The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association says a 2020 Franklin Graham tour of the United Kingdom will go on, despite seven of the eight venues canceling agreements due to what critics say are Graham’s “homophobic views.”
Graham, the son of the late Billy Graham, is scheduled to speak in eight United Kingdom cities from May 30 to Oct. 4, but that is in doubt after seven venues canceled the contracts – or refused to sign them – under pressure from LGBT groups and activists.
ACC Liverpool, an arena and conference center in Liverpool, was the first to cancel, as Christian Headlines previously reported in January. Since then, though, six more venues have done the same. The Graham Tour website lists “Location TBA” on every city except Newcastle, where it is scheduled to be held at Utilita Arena. The Planetshakers and Michael W. Smith also are scheduled to sing.
Bryan Kerr, a Church of Scotland minister, launched a petition to pressure the Scottish Event Campus to cancel Graham’s appearance at Glasgow Hydro, an arena. It worked: Scottish Event Campus scrapped the booking.
Glasgow City Council leader Susan Aitken said “it would not be appropriate” for the event to go on, the BBC reported.
Mainstream and LGBT media in the United Kingdom have labeled Graham “anti-gay” and a “hate preacher.” A BBC report noted Graham “has been criticised for claiming that marriage should be between a man and woman, as well as comments made about followers of Islam.”
Kerr supports same-sex marriage.
Graham, though, says he only wants to preach the gospel and to tell others about God’s love. Graham also says the venues are discriminating against historic Christianity.
“It’s wrong for venue managers and local officials to make a decision that disadvantages Christians,” he said in a statement. “It is our hope that venues will allow contracts to remain unchanged.”
A statement on the Graham Tour website directed at volunteers says the tour will go on as scheduled.
“We are still finalising where the Graham Tour will be held, but we want to be clear that the initiative and all associated training courses will take place on the same dates as originally planned,” the statement says. “We are continuing to consider sites for the main event and when we have determined where the meetings will take place, we will post updates.”
Graham has written an open letter to UK citizens.
“The world has changed dramatically since my father, Billy Graham, was last in the UK,” he wrote on Facebook. “Church membership has declined, morality is falling, the institution of marriage is at risk, godless secularism is permeating all levels of society, including, sadly to say, some churches. Though much has changed, the solution to our world’s problems hasn’t changed—it lies in faith in God through His Son, Jesus Christ. That is the timeless hope of the Gospel.”
Graham is “not coming to the UK to speak about politics,” he wrote.
“I’m coming to preach the life, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, who is the only way to salvation,” he said. “Jesus said, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me’ (John 14:6). … I ask the churches of the UK to join with me to evangelize another generation.”
Graham also penned an open letter to the LGBT community.
“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,” he wrote. “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, Graham said. Admission is free.
“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.”
Photo courtesy: BGEA
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.