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 negotations 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, Councillor Tim Stevenson and some of the city’s Christian leaders meeting separately this week with top representatives of Graham’s organization, Graham issued a statement Monday saying he plans to go ahead with his March 3 to 5 event at Rogers Arena.
“There has been some recent discussion and debate about the Greater Vancouver Festival of Hope and my message,” Graham acknowledged, adding 327 churches are supporting the festival.
“I’m greatly looking forward to being in Vancouver to share that Jesus Christ is the way, the truth and the life… My message will be the … timeless message of God’s hope, love and redemption for all people regardless of ethnicity, age or gender identity – Christ died for all,” he said.
“Politics, policies, economics and commerce are significant matters, but for these three days we will come together in Vancouver to focus on the most important thing of all: God’s love for each and every one of us.”
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.
Vancouver Catholic Archbishop Michael Miller is among the more than 30 top B.C. Christian leaders who expressed concern Franklin Graham is “giving the impression that the Christian church … is partisanly aligned” with the Trump or any other political administration.
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.”
Here is the complete list of signatories to the public letter:
- The Most Rev. J. Michael Miller, CSB, archbishop of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Vancouver
- The Rev. Cari Copeman-Haynes, president-elect, B.C. Conference of the United Church of Canada
- The Rev. Garry Janzen, executive minister, Mennonite Church B.C.
- The Rev. Dr. Laura Nelson, president of the Board of Canadian Baptists of Western Canada and Pastor of Olivet Baptist Church
- The Rt. Rev. Melissa Skelton, Bishop of the Diocese of New Westminster
- Pastor Randy Barnetson, Vancouver Foursquare Church
- The Rev. Dr. Jeremy Bell, Executive Minister, Canadian Baptists of Western Canada
- The Rev. Geoff Chapman, University Chapel
- The Rev. David Chow, Killarney Park Mennonite Brethren Church
- The Rev. Albert YS Chu, The Tapestry
- The Rev. Lydia Cruttwell, First United Mennonite Church
- The Rev. Geoffrey DeJager, Vancouver First Church of the Nazarene
- The Rev. Dr. Darrell Johnson, pastor and professor
- The Rev. Dr. Tim Dickau, Grandview Calvary Baptist Church
- The Very Rev. Peter G. Elliott, rector of Christ Church Cathedral and dean, Diocese of New Westminster
- The Rev. Mike Hsu and The Rev. Mark Swanson, Grace Vancouver Church
- The Rev. Heather Joy James, Cambie Village Church
- The Rev. Matt Kitchener, pastor, Canadian Baptists of Western Canada
- Silas Krabbe, community theologian and coordinator, Mosaic Church
- The Rev. Tim Kuepfer, Mennonite Church of B.C.
- The Rev. Gordie Lagore, Vancouver East Vineyard Church
- The Rev. Daniel Louie, Urban Village Church
- The Rev. Janina Mobach and The Rev. Mary-Lee Bouma, Downtown Friends Christian Reformed Church
- The Rev. Dr. Ted Ng and Diana Gee, Pastors, Faith Community Christian Church
- The Rev. Jesse Pals, The Tapestry Marpole
- The Very Rev. Dr. Gary Paterson, St Andrew’s Wesley United Church
- Dr. Cam Roxburgh, pastor of Southside Community Church
- The Rev. Dr. Ken Shigematsu, Tenth Church
- The Rev. Trevor Vanderveen, First Christian Reformed Church of Vancouver
- Jonathan Bird, executive director, CityGate Leadership Forum
- The Rev. Dr. Tom Cooper, president, City In Focus
- Prof. Ron Dart, department of political science/philosophy/religious studies, University of the Fraser Valley
- Dena Nicolai, chaplain and refugee support mobilizer, Christian Reformed Churches of Metro Vancouver and the Lower Mainland
- The Rev. Dr. Richard R. Topping, principal, Vancouver School of Theology
Article published here with permission from Douglas Todd, The Vancouver Sun
Top Vancouver Christian leaders reject Franklin Graham’s crusade
Published on: February 25, 2017 | Last Updated: February 26, 2017 4:58 PM PST