The Vancouver Sun reports…
“Metro Vancouver Christians are colliding over the coming crusade of televangelist Franklin Graham, who is known for criticizing homosexuals, Muslims and U.S. President Barack Obama.
Saying that Graham is often “incendiary and intolerant,” some evangelical Protestants and Roman Catholics are opposing his participation in the three-day Festival of Hope event at Rogers Arena in early March, 2017, that many of the city’s mega-churches are supporting .
“Rev. Graham is a polarizing figure … His ungracious and bigoted remarks have the potential to generate serious negative impact on the Christian witness in Vancouver,” says a statement from five prominent evangelical and Catholic leaders (see full letter at bottom).
“We … denounce the frequent incendiary and intolerant statements made by Rev. Graham, which he unapologetically reiterates,” said the letter, signed by Marjeta Bobnar of the Catholic archdiocese, City in Focus president Tom Cooper, Tenth Church pastor Ken Shigematsu, Calvary Baptist pastor Tim Dickau and First Baptist pastor Tim Kuepfer.
Franklin Graham, son of 97-year-old retired televangelist Billy Graham, has said homosexuals are “the enemy” and will “spend eternity in hell” if they don’t repent.
While attacking Obama, Graham has called Islam a “very wicked religion” and argued that Muslims shouldn’t be allowed into the U.S.
Some of the large, often ethnically mixed evangelical congregations in Metro Vancouver that are endorsing Graham’s crusade include Willingdon Church, Westside Church, Coastal Church, Broadway Church, Glad Tidings Church, Holy Trinity Church and Richmond Pentecostal Church.
Earning more than $1 million a year as an evangelist and head of the charity Samaritan’s Purse, Graham led a crusade in Toronto in 2014 that was attended by 40,000 people of diverse ethnic origins.
After the Toronto event, Samaritan’s Purse terminated a Canadian volunteer because she refused to sign a standard statement opposing abortion and homosexual marriage.
Rev. George Wong, head pastor at Evangelical Chinese Bible Church in Burnaby, one of many congregations training volunteers to work at Graham’s crusade, said “the last thing we want to do is promote hate.”
Graham “is not coming to Vancouver to preach against homosexuality, but to preach the gospel,” Wong said.
Saying he was unaware a Christian group is opposing Graham’s involvement in the Festival of Hope, Wong didn’t want to comment on Graham’s statements about gays and Muslims, other than to affirm “the gospel is for people from all walks of life.”
In North Vancouver, another endorser of the Festival of Hope, Valley Church Pastor Owen Scott, declined to comment on the controversy other than to say, “I know Franklin is not the same as his dad. His dad is a pretty gracious person.”
In an interview from the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association headquarters in Calgary, David Ingram said his organization “never expects 100 per cent support for one of our festivals.”
Noting that a relatively small number of evangelicals and Catholics signed the dissenting letter, Ingram said, “I wouldn’t want a few people who are opposed to the festival to overshadow the wide support for it.”
Ingram said leaders of many churches and ethnic groups are backing Graham’s crusade. Maintaining that protest letters can be divisive, Ingram asked whether The Vancouver Sun and The Province planned to publish an article about the inter-Christian disagreement.
While the opposition statement was signed by Catholic ecumenical relations official Bobnar, Paul Schratz confirmed the archdiocese also formally declined an invitation to take part in the Festival of Hope.
“Initially we were supportive of next year’s event, since it was intended to draw a large number of people to hear the gospel and grow closer to Jesus,” said Schratz, spokesman for the archdiocese, which includes more than 400,000 Catholics.
“While we obviously acknowledge Mr. Graham’s zeal in preaching the Gospel we had second thoughts about participating when we noted that American evangelicals, whom we were trying to work with on this event, were criticizing Mr. Franklin for various comments and stances that didn’t promote religious tolerance.”
The formal letter of opposition to the Festival of Hope’s leadership committee was signed by Christian leaders in Metro Vancouver whom the Billy Graham Association had asked for endorsements, including Cooper, Shigematsu, Dickau and Kuepfer.
Cooper, president of City in Focus which specializes in ministering to business people, said those who signed the letter “were willing to provide suggestions for an alternative speaker. But the Festival of Hope leadership committee was content with having Reverend Graham give the major talks.
“We therefore, reluctantly, decided we could not endorse this event. We understand that we are just one of many evangelical and orthodox voices and there will sometimes be disagreement.”