Opposition to Jehovah’s Witness building plans in Berwick

The Journal, UK/August 27, 2011

A row has broken out in a Northumberland town over plans for a new home for its Jehovah’s Witnesses congregation. The vicar of a church at Berwick has claimed Jehovah’s Witnesses are not Christians, in response to their application to build a new Kingdom Hall at Scremerston.

The Jehovah’s Witnesses have however insisted nothing could be further from the truth.

The application has been submitted by the Berwick KH Project, and seeks permission for a single storey place of “Christian” worship, with car park, landscaping and new vehicular and pedestrian access.

However, four letters of objection have been submitted to Northumberland County Council by residents, while Ancroft Parish Council has also voiced its opposition.

One of the letters from residents is from Rev Matthew Knox, vicar of St Peter’s Church at Scremerston. In it, he says he is not opposed to the building of the Kingdom Hall, but that he objects to the use of the word Christian.

He could not be contacted for comment yesterday but his letter states: “This is not a Christian denomination and so it is misleading to use the word Christian.

“This new religious movement (adopting its name in 1931) departs from key traditional Christian doctrines and practices and disassociates itself from all main Christian denominations.”

Last night, Harry Haworth, co-ordinator of the KH project, responded: “Jehovah’s Witnesses are Christians. We believe the Bible. We teach on the Bible. Nothing could be further from the truth.”

The parish council suggested in its objection that the Jehovah’s Witnesses could share an “underused” church in Scremerston.

But a county council report states that the Jehovah’s Witnesses claimed such a move would be “inconsistent with the beliefs of the Jehovah’s Witness congregation.”

The application will be decided by the council’s North area planning committee at its meeting on Thursday, at 6pm at Alnwick council chamber on Clayport Street.

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