Franklin Graham Crusade Splits Vancouver Christians

Jim Burroway

August 18th, 2016

Franklin GrahamFranklin Graham is set to host a three-day crusade in Vancouver, BC., in March 2017. His incendiary remarks against gays, Muslims and others have prompted a group of five Evangelical and Catholic leaders to denounce Graham’s appearance. In a letter to crusade organizers who had extended an invitation to Vancouver-area Christian leaders to participate, the group outlined their concerns about Graham:

Letter to the Festival of Hope Leadership Committee
June 16, 2016

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

As members and fellow leaders of the Christian community in Vancouver and the Lower Mainland, we feel it important to share our mutual concerns with you, the sponsoring committee of BC for the “Festival of Hope” event scheduled for March 2017. We are compelled to formally respond for endorsement by the Billy Graham Association and must unreservedly oppose the invitation of Reverend Franklin Graham.

Given that the express goal of this event is evangelism, with the commitment of new believers to Christ, we do not believe that Rev. Graham, with his expressed broader belief system, should be the exemplar that impresses itself upon these new believers. Moreover, we seek to share a joyful witness, distinguished by love, and therefore denounce the frequent incendiary and intolerant statement by Rev. Graham, which he unapologetically reiterates.Further, we do not support any words or actions that can needlessly create division among believers. Rev. Graham is a polarizing figure: many evangelical and church leaders in the United States have denounced Graham’s remarks. Finally, his ungracious and bigoted remarks have the potential to generate serious negative impact on the Christian witness in Vancouver. For these reasons we are unable to encourage such an event in its current form.

As a group, and individually, we consistently support and engage in co-operative initiatives (such as More than Gold) that work in the spirit of Jesus’ prayer “that all may be one”, including evangelism. Should you wish, we could suggest alternative speakers to consider. We would welcome any initiatives to create a more diverse, inclusive, vibrant, and affirming Christian message, representative of the Vancouver faith community.

Wishing you peace and grace,

Marjeta Bobnar — Coordinator, Ecumenical and Interfath Relations, Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Vancouver.
Tom Cooper — President, City in Focus
Tim Dickau — Senior Pastor, Calvary Baptist Church
Tim Kuepfer — Senior Pastor, First Baptist Church
Ken Shigematsu — Senior Pastor, Tenth Church

According to the Vancouver Sun:

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 … were criticizing Mr. Franklin for … stances that didn’t promote religious tolerance,” says Paul Schratz of the Catholic archdiocese.

“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.”

These faith leaders represent a rather small slice of Vancouver’s Christian community. Several other large megachurches and major congregations are supporting Graham’s crusade:

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.

…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.

…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.”

Frank DeFrancesco

August 18th, 2016

Finally a positive stance by the Catholic Church.

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