Convert who led Liberal Democrats couldn’t shake stigma of his faith.
Amid mounting scrutiny over his evangelical faith, the head of the Liberal Democrats in the United Kingdom resigned from his position and spoke out about the tension he faced as the political party’s leader.
“To be a political leader—especially of a progressive, liberal party in 2017—and to live as a committed Christian, to hold faithfully to the Bible’s teaching, has felt impossible for me,” Tim Farron told his country on Wednesday, a week after the general election.
Considered the first evangelical party leader in a century, Farron dodged questions during the recent campaign about whether he believed homosexuality was a sin despite his political stance in favor of same-sex marriage and equal rights. An evangelical amid Anglicans, he faced accusations of harboring conservative theology within the liberal party, even when he made his liberal views clear.
Still, the accusations bled into the general election—the party gained seats in Parliament but their vote share declined—and were enough to make a fellow party leader step down on Wednesday. Farron’s announcement came hours later.
“Farron’s resignation was not a total surprise—some people had been saying the [Liberal Democrats] should have done better in the election—but the manner of his resignation was,” said Nick Spencer, research director with London-based Christian think tank Theos. “He could have slipped out the back door quietly, but instead chose to return to the moments of the election that were most uncomfortable for him: the interrogations he faced about his faith and his attitude to issues of human sexuality.
“His conviction that his faith provoked a suspicion and intolerance …