FRANKLIN GRAHAM, the son of the US evangelist Dr Billy Graham, has vowed to continue calling homosexuality “sin”, despite the cancellation of every date in his 2020 UK tour after protests.
Mr Graham, who is the chief executive of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, was due to visit Britain later this year for a series of evangelistic events. All eight venues have now cancelled his booking after pressure from activists angered by Mr Graham’s past remarks (News, 31 January). Mr Graham, however, is hoping to find new venues.
In an interview last week, he insisted that the tour would go ahead, and that he would not moderate his language, despite the vocal opposition.
“I want to warn people of the consequences of sin,” he said. “I want to go from the north to the south, warning people of the consequences of sin and giving them an opportunity to repent and receive Christ by faith.”
The venues — commercial theatres, stadiums, and concert halls — had signed contracts and taken deposits from Mr Graham’s organisation, he said. Although he did not want to take legal action over the cancellations, he said that all the deposits should be returned.
But, although there was a growing body of opposition — Christians among them — who did not want him to preach in the UK, the tour would continue, Mr Graham said. New venues had already been in touch, and announcements would be made in a matter of weeks. “I think that people will come, and, because of the publicity, I think there will be a larger crowd.” His team had never considered abandoning the tour. “Why, just because somebody complains? You don’t stop what you’re doing in life because somebody disagrees.”
Mr Graham has been criticised for his comments on politics in the United States. In the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, he called Islam a “very evil and wicked religion”, and later appeared to flirt with the unfounded conspiracy theory that Barack Obama was, or had been, a Muslim.
He has also described homosexuality as an “abomination”, and suggested that Satan was behind campaigns for same-sex marriage.
Mr Graham is also a vocal supporter of Donald Trump’s presidency, saying that God “showed up” in the 2016 election, and has criticised Evangelicals and others who have raised concerns over the President’s personal life and conduct in office.
Many bishops have added their voices to those opposing Mr Graham’s tour. The Bishop of Sheffield, Dr Pete Wilcox, said that, although he had volunteered with Billy Graham tours in the 1980s, he could not support the event that had been planned in Sheffield (News, 6 December 2019).
“Mr Graham’s rhetoric is repeatedly and unnecessarily inflammatory, and, in my opinion, represents a risk to the social cohesion of our city,” he said. Others, including the Bishops of Liverpool and Oxford, have backed Dr Wilcox’s stand.
Mr Graham said, however: “I don’t speak on political views, unless they are moral issues. Homosexuality is a moral issue, and so I will speak out on that. That’s very important: giving people the truth today, and not compromising on what God says.”
Besides praising President Trump for having achieved more in three years than the previous “four or five presidents combined”, Mr Graham also repeated his condemnation of the gay Episcopalian candidate for president, Pete Buttigieg, whose support has surged in recent weeks.
“He talked about his Christian faith, and that’s where I said, time out,” Mr Graham said. “He was flaunting his homosexual lifestyle, and I just say, no. You should repent. You shouldn’t be flaunting this if you claim to be a Christian, and turn from your sins.”
Mr Graham’s father built relationships with Presidents from both of the main parties in the US, and mostly steered clear of topics such as abortion, gun rights, or LGBT issues. He was once asked about his son’s strong rhetoric on Islam, and replied: “Let’s say: I didn’t say it.”
Franklin Graham says that he has not abandoned his father’s apolitical approach. If his father were alive today, he would be saying exactly the same thing, he reckons..
“I don’t think he would do things too much differently than what I’m doing. There’s a lot of things he would say differently, but that doesn’t mean he disagrees.”