Two Canadian Baptist pastors have announced publicly they won’t be taking part in a citywide crusade next March in Vancouver, British Columbia, featuring U.S. evangelist Franklin Graham.
Tim Kuepfer, pastor of First Baptist Church of Vancouver, and Tim Dickau, pastor of Grandview Calvary Baptist Church, joined three other local religious leaders in publicly declining a request by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association that they endorse the Festival of Hope gathering scheduled March 3-5, 2017, at the 18,000-seat Rogers Arena.
The pastors said they “unreservedly oppose” the invitation to Franklin Graham, citing public comments by the evangelist they say are a poor witness for the gospel message.
“Given that the express goal of this event is evangelism, with the commitment of new believers to Christ, we do not believe that Rev. Graham, with his expressed broader belief system, should be the exemplar that impresses itself upon these new believers.”
Seeking “a joyful witness, distinguished by love,” the clergy denounced “the frequent incendiary and intolerant statements made by Rev. Graham, which he unapologetically reiterates.”
The pastors distanced themselves from “any words or actions that can needlessly create divisions among believers.”
“Rev. Graham is a polarizing figure,” they said. “Many evangelical and church leaders in the United States have denounced Graham’s remarks.”
His “ungracious and bigoted remarks have the potential to generate serious negative impact on the Christian witness in Vancouver,” they continued. “For this reason, we are unable to encourage such an event in its current form.”
The letter, dated June 16, gained broader attention Aug. 18 in a Vancouver Sun story headlined “Vancouver Christians collide over televangelist Franklin Graham.” The article cited past comments by the son of 97-year-old retired televangelist Billy Graham describing homosexuals as “the enemy,” calling Islam a “very wicked religion” and arguing that Muslims should not be allowed into the U.S.
First Baptist Church and Calvary Baptist are part of the Canadian Baptists of Western Canada, a 183-church fellowship of congregations in four western provinces, the Yukon and the Northwest Territories affiliated with the North American Baptist Fellowship and the Baptist World Alliance.
While “not a denomination that emphasizes creeds or rituals,” the convention describes its theology as representing “balanced Christian values in an evangelical tradition.”
“We reach out to our neighbors to share the good news of Christ through ministries that share God’s love in our communities, both locally and internationally,” says a “who we are” page on the CBWC website. “Everywhere, in word and deed, Christ is proclaimed.”
Joining the Baptist pastors in objecting to the event were Marjeta Bobnar, coordinator of ecumenical and interfaith religions at the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Vancouver; Tom Cooper, president of the local charity City in Focus; and Ken Shigematsu, senior pastor of Tenth Church, a congregation affiliated with the Christian and Missionary Alliance.