The Franklin Graham-led Festival of Hope in Blackpool, England, saw an estimated 9,000 people attend and more than 200 churches participate, despite opposition from city officials and LGBT activists.
Protesters outside the Winter Gardens – where the Festival was held in September -- pointed to Franklin Graham’s stance against same-sex marriage and his statements calling homosexuality a sin.
The city’s 518-foot-tall Blackpool Tower was lit up in rainbow colors and also displayed a rainbow flag to show the city’s solidarity with LGBT people, according to The Guardian. Some urged the city to stop the festival, but the city council said it had a contractual obligation to the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.
A handful of protesters outside the Winter Gardens handed out pamphlets with quotes from Graham. Accompanying them was a 12-foot-tall mannequin dubbed “Big Jesus,” which is owned by the LGBT-affirming congregation, Liberty Church. The Big Jesus figure wore a rainbow sash and held rainbow-colored balloons.
“Franklin Graham maintains wholehearted support for Trump and has a belief that God put Trump in the White House. To me, in the light of the many Trump policies that have harmed the most vulnerable in society, Graham’s support for Trump questions his credibility as a Christian leader,” Nina Parker of Liberty Church told The Guardian. “Graham speaks in a derogatory and inflammatory way about LGBT people, Muslims and other minorities.
“He seems committed to condemnation, discrimination, walls and prejudice in a way that Jesus never was,” Parker added. “He seems to have a faith understanding that majors on condemnation and prejudice against minorities.”
In addition to the thousands in attendance, more than 50,000 watched the Festival online. Supporters called it a success.
“If you talk to any pastor or church leader, they’re grinning from ear to ear about what happened this weekend. It was a major breakthrough,” said Vicar Steve Haskett of St John’s Blackpool.
Graham said everyone was welcome. His father, Billy Graham, preached at the same location in 1982.
“As word got out that I was coming to Blackpool to preach the Gospel, some were against us coming and tried to stir up opposition and protesters,” Franklin Graham wrote on Facebook. “But what they intended for harm, God used for good. We had thousands attend the events this weekend and hundreds of lives were changed by the power of the Gospel!
“… I want everyone to know that God loves them -- including every protester. He sent His Son Jesus Christ to die for our sins. If we turn to Him in repentance and faith, God will not only forgive us, but give us eternal life and a new beginning.”
Michael Foust is a freelance writer. Visit his blog, MichaelFoust.com.
Photo courtesy: Facebook/Big Jesus
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.