Franklin Graham is scheduled to preach the gospel in eight cities across the United Kingdom later this year, but one of those stops is now in jeopardy after the venue canceled the booking over his biblical views on LGBTQ issues.
ACC Liverpool, an arena and conference center, dropped Graham and said in a statement, “Over the past few days we have been made aware of a number of statements which we consider to be incompatible with our values.” He was scheduled to preach in Liverpool on June 12.
“In light of this we can no longer reconcile the balance between freedom of speech and the divisive impact this event is having in our city,” the statement said. “We have informed the organisers of the event that the booking will no longer be fulfilled.”
Graham, though, said in a Monday statement that everyone is welcome.
“The Gospel is inclusive,” Graham wrote. “I'm not coming out of hate, I'm coming out of love.”
A Change.org petition that labeled Graham a “homophobic hate preacher” had gathered more than 350 signatures as of Tuesday morning.
“We fear that with such a high-profile event gaining traction, Graham’s appearance may incite hateful mobilisation and risk the security of our LGBTQ+ community,” the petition said.
Liverpool’s mayor, too, wanted the event canceled.
The Liverpool City Region Pride Foundation wrote to city leaders and said of Graham’s beliefs, “[T]hese types of dangerous views are not welcome in, or representative of, our great city.”
The website for the Franklin Graham tour said the evangelist will “share the hope of Jesus Christ” in eight cities. Churches throughout the country are involved. The Planetshakers and Michael W. Smith are scheduled to sing.
Graham is the son of the late Billy Graham and the president and CEO of Samaritan’s Purse, a humanitarian relief organization that is known for distributing shoeboxes full of toys and other gifts to impoverished children around the world.
Graham, on Monday, posted an open letter to the LGBTQ community in the UK.
“It is said by some that I am coming to the UK to bring hateful speech to your community. This is just not true,” Graham wrote. “I am coming to share the Gospel, which is the Good News that God loves the people of the UK, and that Jesus Christ came to this earth to save us from our sins.
“The rub, I think, comes in whether God defines homosexuality as sin. The answer is yes. But God goes even further than that, to say that we are all sinners – myself included. The Bible says that every human being is guilty of sin and in need of forgiveness and cleansing. The penalty of sin is spiritual death – separation from God for eternity.
“That’s why Jesus Christ came,” Graham added. “He became sin for us. He didn’t come to condemn the world, He came to save the world by giving His life on the Cross as a sacrifice for our sins. And if we’re willing to accept Him by faith and turn away from our sins, He will forgive us and give us new life – eternal life – in Him.”
Everyone, including the LGBTQ community, is welcome to attend his events in the UK, Graham said. Admission is free.
“My message to all people is that they can be forgiven and they can have a right relationship with God. That’s Good News,” Graham wrote. “That is the hope people on every continent around the world are searching for. In the UK as well as in the United States, we have religious freedom and freedom of speech. I’m not coming to the UK to speak against anybody, I’m coming to speak for everybody. The Gospel is inclusive. I'm not coming out of hate, I'm coming out of love.
“I invite everyone in the LGBTQ community to come and hear for yourselves the Gospel messages that I will be bringing from God’s Word, the Bible,” he concluded. “You are absolutely welcome.”
As of Tuesday, Liverpool remained on the tour schedule, with “TBA” listed as the location.
Michael Foust is a freelance writer. Visit his blog, MichaelFoust.com.
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Pool
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.