Canadian Baptists joined other Christian leaders in an open letter criticizing evangelist Franklin Graham’s upcoming visit to Vancouver, British Columbia, released Feb. 24.
Clergy from churches representing more than 60 percent of the Christians in the metro area said they “fear contentious and confrontational political and social rhetoric” used by Graham to criticize Muslims and LGBT persons and defend Donald Trump “has the potential to overshadow the message of Jesus and incite hostility in our highly charged social climate.”
The letter comes in the aftermath of a mass shooting at a mosque in Quebec that killed six and wounded 19 on Jan. 29, two days after President Trump’s executive order barring travelers from seven Muslim majority countries from entering the United States.
“Regrettably, Franklin Graham’s public comments appear to compromise Jesus’s mission of love and justice for all,” the letter said. “He 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.”
Church leaders said examples “incendiary speech” by Graham compiled in a separate document “do not convey the spirit of Christ that we would hope to see preached by an ambassador of the Gospel to Canada.”
Among other things, Graham is quoted as saying all Muslims should be banned from the U.S., Islam is a “very evil and wicked religion” and the outcome of the recent presidential election was due to the “hand of God,” the letter said, “giving the impression that the Christian church as an institution is partisanly aligned with an administration and its policies.”
Signers of the letter included Laura Nelson, president of the board of Canadian Baptists of Western Canada and pastor of Olivet Baptist Church, and Jeremy Bell, executive minister of the organization of 183 Baptist churches in four western provinces, the Yukon and the Northwest Territories.
The Canadian Baptists of Western Canada is affiliated with the Baptist World Alliance and North American Baptist Fellowship. Two of the letter signers identify as CBWC pastors. One of them, Pastor Tim Dickau of Grandview Calvary Baptist Church, signed a previous open letter last summer criticizing Graham as “a polarizing figure” whose “ungracious and bigoted remarks have the potential to generate serious negative impact on the Christian witness in Vancouver.”
The religious leaders said they worked behind the scenes for nine months hoping to persuade the planning committee for the March 3-5 Festival of Hope to find a more suitable speaker. They intended to release their letter Feb. 21 but agreed to postpone it to give Graham time to reply in writing.
They said Graham responded Feb. 23, promising to avoid controversial statements while in Vancouver but not retracting harmful comments made in the past. They encouraged Graham to also release his reply to the public.
The faith leaders said they bear no ill will toward the Festival of Hope committee but “simply believe it is a mistake to think Franklin Graham’s political stances are immaterial to his presenting the gospel.”
Earlier this month leaders in the Baptist Churches of Puerto Rico withdrew their support for Graham’s Feb. 10-12 Festival of Hope evangelistic rally in San Juan, terming Graham’s endorsement of Trump’s immigration policies “contrary to the values of the Kingdom.”
Graham shows no sign of toning down his political views. On Feb. 27 he commented on Facebook about a news story on George W. Bush’s daughter Barbara planning to speak at a fundraiser for Planned Parenthood.
“Planned Parenthood is the #1 abortion provider in the United States,” Graham said. “Raising funds for this organization is like raising money to fund a Nazi death camp — like Auschwitz, except for innocent babies in their mother’s wombs! Reports say they perform over 300,000 abortions per year. And this is the organization whose employees were caught on video trying to sell baby body parts over wine. Disgusting.”