Metro Christian leaders reject Franklin Graham?s crusade

Saturday, February 25th, 2017

U.S. evangelist?s ?confrontational? stance may incite hostility, clerics say in letter

The Vancouver Sun

A leadership group representing more than half of Metro Vancouver’s one million Christians issued a public letter on Friday expressing deep concerns about the rally to be held here by American evangelist Franklin Graham.

“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,” said the letter, signed by more than 30 prominent evangelicals, Catholics and mainline Protestants.

Graham — who presided at the inauguration of U.S. President Donald Trump and attributed the billionaire’s surprise election to “the hand of God” — has frequently denounced Muslims, homosexuals, former president Barack Obama, gun-control advocates and atheists.

“(Graham) has made disparaging and uncharitable remarks about Muslims and the LGBTQ+ community, while portraying the election, administration and policies of U.S. President Donald Trump as intrinsically aligned with the Christian church,” said the clergy’s unprecedented joint statement, which came after almost a year of failed negotiations with Graham’s team.

“Such blending of politics and religion is dangerous.”

The letter, which is available in full online, was signed by Vancouver Catholic Archbishop Michael Miller, Vancouver-area Anglican Bishop Melissa Skelton; Jeremy Bell of the Canadian Baptists of Western Canada; Garry Janzen of the Mennonite Church B.C.; Cari Copeman-Haynes of the B.C. Conference of the United Church; David Chow of Killarney Park Mennonite Brethren Church; Gordie Lagore of Vancouver East Vineyard Church, Daniel Louie of Urban Village Church and many others.

Despite Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson and some of the city’s Christian leaders meeting separately this week with top representatives of Graham’s organization, Graham issued a public statement saying he plans to go ahead and speak about “God’s love for each and every one of us” at his March 3 to 5 event at Rogers Arena.

Graham’s crusade runs the danger of dividing Metro’s ethnically diverse Christian population, since his event continues to be actively promoted, including on bus ads and by scores of prominent evangelical clergy, such as Norm Funk, Wayne Lo, Sandro DiSabatino, Daniel Chung, David Koop, Cheryl Koop, Darin Latham and Yani Lim.

More than 25,000 people are expected to attend the crusade, called The Festival of Hope.

The Christian leaders who signed the letter of concern had planned to release it on Tuesday, but agreed to hold it until Friday to give Graham time to reply.

Even though Graham responded, the opposition clergy’s public statement says Graham “neither retracted nor sufficiently addressed the harmful statements to which we drew his attention. … Therefore, we are releasing our letter.”

The signatories of the clergy’s letter of concern took special exception to statements made by Graham, who is the son of legendary 97-year-old evangelist Billy Graham, that condemn Muslims and homosexuals and praise Trump.

Their public letter cited how Graham has said:

“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.”

Their statement says it’s dangerous to “align the power of the church with the power of the state.”

It criticized Graham for appearing to support an “exalted and troubling American nationalism,” “dividing Christians who do not view things the same way,” and supporting a Trump administration that puts “the most vulnerable in our world at risk of greater harm.”

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