Despite differing opinions among Canadian Christian leaders about U.S. evangelist Franklin Graham's applicability for speaking at the Festival of Hope in Vancouver March 3-5, 700 Club Canada co-host Laura-Lynn Tyler Thompson claims he still stands for truth that should be heard at the event.
A notable number of Christian leaders are protesting or boycotting the upcoming Festival of Hope rally, due to Graham's recent and controversial, "abusive" public comments about various types of faiths and society groups. In defense, Graham points to Jesus' sometimes harsh words.
Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson earlier this month met with at least 14 Christian leaders, and said he has been in contact with Catholic, evangelical and other mainstream Protestant figures regarding concerns about Graham's March visit to the city after his provocative comments and perceived divisive rhetoric about Muslims, gay people, Democrats and atheists. Read previous coverage from The Gospel Herald: Vancouver Christian Leaders Disagree, Oppose Having Franklin Graham at Festival of Hope
The rally, scheduled to be in Rogers Arena, is expected to attract 25,000-plus people.
Vancouver pastor Giulio Gabeli, told Thompson he is saddened that Graham's "response to concerns regarding statements that were taken out of context or spun in a negative light, was still not sufficient."
"Much falsity has been said about Rev. Franklin Graham and his stand for truth. Do not be ignorant before you speak against him," said Gabeli. "His organization, Samaritan's Purse, governed and run by him, has a hospital which operates on ISIS fighters and their victims who are wounded in battle. Rev. Franklin Graham's organization loves Muslim people as shown by the care extended to the Islamic community just outside of Mosul. Reverend Graham loves gay people, but stands for the Word of God."
Gabeli said that Christians have a choice to either stand up for the Word of God, or let Christianity be high-jacked by those who have a form of godliness, but deny its power.
Graham reportedly sent a letter Feb. 23 to Canadian Christian leaders. In the letter, he stated the following: "What do I [Franklin Graham] believe about Muslims, homosexuality, immigration, and politics? Here is a brief explanation:
- I love Muslim people. The work of Samaritan's Purse, the global humanitarian charity that I lead, is involved in helping the most vulnerable people of all races and religions. I'm sure you agree that Mohammed cannot lead anyone to Heaven-Jesus alone is the way, the truth, and the life. I have witnessed first-hand the oppression that Sharia law brings and its violent application toward women and non-believers. Instead, I believe wholeheartedly in the freedom that the Gospel of Jesus Christ provides.
- The church is a place where all people-gay or straight-are given the opportunity to find redemption and reconciliation with God. Advocacy for the gay lifestyle, however, runs contrary to what Scripture teaches. We will continue to love people enough to tell them the truth about sin, as defined by God, not man, and warn them of its consequences. I want people everywhere to know that we can be forgiven, cleansed, and set free from the power of sin's control by believing on Jesus Christ and trusting Him as our Savior and Lord.
- I am for immigration, not against it. At Samaritan's Purse, we work to help thousands of refugees every day in many different countries. As the church, we are called to reach those who are lost and hurting and introduce them to the Prince of Peace. That mission, though, has been confused with the role of the state, which is to secure its borders and protect its people. In the US, we must take time to vet who is entering the country. Just because we give medical care to ISIS fighters in our field hospital in Mosul, Iraq, does not mean that those fighters should be allowed to immigrate into the United States. The role of the church is to provide loving care, but the role of the government is to provide careful security.
- When it comes to political party affiliation, I am an independent. I have no hope in the Republican party and no hope in the Democratic party. Neither party has shown the ability to deal with the complex needs of our country, and politics certainly cannot take the place of the church. Jesus Christ can change the human heart, and He alone is the answer to the problems of the world.
God is bigger than any opposition we will face, and I am praying that He will use this event to transform many lives as the Gospel of Jesus Christ is proclaimed. Will you join me in asking God to draw many lost people to the Festival and to open their hearts to this message? In addition to praying, I hope you will reconsider and come-and bring as many lost people as you can so that they will have the opportunity to hear the Gospel and receive Jesus Christ by faith. Everyone is welcome, regardless of religion, ethnicity, age, or gender identity.
'I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes" (Romans 1:16, NKJV).'"
Thompson said she personally attended a meeting in the office of Robertson, at which the mayor gave them the opportunity to pray before the meeting and was careful to listen. "Ironically, he said he did not care about the infighting of the Christian community, but rather wanted to ensure that there would be no inciting of violence or hate speech," she shared.
"The only dissent and potential for inciting violence has risen from Christians, namely openly gay Counselor Tim Stevenson and a group of gay pastors and other pastors who have allowed their political ideology to cloud their judgments and have chosen to go public to attack the spreading of the Gospel. It is a sad day for Christianity."