About three dozen prominent B.C. Christian leaders have signed on to an open letter asking controversial American pastor Franklin Graham not to speak at the upcoming Festival of Hope.
Graham is the son of famed TV Evangelist Billy Graham, and spoke at U.S. President Donald Trump’s inauguration,
He’s also known for making aggressive and offensive statements against Muslims and the LGBTQ community, and has sought to explicitly link Trump’s victory to God’s will.
That has many in B.C.’s faith community concerned his visit will overshadow what they say are the positive messages of Christianity.
“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,” states the letter.
Signatory Jonathan Bird, Executive Director of the CityGate Leadership Forum says the group reached out to both the event organizers and Graham’s camp in the hope another evenglical speaker could be substituted in.
When it became clear that wouldn’t happen, he says they felt the need to go public.
“Franklin has been very public with these positions, we feel that they do not reflect Jesus’ spirit or his message, they don’t reflect us, and we’re calling him on the carpet for it.”
Bird says the faith leaders who signed on, including Vancouver’s Catholic Archbishop and New Westminster’s Anglican Bishop, aren’t looking to create division in the Christian community.
He says they refer to both Graham and the festival organizers as brothers and sisters, but he says they feel the need to voice their respectful disagreement.
“It’s a sign of health when we can disagree in a good way which we’re trying to do in this letter,” he says.
“I don’t think anyone wants to be known for what they’re against. And certainly in this scenario, when we’re speaking as pastors about what an event that is trying to declare the good news, that we’d like to be known for what we’re for.”
The Festival of Hope runs March 3-5 at Rogers Arena.
The Vancouver Police Department has said it’s preparing for possible protests at the event.
See the full list of signatories
The Most Reverend J. Michael Miller, CSB, Archbishop of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Vancouver
The Rev. Cari Copeman-Haynes, President-Elect, BC Conference of the United Church of Canada
The Rev. Garry Janzen, Executive Minister, Mennonite Church British Columbia
The Rev. Dr. Laura Nelson, President of the Board of Canadian Baptists of Western Canada and Pastor of Olivet Baptist Church
The Right Reverend 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 Reverend 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 BC
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 Reverend 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, Dept. 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