Despite the heavy opposition to Franklin Graham headlining the Festival of Hope in Vancouver over this past weekend, the Billy Graham Evangelical Association (BGEA) is reporting “overwhelming” numbers of conversions. In fact, Graham took to a Canadian media outlet to say the controversy aided the packed audience he spoke to at the Rogers Arena.
Months prior to the event, which the BGEA reports over 34,000 people attended over the weekend, a group of concerned clergy and the mayor of Vancouver, Gregor Robertson, asked Graham not to be the one to present the gospel message at the gathering due to his political comments. After receiving a less-than-satisfactory answer from Graham, who proceeded to speak at the event on Sunday, March 5, 2017, the group published their letter to Graham and BGEA. Their congregations, which they said represented 60 percent of the Christians in Vancouver, went so far as to boycott the event.
On Friday before the event started, Graham acquiesced to interviews with media outlets in Vancouver, including CBC News. In an interview released Friday, Graham addressed the churches that opposed his presence, saying, “They certainly have the right to oppose, but they never were supporting me to begin with. The 300 churches that invited me, that invitation is still there and they’re still 100 percent behind me being here.”
Graham went on to invite anyone belonging to those churches to come to the event to “see if the concerns that they’ve had are warranted or not.”
In another video published by CBC News, Graham addresses the mayor’s opposition to him coming by saying, “Thank you Mr. Mayor. You’ve helped us with hundreds of thousands of dollars of publicity. I appreciate that.”
The BGEA released an article Monday morning giving some of the highlights of the event, which they summarize as being a big success. The article says an estimated 1,900 people made decisions to follow Christ, and only a small group of protestors gathered outside the arena.