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Controversial pastor draws crowds in Belfast

More than 1,000 people turned out to listen to evangelical Pastor James McConnell in west Belfast last night.

Against compromise and intolerant of other faiths, the senior cleric at Whitewell Metropolitan Tabernacle secured around 40 converts in a night of high emotion at Andersonstown Leisure Centre. They raised their hands auction-style in response to the preacher's exhortations.

A priest has accused him of holding anti-Catholic views.

But Mr McConnell said: "All these ministers and all these priests stop bellyaching. I am doing no harm, I am reaching people for Christ, I will come back.

"I am not asking you to compromise because I will not compromise."

The crowd raised money for a woman from Whiterock who was robbed of thousands of pounds.

But Mr McConnell did not hide his views. He said Jesus ruled out every other religion in the world.

"Christ can afford to be intolerant because he is the only one who has risen from the dead. I can afford to be intolerant," he added.

The event was heavy on music, with the church choir, Alan McClure from the Ulster Orchestra on the violin and The Blaze drama team depicting a young person drinking alcohol and fighting then yielding to a white-robed and youthful Jesus's embrace.

The grey-suited Simple Faith singers also performed for a crowd notable for the range of ages from babies to pensioners.

A rendition of Amazing Grace prompted mass swaying with right hands raised while the crowd stood to clap as they sang the virtues of being saved, American Deep South-style.

One girl aged 15 said: "I can't control it, the tears come down, it touches you."

Mr McConnell said he had been saved since childhood and recalled converting a Catholic cancer sufferer from Glengormley with three weeks to live.

He ended with an offer for the crowd.

"I don't sheep-steal but I grow good grass," he said.

PA Media