Vancouver pastor: How the church can model civil discourse amid controversy.
When Franklin Graham came to my hometown of Vancouver last month, it caused a great deal of controversy—and I found myself caught in the middle of it.
I treasure and place great personal importance on my relationship with the extended Graham family. Leighton Ford, Franklin’s uncle, has been my longtime mentor. I also served on a seminary board for seven years with Franklin’s sister Anne Graham Lotz and their father Billy Graham.
Given Franklin’s controversial public comments about gay people and Muslim immigrants, however, I joined the local Christian leaders who were concerned that Franklin would not be the best person to preach the gospel in our liberal-leaning city. We worried that the controversy surrounding his well-publicized Festival of Hope might steal the spotlight from the gospel.
Canada isn’t the only country where Franklin Graham has been given a mixed reception.
I regularly preach in Japan, the country where I was born. While on a speaking tour there a year and half ago, and again this March, a Japanese pastor confided in me that controversy has also surrounded the global evangelist’s presence there. Graham preached in the country back in 2015.
He noted that Franklin Graham has advocated the use of nuclear weapons against America’s adversaries after 9/11, seemingly countering Sermon on the Mount’s message of “love your enemies.” In light of this position in particular, Christian leaders in Okinawa were divided over whether to receive him. Hiroshima and Tokyo cancelled their plans to host Franklin as an evangelist because of his partisan political statements. My conversation with Japanese Christian leaders affirmed the importance of engaging this issue.