Vancouver Christians hike pressure against visit by Islam-denouncing evangelist
Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson recently met with evangelical, Catholic and mainline Protestant leaders to discuss concerns about the visit of Graham, who regularly denigrates Islam, homosexuals, Democratic party politicians, and atheists.
Provocative statements by Graham have become increasingly worrying to many Metro Vancouver Christians since the evangelist presided at the January inauguration of U.S. President Donald Trump, who criticizes Muslim immigrants, and after a lone gunman was charged last month with murdering six Muslims in Quebec.
“The mayor is concerned about safety. The kind of statements Graham makes about Muslims and gays can really inflame the situation,” said Vancouver City councillor Tim Stevenson, who coordinated the meeting and is also the first openly homosexual person ordained by the United Church of Canada.
Among the 14 Christian leaders attending the gathering with Robertson on Feb. 10 were Vancouver Catholic Archbishop Michael Miller; Regent College academic dean Paul Spilsbury; Richard Topping, president of Vancouver School of Theology; Jonathan Bird, president of the evangelical organization City Gate Leadership Forum, and Peter Elliot, Dean of Christ Church (Anglican) Cathedral.
Others who attended the meeting did not want their names made public at this time. Similar privacy concerns currently surround a petition circulating among clergy that calls on Festival of Hope organizers to find a replacement for Graham at the March 3 to 5 event, which is expected to draw more than 25,000 people.
“Franklin Graham’s recent public comments compromise Jesus’s mission of justice and love for all. For instance, he has said that all Muslims should be banned from the United States because Islam is a ‘very evil and wicked religion’ at war with the Christian West,” says the petition.
“He dehumanizes the LGBTQ+ community, urging that gays not be allowed to enter churches or even come as guests into Christian homes.”
Graham’s crusade runs the danger of dividing the city’s ethnically diverse Christian population of roughly 850,000, since it continues to be actively promoted, including on bus ads, by dozens of prominent evangelical clergy, such as Norm Funk, Wayne Lo, Sandro DiSabatino, Daniel Chung, David Koop, Cheryl Koop, Darin Latham and Yani Lim.
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The Christian dispute is emerging at the same time U.S. news outlets are reporting a rising climate of intimidation, which sees some evangelical leaders who criticize Trump being denounced, ostracized or having their occupations threatened. More than four of five white U.S. evangelicals voted for Trump.
After Trump’s election, Graham said: “I believe that God’s hand intervened Tuesday night to stop the godless, atheistic progressive agenda from taking control of our country.”
A spokesman for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, which oversees Franklin Graham’s mission work in Canada, could not be reached for comment.
The petition that is circulating among the city’s Christian clergy comes on the heels of a letter of protest signed in 2016 by Marjeta Bobnar of the Catholic archdiocese, City in Focus president Tom Cooper, Tenth Church Pastor Ken Shigematsu, Calvary Baptist pastor Tim Dickau and then-First Baptist pastor Tim Kuepfer.
Vancouver pastor Ken Shigematsu stepped down from the Festival of Hope organizing committee this month after his recommendations to replace Graham with alternative evangelists — such as Anne Graham Lotz, Luis Palau or Leighton Ford — went unanswered.
Vancouver pastor Ken Shigematsu stepped down from the Festival of Hope committee this month after his recommendations to replace Graham with alternative evangelists — such as Anne Graham Lotz, Luis Palau or Leighton Ford — went unanswered.
“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,” said the 2016 statement.
The son of 97-year-old retired televangelist Billy Graham has also said homosexuals are “the enemy” and will “spend eternity in hell” if they don’t repent.
In addition, Graham, who heads Samaritan’s Purse charity, has accused former U.S. president Barack Obama of being a secret Muslim sympathizer, and praised Russian President Vladimir Putin for his anti-gay policies.
Immediately after the Sept. 11, 2001, attack on New York City, Graham told CNN that, even though most Muslims are “wonderful,” the U.S. should retaliate against Islamic terrorists by “using the weapons we have, the weapons of mass destruction if need be, and destroy the enemy.”
Pastor Shigematsu, who signed the 2016 letter of protest but stayed on as a formal supporter of Graham’s visit, finally decided to step down from the Festival of Hope organizing committee this month after his recommendations to replace Graham with alternative evangelists — such as Anne Graham Lotz, Luis Palau or Leighton Ford — went unanswered.
Graham’s crusades have started running into more resistance from Christians in other regions of the world.
The all-Hispanic Baptist Churches of Puerto Rico, representing 112 congregations, this month withdrew their support for Graham’s Feb. 11th rally in San Juan, citing opposition to his views about restricting immigrants and refugees.
The Baptist church media also criticized the way Graham regularly receives annual compensation of more than $880,000 for his two jobs. It reported he is the highest-paid CEO of any international relief agency based in the U.S.
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