that I thought his motive was to preach the gospel. I also thought that it came across that he expected to get arrested and was somewhat glorying in it. IN other words, like most of us, there are mixed motives.

  29. //Nope – its not what I am doing. Unlike your police officer friend I took some time to look at the evidence available and changed my mind.//
    What police officer friend of mine?
    //My gut feeling was that this was an outrageous breach of Christian liberty and yet another example of Christian persecution. Now you tell me you were there and that my article is littered with inaccuracy. And yet you cannot cite one of those.//
    I have read through this particular blog post and your answers to comments. You have made several errors on days. Josh was 1st arrested on Wednesday not Thursday as you had mentioned in some posts. He had then gone out to preach on Thursday, with no police contact. Again you have suggested there was in some posts. Then was arrested on Saturday.
    You have also said it seems sets up, you are wrong.
    //I don’t share your feeling that being arrested for being too loud means we have big problems.// you don’t have to share those feelings, in Glasgow people complain that they are offended etc just do you get moved on.
    // I don’t share your view that a Muslim doing the same thing would not have been arrested.// you don’t have to, I have see it with my own eyes in Glasgow.
    // I don’t agree that Christianity is in the state it is in today because people are not going out shouting on the streets.// I believe it’s called preaching and how will they hear unless someone tells them?
    // And I love the hypocrisy of your last sentence – because if you really meant that and thought that was the way to proceed – you would not have written this in public but would have contacted me privately and personally before accusing me of shame and slander! What I have written and done with Josh privately remains just that – private.//
    Sir it is you who has written this article in a public form, it’s you who has made false assumptions and inaccurate statements. If one replies to your public post in a public manner then there is no problem. No hypocrisy. I am talking about your article about him, in which you should have done this.
    You have misrepresented facts.
    Since it’s not about us, you should ask how your article has built up and edified the body of Christ.

    This article is shameful and slanderous.

    1. NKenneth – that was a response to Dave Scott not you. Apologies for the mix up. Also if the only evidence you can offer for shameful and slanderous is the mix up over days then you really are being petty. Yes people do get moved on – and that was what the policewoman was trying to do. Josh refused. Because you have seen one muslim NOT being arrested for preaching in public you manage to deduce that NO muslim would be arrested for doing what Josh did?!

      YOu think shouting on the streets is called preaching?! I am a preacher and regularly have non-Christians listen to the Word of God.

      And your last point misses the point. This was something that took place in public, Josh is claiming persecution and setting himself up as a martyr in public (appearing for example on American radio). He deserves a public rebuke. And I have not misrepresented facts.

      And again I love the sheer hypocrisy when you ask how my article has built up and edified the body of Christ whilst you write a series of accusations against me! How does that edify and build up the body of Christ? The answer to your question by the way is that sometimes discipline, rebuking error and speaking up for the many Christians who regard this as an embarassement to their faith does actually build up the body of Christ.

      1. David, apologies on my behalf aswel. Seems like we both got mixed up.
        The reason I say that muslims are not arrested is because I have seen them not being arrested here in Glasgow, however i know the police has spoken to them yet and they have blatantly refused to move on etc.
        I too preach on the streets and regularly have people listen to the Gospel… that doesnt mean anything. My point is street preaching is valid and biblical and must be done, however that is not to say that it is the only means of reaching the lost.
        The mix of days is not the only reason why i call this article shameful and slanderous.
        You have implied that the situation was set up and he did it to gain more supporters, that’s what shameful and slanderous. You are trying to judge his motives without even knowing him.
        You point misses that point too, since you wrote this article on the www then people can comment on it.

        //And again I love the sheer hypocrisy when you ask how my article has built up and edified the body of Christ whilst you write a series of accusations against me!// you are quick to try and turn the table when infact you have accused a co-laborer of the Gospel in settting up the incident etc. You cannot call out anyone for hypocrisy.

        //How does that edify and build up the body of Christ? The answer to your question by the way is that sometimes discipline, rebuking error and speaking up for the many Christians who regard this as an embarassement to their faith does actually build up the body of Christ.//
        It would build up the body of Christ if your presuppositions were correct, however they are faulty. You talk about discipline however if you were really concerned about that you would have done well to heed Matthew 18.

        I do have a couple of questions for you.
        Do you believe that open air preaching still has its place today?
        Are you in support of open air preaching?
        Do you believe open air preaching works?
        Do you believe that God is pleased by the preaching of His Word in the public square?

      2. Yes open air preaching still has a place. If you don’t mind I will leave the rest of your questions which are really just accusations out. AS you say it is not very edifying and is in fact very tiring…

      3. One nagging question for me: how does David Roberts know the intentions of Josh Williamsons? How does David Roberts know beyond a shadow of doubt that the arrest was staged? What proof does he provide. NKenneth was an eye-witness to the events and is dismissed out of hand.

      4. Chuck – don’t let the nagging get to you. Not sure who David Roberts is but if you are referring to David Robertson then I know him quite well! But do I really know him at all. The trouble is that we know nothing absolutely or beyond a shadow of a doubt. I also did not write that the arrest was staged – I wrote that it gave the impression of being a set up – with Josh coming prepared with legal advice, recorder etc. The eyewitness account is seen from the videos themselves. Do you not think that all of us have mixed intentions? And do you think that you are right in judging mine?

  30. My name is Bob Hutton and I regularly do street evangelism (not preaching but passing out tracts and talking to people 1 to 1).

    I know Josh personally as, when he lived in London, he preached at our church in Broadstairs several times. I doubt if he is the kind of person who will deliberately seek out a confrontation.

    With regards to your objection about him going back after his arrest and continuing to preach I would like to share with you an account from CT Studd’s biography about an incident that occurred when he was in China. He led a man to the Lord who was an opium addict and a murderer. This man was so overwhelmed with joy he went back to the village where he had done so much wrong and preached in the open air; he was hauled before a judge and flogged. A short while later, still recovering from this, he went back and preached again. He was put in a cell with a high window; this led out onto a street so he preached through the window. He was hauled back before a court and released because they realised that they couldn’t stop him. The comment at the end of this account said “such men are worth saving”.

    Such is the mentality of people like Josh. You may find him a bit “rough and ready” but he has a large heart for the Gospel and yearns to reach people. The treatment he has received should bring forth well meaning advice but I’m afraid the tone of your article was a little extreme. I urge you to ask yourself if you are correct in making the suggestions you do, viz. that Josh “set this up”.

    In all sincerity I wish you well but we all need to learn to refrain from making sweeping judgements as you appear to have done.

    Yours, in the love of Christ,

    Bob Hutton

  31. I thought the article was balanced and fair and the conclusion sound.

    This type of street preaching has been going on for years and it has regularly provoked a confrontation between the preacher and his supporters and the general public/minority groups/police. A quick search on the internet confirms this and the Perth preacher has had similar run-ins with the police in Brisbane and council wardens in London. Other preachers linked to “Operation 513” have similarly ended up “facing off” with the authorities.

    Whether this is part of the strategy for reaching the lost or not only they can tell.

  32. Dear David,

    from a legal perspective the questions is, was what Josh Williamson was doing a breach of the peace? If it was not he was within his legal rights to preach as he did.

    That issue should be separated from the questions of whether you or I would choose to preach in the street in this way. We might not want to do so for various good reasons. But, and this is an important but, should he be arrested just because we would have acted differently? We might want to encourage him to go about his activities in a different way, but I do not think that we should support his arrest. (Even though I might think he would be wise to moderate his volume, which doesn’t mean reduce it to the level of mere talking.)

    The arrest does not appear to be staged. The session was prearranged and he was on home turf in Perth. Going out aware that you might be arrested is not the same thing as going out seeking to provoke an arrest. As for having cameras he has clearly received prior legal advice to record any incidents due to Police Scotland being economical with the trust over the previous arrest and incidents that have occurred to other street preachers. That was merely prudent. I therefore think you have chose your words unwisely in using this as a description.

    Yours in Christ,

    1. The law calls breach of the peace “[any action] that can generally be regarded as being reasonably likely to cause either alarm, annoyance, upset or embarrassment to another person”.

      The police received a complaint. They asked him, very graciously and very politely, to keep the noise levels down. He singularly refused and was quite combative in his response. He gave the officers no alternative but to remove him from the scene, and indeed appeared to be revelling in their obvious discomfort.

      I am ashamed to see someone loudly haranguing unwitting passers-by and calling it “preaching”. I am equally ashamed to see this economy with the truth in refusing to accept that it was a staged stunt – only the hopelessly naive would turn up (cameras and recording devices at the ready), carry out identica behaviour, refuse any conciliation, and NOT expect to be escorted away by the law.

      And if those are my reactions – as a Christian – how will those opposed to the Gospel view this incident? Primarily it has been a complete embarrassment.

      1. The definition in Scotland is “conduct severe enough to cause alarm to ordinary people and threaten serious disturbance to the community”. I don’t think there is much of a case frankly.

    2. James – thanks. You will note that I was dealing precisely with the issue of whether what he did was illegal. In Scotland breach of the peace is illegal. No-one has an absolute right of free speech. My neighbours do not have a right to stand shouting the Koran outside my window! I would not accuse the police of lying – speaking of unwise words. I have no doubt that Josh provoked an arrest – its kind of a badge of honour for that particular group.

  33. I wouldn’t say that the gospel shouldn’t be preached if no one is listening. I would however say that Josh’s style of preaching in the video is probably inappropriate for his audience. I think that he is more likely to be listened to (as with any street preacher) if he preaches in the style that Jesus preached: find issues and topics that the listeners (in this case the general public) can identify with and use those either to explain the gospel or as a springboard to introduce the gospel. For example many people are struggling with money at the moment. so use that to tell them what Jesus says about God’s provision and about worry and even about the cost of following him and the sacrifices that are involved but also the rewards. of course with a bit of planning you could weave that together a lot better.

    the second thing to note from the video is this. Whether or not the guy intended to be arrested the way he treated the police was very rude and as such not a good witness. whilst he was in part arrested for preaching the gospel, as far as I can tell he was arrested just as much for the way he dealt with and spoke with the police. it would have been wise to at least let them finish their sentences. it was not just the police that he did it to but everyone who tried to engage with him. of course you can’t engage with every heckler but as there was no crowd, it may have been wise (and even more fruitful) to engage with some of those people (who may have been genuinely interested) at a normal volume before continuing with the preaching).

    I don’t want to sound overly critical, but I as genuinely concerned by the above points and thought that they were things I could learn and that Josh and any other street preacher might benefit by considering before going out to preach. there will be times when we will face trouble for what we say but we can minimise the risk of that trouble by being gracious and loving in our method of speaking and by listening so that we are better able to speak in the way that is needed.The best example of preaching we have is in the gospel. the styles presented there are so varied but Jesus always speaks what needs to be heard and in an appropriate manner (which sometimes, but not always involves shouting very loud).

    that is quite long so i will leave it there. hope this is helpful to someone.

    1. Irrelevant. Breach of the peace under Scottish law is quite different from that under English. Under Scottish law, ‘volume’ is of no consequence. Breach of the peace can be something as ‘small’ as annoying or disturbing others. That there were amplified buskers is irrelevant, as they did not appear to be causing a disturbance or annoying others. Josh clearly was with his haranguing, confrontational style.

  34. I’ve just viewed Josh’s preaching and arrest. His preaching was fine and acceptable from my understanding. If you really want to see open air preaching done badly come to Manchester with me on a Saturday! You’d end up giving Josh a gold star.

    The reason for his arrest is clear. Sorry, but it had nothing to do with the Gospel of Christ. Those who complained may have objected to the Gospel, but the police were simply responding to a complaint of the noise. If Josh had agreed to speak a bit quieter they’d have let him be.

    Now I think the police should have a word with such people who make such complaints and not always take the side of the complainer. Even so, we can make things worse for ourselves by overreacting when the police ask us to do things.

  35. Dear David,

    I followed a link to this blog on a whim because I had read about the story a few days ago and it had intrigued me.

    Now I have read through your blogpost, and continued to read some of the comments below. I stopped reading after reading 20 of them or so out of despair.

    Thank you for taking the patience to accept the flak you’ve been taking. This is a bit of a silly situation, and I am just sad that a group of Christians can create havoc such as an expert internet troll would love to witness.

    As it happens, I sympathise and agree with your reading of the situation, and commend your exhortation to focus on real persecution such as the Spectator article writes about.

    Peace be with you. I hope you will find blogging a calmer and more productive experience in the future!

    Jack

  36. Dear David,

    FWIW I’m with you on this. The reports I’ve read from Josh and the video seem to have something of a gap. Or at the very least they are “spun” in a manner worthy of a politician.

    I read the following on an Internet forum. It sums up my thoughts:

    “The big problem with the way Josh Williamson and Christian Concern are painting this is that they are not giving the whole story. It wasn’t that he was arrested for preaching the gospel, otherwise any and every street-preacher would be arrested, he was arrested because he had wound up stall-holders so much by his behaviour that this lead to them making complaints about him, which led to the police arriving, which led to his arrest, again all because of his behaviour not what he was preaching. If we, as Christians, get that impression of him, what are non-Christians going to make of him, and by extension, Christianity? it just leaves me with a bad taste in the mouth.”

    Mike

    1. Johnny, FYI. Josh’s confrontation with the stall holders was on Thursday. A brief video posted from the Courier condensed 20 -25 minutes of preaching down to circa 3 minutes of the confrontations with no arrest. Having been at the site where this happened, the stalls were a good 30-40 yards from where Josh was standing.

  37. I’ve just been skimming through a chapter on Missionary Tactics and Communication in Eckhard J. Schnabel’s ‘Early Christian Mission’. In discussing the apostle Paul, he makes a couple of points which I think are relevant here.
    .One us that Paul “did not visit pagan temples with the purpose of proclaiming the gospel before worshippers present in the temple precincts. Christian missionaries…..had to abstain from provocative actions if they wanted to be tolerated in the Greek and Roman cities”. Secondly, “he does not engage in dialogue with pagans about religious convictions, sentiments and practices, rather he seeks to help pagan men and women find personal, existential liberation from servitude to false gods and come to faith in the one true God and Father of Jesus Christ, who alone can forgive their sins.” Also, ” he focuses his analysis of the situation of the people to whom he proclaims the gospel on the person and fate of Adam and on the person and fate of Jesus Christ.” In effect he concludes all to be under sin. But “the generally negative, sometimes even polemical, characterisation of the pagansis, however, never turned against specific persons’

    There is a world of a difference between this and what happened in Perth.

  38. “He will not cry aloud or lift up his voice,
    or make it heard in the street;
    a bruised reed he will not break,
    and a faintly burning wick he will not quench;
    he will faithfully bring forth justice.”

    Isaiah 42: 2-3

    Granted you won’t find this in “The Josh Williamson Manual for Street-Preaching” but I love it.

    1. Please, Moray, understand the meaning of texts before posting. The text you quote has nothing to do with not raising your voice in preaching, be it in the pulpit or outside. Get a good commentary and check before posting.

  39. Josh Williamson – “Last September, I was arrested twice in Perth while preaching. Word came through today that there was no case to answer, and all charges have been dropped. In the past week charges against Tony Miano were dropped after he was arrested for preaching in Dundee, and now my charges have been dropped.”

    I look Forward to the Wee Flea’s full apology and retraction for his slanderous kneejerk reaction articles regarding these brothers in the LORD. But sadly I won’t be holding my breath. 🙁

    http://www.christianconcern.com/our-concerns/religious-freedom/double-victory-for-christian-street-preachers-arrested-under-hate-law

    1. Oh dear…..my articles stated clearly that I hoped, prayed and thought that the charges would be dropped. My original comments which were not slanderous nor kneejerk still stand. I would suggest you take a deep breath and actually read them.

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