Critics look forward to Festival of Hope – without Franklin Graham

Franklin Graham is scheduled to be in Vancouver March 3 - 5 for the Festival of Hope.

Franklin Graham is scheduled to be in Vancouver March 3 – 5 for the Festival of Hope. BGEA photo.

The next couple of weeks will be a serious test for the Church of Vancouver. When Franklin Graham comes to Vancouver as part of the Greater Vancouver Festival of Hope March 3 – 5, some will be thrilled, others will be chilled – and many will pray that we can get through the week without suffering any major damage. I’m finding some enthusiasm, but also plenty of angst and even some anger as I speak to fellow believers about the upcoming Festival.

Mayor Gregor Robertson called a meeting with a number of senior Christian leaders and city councillor Tim Stevenson last Friday (February 10) to discuss his concerns about Graham’s intolerant language. Those leaders are expected to release a statement this week – and it will, almost certainly, not welcome his role in the Festival.

The history

It is not hard to understand the value of the Festival of Hope. A group of Metro Vancouver leaders visited the Toronto Festival in the fall of 2014 and came away impressed by unity, quality and multicultural nature of the event. They entered into discussions with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association of Canada (BGEA), which has a high degree of credibility in all circles.

The desire of those leaders was, and is, simply to share the gospel with the many people in Vancouver who do not know Jesus Christ. A promotional video for the event features several of the leaders expressing their hopes:

As a city, we are now at that place where it’s time for a major evangelistic initiative, and we believe that the Festival of Hope fits that bill  Giulio Gabeli, executive leader

It will create an atmosphere that will generate some enthusiasm for evangelism in the city.  Wayne Lo, pastor of Chinese Christian Church of Vancouver

Those with long memories will remember the very successful Billy Graham Crusade here in Vancouver in 1984. Everyone knows of Billy Graham’s stature, both within the church and in the broader culture. The BGEA has continued to flourish internationally under Franklin Graham’s leadership since he took over in 2000, as has Samaritan’s Purse, which undertakes charitable works around the world.

Exploratory meetings led to the determination to go ahead with the Festival, and last spring (March 31), some 350 leaders attended the official launch at Broadway Church. The leadership team gathered on the stage represented a wide swath of the evangelical church[1]; members of the Catholic Church attended and were clearly in support of the Festival.

Since that time, hundreds, maybe thousands, of people from dozens of churches have taken part in a series of Involvement Seminars, Christian Life & Witness training, FM419 student evangelism training and prayer events. It should be noted that many of the Festival-supporting churches have large immigrant populations. 

The reaction

franklingrahamvancouversunA couple of months after the launch (June 16), several local leaders[2] wrote a letter to the Festival leadership committee, opposing the invitation of Franklin Graham. That letter came to light in an August 18 Douglas Todd article (Vancouver Christians collide over televangelist Franklin Graham) in The Vancouver Sun, though it had apparently not originally been intended for public consumption.

They said, in part:

[W]e seek to share a joyful witness, distinguished by love, and therefore denounce the frequent incendiary and intolerant statements made by Rev. Graham . . . [he] 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. . . .

Todd also pointed out that the Roman Catholic Church had withdrawn its initial support for the Festival.

Although the letter and the article give little detail about particulars, Todd stated that Graham is “known for criticizing homosexuals, Muslims and U.S. President Barack Obama.”

Critics argue that he has a number of failings, including making negative comments towards Muslims and other faiths, anachronistic racial views, political bias, alarmist rhetoric about homosexuals, sowing division in the Christian community and drawing an exorbitant salary.

For example, he said on Facebook:

We are under attack by Muslims at home and abroad. We should stop all immigration of Muslims to the U.S. until this threat with Islam has been settled. Every Muslim that comes into this country has the potential to be radicalized – and they do their killing to honor their religion and Muhammad. During World War 2, we didn’t allow Japanese to immigrate to America, nor did we allow Germans. Why are we allowing Muslims now? Do you agree? Let your Congressman know that we’ve got to put a stop to this and close the flood gates.[3]

The current situation

Franklin Graham read a scripture at President Donald Trump's inauguration and prayer, "It’s my prayer that God will bless you, your family, your administration, and may He bless America." Photo from BGEA site.

Franklin Graham read a scripture at President Donald Trump’s inauguration and prayed, “It’s my prayer that God will bless you, your family, your administration and may He bless America.” BGEA photo.

Concerns about Franklin Graham have been deepened by the polarizing election of Donald Trump. He had not declared himself for either Trump or Clinton before the election (though his bias toward the former was pretty clear). More recently, he has said that he saw “the hand of God” in Trump’s election. He prayed during Trump’s inauguration and supports Trump’s ban on refugees.

He stated on his Facebook page:

There have been a lot of protests and discussion about President Donald J. Trump’s executive action on immigration. Some people seem to have forgotten that the priority of the president of the United States is protecting the Constitution and the safety of Americans. . . . Some are also criticizing Christians who support the president’s position on immigration – and I’m one of those being criticized. . . .[4]

refugeesevangelicalletterGraham is quite isolated in his stand on refugees among evangelical leaders. Slate reported January 29 Christian Leaders Nearly Unanimous in Opposing Trump’s Muslim Ban.

Writing for evangelical flagship magazine Christianity Today, Ed Stetzer said:

* Dear Fellow Christians: It’s Time to Speak Up for RefugeesIf we are pro-life, we are pro-refugee (January 26):

. . . If America bans refugees, it makes a statement to the world that we don’t want to make. It is the picture of someone who sits, arms crossed and turned away, with a raised eyebrow and a ready attack on the helpless, the homeless, the broken. We must do better. . . .

And CNN reported on the full-page ad purchased in The Washington Post by 100 prominent evangelical pastors and leaders to denounce Trump’s temporary ban on refugees

Signees include Pastor Timothy Keller of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York, Christian author Ann Voskamp, Bill and Lynne Hybels of Willow Creek Community Church, preacher and author Max Lucado, Pastor Eugene Cho of Quest Church and Leith Anderson, president of the National Association of Evangelicals.

In the eyes of many – and I agree with them – Graham is trying to serve two masters, America and the gospel. His desire to protect American interests has blinded him to some simple gospel truths. Franklin seems not to remember some of the lessons that Billy learned along the way – he famously said that if he had things to do over again, he “would have steered clear of politics.”

Stepping down

kenshigematsufront

Pastor Ken Shigematsu stepped down from the Festival of Hope leadership team earlier this month.

Pastor Ken Shigematsu of Tenth Church was one of the five leaders who wrote the June 16 letter requesting that the Festival leadership team replace Graham (while remaining on the leadership team himself).

He repeated the request in a January 19 email, saying:

[M]any of the secular people we are seeking to reach for Christ in our city will be troubled by Franklin Graham saying prior to the election, “I think Donald Trump will be a great president.” . . .

In light of what has transpired, if you and the team are open to an alternate speaker such as a Canadian evangelist in the BGEA orbit like Leighton Ford or Ravi Zacharias, or an American like Anne Graham Lotz or Luis Palau (whom John Stackhouse recommended) who is based in Cascadia, I would be glad to reach out to them and ask them about their availability.

Regardless of the decision you make, you and this event will remain in my prayers and I’m sure God will use it.

However. . . I personally would advocate a proclamation of the gospel while at the same time minimizing unnecessary barriers to reception of the message.

Not having received a positive response from the leadership team, apparently, Shigematsu wrote February 3:

After prayerful reflection, I have decided to step down from the Festival of Hope committee.

As some of you know, Tenth Church is committed to welcoming and serving people of all backgrounds – including Muslim refugees from the Middle East. Franklin Graham’s advocating a ban on Muslims entering the United States is at odds with our church’s vision and ethos. . . .

Therefore, I am stepping down as a member of the Festival of Hope committee.

You, and this outreach, will remain in my heart and prayers.

Looking ahead

A tremendous amount of good will has been built up across denominational and other boundaries over the past few years, through More Than Gold, Voices Together, the Vancouver Consultation, Alpha and local ministerials (involving many from both the Festival of Hope leadership team and those opposed to Franklin Graham’s participation). But there is still a lot of diversity.

Few of those who want Graham to lead the Festival of Hope are interested in importing all his political/cultural baggage (some may support some of it). On the other hand, those who oppose his participation support the importance of an evangelistic witness (some more than others).

I admire Ken Shigematsu’s approach. He has tried to support the Festival while encouraging a change in the lead speaker. He has also been firm in his ongoing prayer and support for the Festival leadership team:

I continue to pray for Franklin Graham and the Festival of Hope and trust that God will use it for his glory.

I respect the people on the leadership committee and consider many of you personal friends. All of you are colleagues in ministry. . . .

You, and this outreach, will remain in my heart and prayers.

I do hope that the other leaders who oppose Graham will be willing to recognize some of his contributions, even as they oppose his participation in the Festival. He has reached many people for Christ over the years, and Samaritan’s Purse brings aid and relief to people all over the world, including in many Muslim-majority nations.

A recent Province article, for example, was headlined Beauty salon in a war zone: Canadians with Samaritan’s Purse working [to] give Yazidis their future back.

Franklin Graham speaks with dignitaries, including UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq Lise Grande, at the new field hospital outside Mosul. Samaritan's Purse photo.

Franklin Graham speaking with UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq Lise Grande, at Samaritan Purse’s new field hospital outside Mosul January 12. Samaritan’s Purse photo.

And Lise Grande, UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq, thanked Graham and Samaritan’s Purse January 12 for having created an emergency field hospital just outside Mosul at short notice. She said it has been difficult to find organizations willing to provide frontline trauma care:

We’ve reached out to a number of organizations, asking, begging them to step forward. Dr. Graham, Samaritan’s Purse answered that call. We can’t thank you enough.

You built this hospital in record time. Most of all we want to thank you for saving people. Because Samaritan’s Purse is here, thousands – tens of thousands – of people will survive.

One body

The leaders who have met with the mayor have a serious responsibility now. They must follow their conscience as they speak up about Franklin Graham – but they must also endeavour not to injure the hard-won cooperation, even unity, of the local church. (The same applies to the Festival leadership team, of course; it is unfortunate they were not invited to the city hall meeting.)

This is a time for the leadership of the Church of Vancouver to show what it is made of. That won’t be easy. A strong contingent is supporting the Festival of Hope. Others are marshaling in opposition. And many will just be hoping and praying for the best.

It would be wonderful if all parties agreed that the various church leaders will continue to work together in the wake of the Festival of Hope – that disagreements on this one initiative will not derail the tide of cooperation that has been gathering for years now.

[1] The Festival of Hope team at the time of the launch: The executive leader was Giulio Gabeli, pastor of Westwood Community Church in Coquitlam. Co-leaders were Barry Buzza (Northside Foursquare Church, Coquitlam); Kevin Cavanaugh (Cedar Grove Church, Surrey); Yiu Tong Chan (Vancouver Chinese MB Church); Sandro DiSabatino (Glad Tidings Church, Vancouver); Norm Funk (Westside Church, Vancouver); Ed Hird (St. Simon’s Church, North Vancouver); Darin Latham (Broadway Church, Vancouver); Yani Lim (Bethesda Ministry of Love); Wayne Lo (Chinese Christian Church of Vancouver); Aldrin Navo (Jesus Rock of Ages Ministries); Ken Shigematsu (Tenth Church, Vancouver); Sam Owusu (Calvary Worship Centre, Surrey).

Since the launch, John Best (Willingdon Church, Burnaby) and Daniel Cheung (Vancouver Chinese Renewal Fellowship) have joined the team, while Ken Shigematsu has left.

Advisory team leaders are Dave Koop and Cheryl Koop of Coastal Church. Prayer team co-leaders are Bayo Adediran (Grace Chapel, New Westminster) and Dave Carson (Intercessors for Canada). James Hung (Vancouver Chinese Missions Training Centre) will look after counselling and follow-up. The communications team leaders are John Randolph (Praise 106.5); Catherine Robertson (Eaglecom Marketing); and Laura Lynn Tyler Thompson (700 Club of Canada).

[2] The five signatories were Tom Cooper (president, City in Focus); Tim Dickau (senior pastor, Grandview Calvary Baptist Church); Marjeta Bobnar (ecumenical and interfaith relations, Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Vancouver); Tim Kuepfer, (then senior pastor, First Baptist Church); and Ken Shigematsu (senior pastor, Tenth Church).

[3] Post on Franklin Graham’s Facebook page, July 17, 2015.

[4] Post on Franklin Graham’s Facebook page, January 31, 2017.

37 comments for “Critics look forward to Festival of Hope – without Franklin Graham

  1. Nelson
    February 16, 2017 at 6:09 am

    Great journalism Flyn! I certainly feel torn. I do think Graham’s views and approach are sad, despite the good he does do. We live in what van Duzer termed the messy middle. We just can’t get it right this side of Jesus coming again, so best to stick with our pleads for grace! We need it!

  2. Phil Johnston
    February 16, 2017 at 8:40 am

    Hi Flyn, excellent balance on a very complex story. Thank you.

  3. Jim Michals
    February 16, 2017 at 8:58 am

    We live in a post- and anti-Christian world. Our God is sovereign. It is my hope and prayer that we stand true to our convictions and in obedience to our faith.

  4. February 16, 2017 at 8:59 am

    Thanks for addressing this, Flyn.

    First, as a Canadian who supports our Christian community, I’m really tired of the apparent need to bring in American speakers for many of our events, whether teaching or evangelizing. There are many Canadians who could speak just as well. (Women as well as men, BTW.) It’s time we need to open our minds to those who aren’t only published by American CBA publishers.

    Secondly, I think in light of the polarizing factors brought about by this election, it would be a travesty to have Franklin Graham speaking at this event. Not to mention highly embarrassing for many of the people who might attend and then realize he has fully supported Trump.

  5. Dave Diewert
    February 16, 2017 at 9:52 am

    In setting the context for this event, we should not forget the massacre of six Muslim men while praying in the Islamic Community Centre in Quebec City, and the thousands of people who over the course of a few weeks attended rallies across the Lower Mainland decrying Islamophobia, white supremacy and the US ban. His view that Islam is an evil religion and his influential position within sectors of the religious world help to fuel the discrimination and violence that Muslims experience in North America and elsewhere.

    It is also deeply disturbing that Graham’s charity work can co-exist with his politics of exclusion and hate, and that the director of a charitable organization to the poor and an evangelistic organization proclaiming “good news” collects a salary of close to $1 million.

    He is a wolf in sheep’s clothing; he must be firmly opposed and his presence banned.

  6. Jake Tucker
    February 16, 2017 at 10:29 am

    I appreciate this thoughtful article. Thanks for including his incendiary comments, it makes them harder to ignore or minimize. Graham is going to damage the gospel witness here in Vancouver. His outspoken support of Trump, nationalistic idolatry and anti-Muslim (and thereby anti-refugee) positions will damage the church’s reputation here.

    Holding him up as a model Christian leader normalizes his hurtful views, and his absurdly opulent lifestyle (making 800 thousand dollars a year as a CEO of a charity, how is that living simply and humbly like Jesus?).

    These things have concrete consequences: they will reduce church peoples’ political will to welcome refugees and speak out against Islamophobia and LGBTQ hate. Graham should not have been the one chosen to bring the good news of Jesus (which, preached properly, ought to be good news for the poor and oppressed).

    As a pastor of young people, this bums me out. Bringing Graham and his views to Vancouver, and giving them a prominent role will make it harder for young folks to identify as followers of Christ.

  7. Doug Peat
    February 16, 2017 at 10:32 am

    Excellent article.

    I am saddened that this event that should have been a shining light of hope to our city is now marred. The witness of the united church marred by choosing a speaker whose faith and witness is so weakened by his nationalism and opulent lifestyle.

    I pray that despite the presence of this speaker, people will grasp the message of the gospel. I pray that this event does not further weaken the witness of the church in our city.

  8. Scott Neufeld
    February 16, 2017 at 12:55 pm

    Thanks for the balanced article Flyn. It’s certainly a complex issue.

    However, I am deeply troubled, as a Christian, by the kind of witness Franklin’s divisive, and frankly hateful, rhetoric will bring for Christ in the lower mainland. In my view, the good works of Samaritan’s Purse and the generally positive legacy of Billy Graham do not justify or excuse the incredible damage and violence wrought by someone such as Franklin Graham in a position of highly public Christian leadership and authority making such blatant, repeated, exclusionary and hateful comments. \

    This is an abuse of power, and a serious affront to the way of Christ and his kingdom. I hope and pray that pastors and congregations supporting this event will have the courage and inspiration to come to their senses and withdraw their support of Graham’s presence at this event.

    I understand it is likely far too late to prevent him from coming, However, it is not too late for pastors and churches to boycott the festival of hope event, and trust in God’s work amongst their own communities without the outside influence of Franklin Graham.

  9. Joseph Jones
    February 16, 2017 at 2:47 pm

    Gregor Robertson calls a meeting because a disfavored speaker is scheduled to address a supposedly religious event. Meanwhile, Trump-tainted Franklin Graham looks to parachute onto a Vancouver podium. Two instances of watching the ever power-hungry City of Man seek to appropriate the City of God. What a profoundly ironic homology.

  10. Patrick McKitrick
    February 16, 2017 at 3:52 pm

    This is an awkward, difficult, thorny situation. Nevertheless I would be very disappointed if we curtailed Mr. Graham’s freedom of speech. What’s next? Are we going to ban Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s books? (See Infidel; and Heretic.). Or see Robert Fulford’s article in the National Post, Feb. 11, p.A17).

    We can love our neighbours without being naive.

    Let the man speak and let the controversy roll. Christians are not control freaks.

  11. Derek W
    February 16, 2017 at 5:14 pm

    This is good journalism and a service to Vancouver’s Christian community. Thanks for writing this.

    While I do not support an event associated with Franklin Graham because of his recent actions, I believe that we can agree to disagree and still work together on other initiatives. While the event itself presents a challenge, the hard work really be avoiding in the aftermath. It will be easy to break into camps and ignore one another.

  12. David Klassen
    February 16, 2017 at 5:24 pm

    I am deeply concerned that Franklin Graham will be headlining for this prominent event, thus I urge all Christians to oppose his visit. Here are my concerns:

    (1) I am primarily concerned for those who are vulnerable to expressions of hate and believe that we should oppose this courageously. Those particularly vulnerable include refugees as well as others who are being targeted with violence (people who identify as LBGTQ, folks with specific religious affiliations, those from specific racialized group). Trump and those like Franklin who explicitly support him are stirring up a serious movement of hate (http://www.alternet.org/election-2016/united-states-hate-has-exploded-under-trump?akid=15213.35645.yRU63C&rd=1&src=newsletter1072352&t=3) that needs to be courageously denounced and opposed, especially by those of us who are committed to following the prince of peace. We can not support Graham without implicitly supporting this rhetoric of hate.

    (2) I am concerned that by supporting Franklin’s visit, we are asserting that his hate-filled political view is a valid Christian perspective. My fear is that the Church will fail to learn from our history and once again align with the powerful oppressors instead of those who Christ aligns with: the poor, the weak, the sick and the outcasts. What kind of Christianity is Franklin converting people to?

    (3) Franklin is extremely divisive, and continuing to support his visit will undoubtedly result in Church disunity.

    Therefore – for the sake of peace, love and unity – please oppose Franklin Graham’s visit.

  13. Audrey Martin
    February 16, 2017 at 5:36 pm

    I did not know Franklin Graham’s stand til now. I was very surprised and cannot figure out how he could jump on the religious right Republican bandwagon. I would be unhappy if he would state his stance here in Vancouver where the overall culture is against Christianity at the best of times. But the greater issue of course is that Franklin Graham could embrace unloving points of view re: Muslims and other human beings. I don’t blame those who are concerned about bringing him here. I am too.

  14. Ron Dart
    February 16, 2017 at 6:10 pm

    Flyn,
    A poignant and probing primer on a portal that takes us into some worrisome Christian tendencies (albeit, sadly so, not new).

    The fact Missions Fest a few weeks ago refused a Christian Palestinian booth while offering ample room for Christian Zionists should alert the minimally sensitive that faith is askew. The more disturbing fact that Festival of Hope would bring Franklin Graham to Vancouver (he, like other American right of centre evangelists, mixes faith and politics in a way that perpetuates a distorted gospel) does need to be noted.

    What does such an invitation say about a naive and populist notion of Christianity? We should also be attuned to the fact that the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada (EFC) has formed a dialogical alliance with the Centre of Israeli and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) – a decided Jewish Zionist organization.

    The Palestinians become the sacrificial lamb for such a dialogue. Trump and Netanyahu are walking hand in hand these days.

    The NeoConstantinian union we are seeing these days between the USA-Israel, Trump and the Christian right of centre and a thin faith and politics is being embodied in a most disturbing way in Missions Fest, Festival of Hope (hope for who?) and EFC-CIJA. There is a desperate need for a Christian ginger group and 5th Column to question and oppose such tendencies.

  15. Albert Zehr
    February 16, 2017 at 6:19 pm

    Thanks for the informative article. It is surprising how the power and intimidation of the need to be politically correct has brought us to the place that we would not dare to allow a prophet to speak any truth that might offend our socially acceptable sensitivities.

    Furthermore, how could we tolerate anyone who has not jumped on the bandwagon to judge, condemn and malign Donald Trump? I personally know American Godly spiritual leaders who know Donald Trump; shall I believe them or the media who is obsessed on destroying their president?

    Must we make the gospel “seeker friendly” or we might not win some? Are there still leaders who are not ashamed of the gospel, believing that it is the power of God unto salvation? Let’s pray for the Lord’s presence to invade our city with light to expose all darkness, flood us with love and salvation.

    • Karen Chan
      February 21, 2017 at 9:59 pm

      Thank you for your spiritual insight, Pastor Zehr. Our love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment. (Phil 1:9)

  16. Tony and Pat Schmidt
    February 16, 2017 at 7:47 pm

    Although the concerns expressed about Franklin Graham do cause us concern too, we would like to plead with the Christian population to stand together for this opportunity to bring the Gospel to our city. It never is a good idea to withdraw and so accentuate what divides us instead of working together to deepen what unites us.

    Let’s pray Franklin will have wisdom not to touch on subjects that are not helpful in proclaiming the Gospel. We are sure he must be aware of the criticism there is, and we believe his heart is for the “unity, quality and multicultural nature of the event.” May the Lord pour out His mercy and grace on ALL who come to the events, leading them to know Jesus and be recipients of His amazing offer of salvation.

    • Dee
      February 20, 2017 at 5:06 pm

      Well said!

  17. Matthew Yeomans
    February 17, 2017 at 8:34 am

    I appreciate this thoughtful article as well as Dr. Ken’s prayerful wrestling with how to best help the Festival of Hope have an effective witness. The gospel in itself can be offensive to non-believers, but we need to guard ourselves from adding tacking on extra things which may offend those who do not yet believe (and need to hear the pure message).

    Just because there were immigration bans in previous world wars, that does not make them right. Us Canadians still wrestle with a great deal of guilt about things such as the Japanese internments of WW2 in our own history. Franklin’s comments would drive many Canadian to be even more convinced how wrong his approach sounds.

  18. Bill Chu
    February 17, 2017 at 9:50 am

    Thanks Flyn for the timely article and the insights within.

    While inviting Franklin Graham may seem a good idea to some less familiar with history and culture, the church was engaged in the crusades to the Islam world and in developing the Doctrine of Discovery which legitimized the epic colonial expansion by terminating the rights of all people of color. Over five centuries of practicing such worldwide has entrenched in many Anglo-European psyches a distorted sense of entitlement and cultural superiority, and in many Christians a compartmentalized life with a distorted idea of the kingdom of God.

    In BC, the carnage by colonial racism is far more than Residential Schools. However due to the church long silence on the on-going injustice and suffering imposed on Indigenous people, many still refuse to step into any church. While some would argue that the Festival of Hope is for far more than the Indigenous people or minorities, we need to question why should we invite a speaker whose idea of Good News has been bad news for some? For others who believe one’s ability to preach the Gospel should be considered separately from one’s public disrespect for the Muslims, James 3:9-12 would be a useful reminder.

    To be constructive, the real hope for the church is to embody rather than more talk about the invisible righteousness and Good News of His kingdom. There are much that the church needs to humble itself in this “discovered” land of North America, lest we be reliving the time of Jeremiah when false priests and prophets for their own gain would cry “Peace! Peace!” when there is no peace.

  19. Alex Strohschein
    February 17, 2017 at 12:58 pm

    Really appreciate this important and informative article, Flyn. I had read about the leaked letter but hadn’t heard much in the aftermath.

    It’s interesting that Franklin Graham is coming in 2017 – 100 years before, French E. Oliver, a Presbyterian evangelist associated with BIOLA, came to Vancouver for a nine-week evangelistic campaign and he too divided Vancouver’s Christians.

  20. February 17, 2017 at 1:30 pm

    What people – Christian or not – need to hear these days is hope. Real hope. Not only that God loves us exactly as we are, but also the hope from comes from verses such as “They will know you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:35.

    Right now, the church in the US is teetering on the verge of an attempt to take it back to the 1950s when white men had all the power and minorities and women had to be very brave to go against them. A message to unbelievers based on that foundation will go nowhere.

    We all have a choice. The Pharisees and Sadducees did, too. As followers of the living God, we need to choose compassion and love over power and authority.

    Just my humble opinion.

  21. Andrea Marie
    February 17, 2017 at 3:26 pm

    I am increasingly disturbed by the American church’s willingness to dismiss basic Christian tenets, such as love of neighbour, as mere “political correctness.” When my own devout grandparents risked their lives during WW2 to protect Jewish refugees, they were doing much more than being “politically correct.” Likewise, when we speak for the protection of refugees, the dignity of all people, and the importance of helping the poor, we are not being “politically correct” but preaching the Gospel:

    Matthew 25:34-40
    34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ 37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ 40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

    Integrity and justice are not side issues, optional suggestions that are extraneous to the “real” message of personal salvation for a few. The Gospel does not allow us to favour some over others (ie. Israelis over Palestinians, men over women, Republicans over Democrats, the rich over the poor). If we believe we can earn personal salvation at the cost of our neighbours’ lives and dignity, the following verses from Matthew might teach us otherwise:

    Matthew 25:41-45
    41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’ 44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ 45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

    Biblical prophets challenged their leaders and nation to live according to God’s concerns. “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6:8.

    Politically correct or Biblically correct?

  22. Sharon Gill
    February 17, 2017 at 3:48 pm

    Come on Church, Bride of Christ, let’s get our Discernment Caps ON.

    1 John tells us Jesus came to save the lost, take away sin and to destroy the works of the devil. We don’t want to lose the lost, and do the devil’s work. Mark 3:25 says A house divided can’t stand.

    Wonder who the Bible says is behind that? Let’s keep the main thing THE MAIN THING.

  23. February 17, 2017 at 6:02 pm

    Thanks Flyn for getting us all thinking and talking. And thanks Franklin for rattling our cage. All this is so much more interesting than the status quo, eh?

    I can’t help but wonder how much did Jesus’ association with such a diverse group compromise his Gospel message? Might he have been smart to leave Simon the Zealot behind? And what about Judas, the man who wanted a six figure salary? The violent Peter who exercised his inalienable right to bear arms? The fence-sitting Thomas who was not quite sure what he believed? Matthew the tax man in the employ of a foreign government?

    I think Franklin fits right in! We are none of us perfect and if Jesus was OK working with people like that – like us – well OK. Franklin is coming whether we like it or not, and the Gospel he preaches will only be credible to Vancouver at large if we are seen to love each other as one.

    Diversity is what we are all about and I say “Vive la difference!” but also “Vive la unity!” we all share in Jesus.

    • Haig McCarrell
      February 21, 2017 at 5:47 pm

      OK – I think the answer would be to include an equally prominent Christian headline speaker who is supportive of refugees, religious freedom, LGBTQ, etc., to provide a counterpoint in presence.

      Justyn Rees – Diversity is what we are all about, “Vive la difference!” but also “Vive la unity!” we all share in Jesus. Do you agree and will you advocate for this diversity?

  24. February 17, 2017 at 11:22 pm

    Flyn.

    Thanks for the excellent article.

    As you know, there is something out there that constitutes “evangelism without the Gospel.” The founding of the three Abrahamic faiths contains the story in Genesis 18 of Abraham and Sarah welcoming strangers, despite the risk: “entertaining angels unawares.” This fundamental embrace of hospitality is leitmotif throughout the rest of the Judeo-Christian story. Franklin Graham however is known for exclusion, the very inversion of the Gospel.

    (Justyn Rees in another comment today misses entirely the point of stories about the New Testament characters he adduces: they were all called by Jesus to first repent and “follow (imitate)” him! – not carry on as though nothing needed changing.)

    In U.S. Uncut, there is a story of January 18, 2017, by Kenneth Lipp with the heading: “Pope Francis: You cannot reject refugees and call yourself a Christian,” quoted in part below, when Pope Francis addressed an ecumenical gathering in Germany last fall. He captured the essence of the Gospel in its wideness of welcoming mercy to any and all.

    Please read on:

    Pope Francis condemned the hypocrisy from Christians who are merciless to refugees and people of other faiths, addressing a gathering of a pilgrimage of Catholics and Lutherans from Germany, reports Catholic News Service.
    (http://www.catholicherald.co.uk/news/2016/10/13/pope-francis-you-cant-defend-christianity-by-being-against-refugees-and-other-religions/)
    Francis rebuked “the contradiction of those who want to defend Christianity in the West, and, on the other hand, are against refugees and other religions.”

    “This is not something I’ve read in books, but I see in the newspapers and on television every day,” Pope Francis said.

    “The sickness or, you can say the sin, that Jesus condemns most is hypocrisy, which is precisely what is happening when someone claims to be a Christian but does not live according to the teaching of Christ. You cannot be a Christian without living like a Christian,” he said.

    “You cannot be a Christian without practicing the Beatitudes. You cannot be a Christian without doing what Jesus teaches us in Matthew 25,” a reference to what is known as the Parable of the Judgment or the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats.

    “It’s hypocrisy to call yourself a Christian and chase away a refugee or someone seeking help, someone who is hungry or thirsty, toss out someone who is in need of my help,” said Pope Francis.

    All nations must focus on “service to the poorest, the sick (and) those who have abandoned their homelands in search of a better future for themselves and their families.”

    “In putting ourselves at the service of the neediest,” Pope Francis said, “we will experience that we already are united; it is God’s mercy that unites us.”

    Now that’s Good News! Amen.

    • February 18, 2017 at 8:35 am

      The “change needed” for all the characters Justyn Rees mentions is of course “metanoia”: absolutely central to Jesus’ preaching. Justyn, you’re an evangelist. Is metanoia not quintessential to your preaching? Or is metanoia for you just spiritual?

      Remember: “By their fruit ye shall know them.” Franklin Graham’s “fruit” is exclusion, and embrace of a new President who builds walls, exudes exclusion and exalts anti-hospitality.

      • February 18, 2017 at 11:25 am

        In his book, Thy Kingdom Come: How the Religious Right Distorts Faith and Threatens America, Randall Balmer cites Billy Graham’s concern about a marriage between the political right and religious fundamentalism.

        Billy Graham warned, “I don’t want to see religious bigotry in any form. It would disturb me if there was a wedding between the religious fundamentalists and the political right. The hard right has no interest in religion except to manipulate it.” Parade Magazine, 1981.

        Franklin Graham is poster boy for that union. Sadly, the marriage constitutes mutual manipulation.

        The above, except for the last two sentences is found here: https://kimberlystover.com/2017/02/15/if-being-a-christian-means-xyz-then-i-am-not-a-christian/

  25. C.W. Venhuizen
    February 18, 2017 at 10:27 am

    Flyn, I fear that most Christians are asleep at the wheel when dealing with the subject of Islam and immigration of Muslims. Islam, as literally interpreted, is essentially antithetical to our Judeo-Christian heritage and to our Western democratic values.

    This is confirmed by prominent former Muslims, notably Ayaan Hirsi Ali (please find her on YouTube). As well, amidst the rising tide of multiculturalism and inclusive thinking, many Christians have lost sight of the exclusivity of Jesus Messiah as “the Way, the Truth and the Life,” to the point where they are reticent to highlight this polarizing distinctive.

    Finally, in their zeal to project a tolerant and inclusive Christianity by criticizing and excluding a Christian evangelist (ie. Rev. Graham) for his perceived intolerance and political collusion, some Lower Mainland leaders have unwittingly succumbed to their own political machinations, and by doing so are inadvertently spreading angst and discord to a huge local Church effort that is seeking to fulfil the Biblical mandate to lead “people in darkness into God’s wonderful light.”

    Ken Shigematsu should have prayerfully kept his opinions to himself and have remained on the Festival of Hope Committee. I suspect his departure will now make it difficult for other local churches to partner with Tenth Church on future L.M. evangelistic ventures.

  26. N. J. Lindquist
    February 18, 2017 at 2:14 pm

    Just as a point of reference, I was extremely disappointed from the first moment I heard that Franklin Graham was going to be coming for this event. And I have heard of other churches who decided not to participate long before Mr. Shigematsu’s comments.

    • Tony and Pat Schmidt
      February 18, 2017 at 4:53 pm

      If we wait for everything to line up before we cooperate, we will never cooperate! We have a mandate from the Lord to take the Gospel to all people, and at least on that point we can agree. Let’s move ahead on the issues we can agree on! May the Lord have mercy on the people who still so badly need Him in Vancouver, and may they be blessed by the cooperation of God’s children on March 3, 4 and 5.

  27. February 19, 2017 at 6:39 pm

    Further to the matter of Franklin Graham and “Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them – Jesus”, you may wish to look at a reflection on my website here:
    http://waynenorthey.com/wherefore-by-their-fruits-ye-shall-know-them-jesus/

  28. E K
    February 20, 2017 at 8:06 pm

    Franklin Graham is a true follower of Messiah Jesus. Because he speaks the truth of Yahweh’s word, he is called a racist, bigot and hater. That is a true follower of Yahweh’s word because he speaks the truth.

    What does the Koran say, but to kill the infidels. Who are the infidels? Anyone not a Muslim. That’s you who say you are a Christian. That’s not hate speech, that truth Franklin is talking about. This ban is on terrorist countries. President Trump wants to protect Americans.

    Is that truth so hard to see? It has nothing to do with immigration, but protection of people on American soil.

    If that is hate, you go ahead and live in Iran, right next to ISIS and see how you like it. Franklin Graham’s fruit is truth, just like Jesus when he stood against the religious rulers of His day. Look at the underground church in China, Christians in Muslim countries. It is horrible the inhumanity suffered by our brothers and sisters there. You people could care less in your comfortable lifestyles. Franklin Graham speaks the truth in love, will you?

  29. Karen Chan
    February 21, 2017 at 10:07 pm

    I am sad to see that God’s churches in Vancouver is repeating the same mistakes of the Church of Corinth:

    1. We are still spiritual babies, supporting certain leaders and putting down others. There is rivalry among us. Christ is not divided. Christ died to make us one. God’s servants each have their own roles. God’s church must do the right thing to point out what is wrong. By doing that it can be offensive. The message of the gospel can be offensive to those who are perishing, but the gospel is God’s power to those who are being saved. We are all God’s coworkers laboring in God’s field. No one can use human wisdom to predict the growth of God’s field. Only God gave the growth. (1 Corinthians 1:10-18, 3:1-9)

    2. The foundation of the Church is Jesus Christ. He is building His church. The whole building being put together by Him will grow into a holy sanctuary in the Lord to become God’s dwelling in the Holy Spirit. We are God’s sanctuary and that the Spirit of God lives in us, but God has a serious warning to us: “If anyone destroys God’s sanctuary, God will destroy him; for God’s sanctuary is holy, and that is what you are.” We are united to bring people to Christ. Divided, we fall. (Ephesians 2:20-22, I Corinthians 3:10-17)

    3. Like the Church of Corinth, we take our disagreement to the nonbelievers. Satan is very happy for that but the Lord is weeping. Are we not recrucifying the Son of God and holding Him up to contempt. (I Corinthians 6:1-11, Hebrews 6:6)

    Lord, please forgive us. We have sinned against you. We knowingly or unknowingly are dividing Your body which is purchased by Your precious blood.

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