Franklin Graham responded to critics in an interview with a Vancouver news station. The BGEA is calling the Festival of Hope a success.
The Billy Graham Evangelical Association’s (BGEA) Festival of Hope is scheduled to start tonight, March 3, 2017 in Vancouver, Canada. On the docket is a gospel message to be given by Franklin Graham. Last week, clergy representing 60 percent of the 1 million Christians in the progressive city asked Graham not to come to his own event.
On Friday, February 24, 2017, the leaders issued a public letter expressing their concerns over Graham headlining the event, which is intended to “draw thousands of people to hear the Good News of Jesus Christ.” The reason: Graham’s ties with the unpopular President Trump.
Evangelical, Catholic and mainline Protestant leaders were already compiling their concerns when the mayor of Vancouver, Gregor Robertson, approached them in February to discuss the security threat Graham represented. According to the letter released by the clergy, Robertson and the Vancouver Police Department perceived Graham’s appearance as potentially inciting violence.
In their letter, the clergy articulate the thrust of their concern over Graham’s appearance at the Festival this way:
“Our concern is that the contentious and confrontational political and social rhetoric that Mr. Graham has used has the potential to overshadow the message of Jesus and incite hostility in our highly charged social climate.”
And, more pointedly:
“Regrettably, Franklin Graham’s public comments appear to compromise Jesus’s mission of love and justice for all.”
The letter goes on to detail the specific things Graham has said about Muslims, LBGTQ+ persons and the election of President Trump:
“All Muslims should be banned from the United States because Islam is a “very evil and wicked religion” at war with the Christian West;
LGBTQ+ persons should not be allowed to enter churches or even enter as guests into Christian homes, because “the Enemy [Satan] wants to devour our homes”;
The outcome of the recent U.S. presidential election was due to “the hand of God,” giving the impression that the Christian church as an institution is partisanly aligned with an administration and its policies.”
The letter is careful to cite its sources for these documented statements made by Graham, and even includes a link to a website that contains even more of Graham’s controversial rhetoric.
An even greater concern arises in the letter: that of Graham’s perceived intention of aligning the Christian church with the “administration and policies of U.S. President Donald Trump.” The letter calls such “blending of politics and religion” dangerous, and says it develops “a false religious narrative to support an exalted and troubling American nationalism.” To state the obvious, these are no small concerns the letter addresses.
According to The Montreal Gazette, the group has been trying to negotiate with Graham’s team for almost a year. The group decided to release their letter to the public eye after they received a response they felt was inadequate on Graham’s part. In a cover letter attached, the group explains they were encouraged that “he gave us a gracious response and has publicly pledged to avoid controversial topics while in Vancouver and to focus on the ‘simple Gospel.’” However, they went ahead releasing the letter due to the fact that “Mr. Graham has neither retracted nor sufficiently addressed the harmful statements to which we drew his attention.”
The event in question is free to the public and features several big-name Christian musicians, including Hillsong Young & Free, Phil Wickham, For King & Country, Michael W. Smith and The Afters. Representatives of BGEA Canada say they have been praying and preparing for the event for several months. The event site does not say when exactly Graham will be speaking, but he has confirmed he will speak sometime during the March 3-5 schedule.
Graham last held a festival in Canada in 2014, the Greater Toronto Festival of Hope, and has led several other events in Canada, the first of which was in 1989. BGEA will be streaming the event on its site.