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All are welcome at St Stephens

Dear Friends in Christ,

In 1985, within a few days of being ordained Deacon, I was caught up in part of the Billy Graham Mission in Sheffield.

I wasn’t too pleased! My ordination had been planned for 30th June. All the prayer cards and invitations had been sent out, accommodation booked for family and friends. Then, with just a few weeks’ notice the ordination was put back by a week.

Everything had to be changed. This was no easy task and cost quite a bit too. The Bishop had decided that the two events could not clash. Billy Graham had the date, the ordination was moved. Everything was sorted of course, the Bishop even paid for new cards and other unavoidable losses.

The Billy Graham Mission was a very big affair. Held in Bramall Lane, the home of Sheffield United, it was filled I think twice over. I was impressed.

William Franklin "Billy" Graham Jr. (born November 7, 1918) rose to celebrity status in 1949 reaching a core constituency of middle-class, moderately conservative Protestants.

He held large indoor and outdoor rallies; sermons were broadcast on radio and television, some still being re-broadcast today. In his six decades of television, Graham is principally known for hosting the annual Billy Graham Crusades, which he began in 1947, until he concluded in 2005, at the time of his retirement. He also hosted the popular radio show Hour of Decision from 1950 to 1954.

He repudiated segregation and, in addition to his religious aims, helped shape the world view of fundamentalists and evangelicals, leading them to appreciate the relationship between the Bible and contemporary secular viewpoints.

Graham has preached to live audiences of nearly 215 million people in more than 185 countries and territories through various meetings, including BMS World Mission and Global Mission. He has also reached hundreds of millions more through television, video, film, and webcasts.

Graham was a spiritual adviser to American presidents; he was particularly close to Dwight D. Eisenhower, Lyndon B. Johnson (one of Graham's closest friends) and Richard Nixon.

He insisted on integration for his revivals and crusades and in 1953 and invited Martin Luther King, Jr. to preach jointly at a revival in New York City. Graham bailed King out of jail in the 1960s when King was arrested in demonstrations.

Graham operates a variety of media and publishing outlets. According to his staff, more than 3.2 million people have responded to the invitation at Billy Graham Crusades to "accept Jesus Christ as their personal savior". As of 2008, Graham's estimated lifetime audience, including radio and television broadcasts, topped 2.2 billion. Because of his crusades, Graham has preached the gospel to more people in person than anyone in the history of Christianity.

Graham has repeatedly been on Gallup's list of most admired men and women. He has appeared on the list 60 times since 1955, more than any other individual in the world. Grant Wacker reports that by the mid-1960s, he had become the "Great Legitimator"

As mentioned above, though caught up in early controversy, some saying his Gospel message was tinged by worldly prejudice, especially in Civil Rights. He admitted he had made mistakes and was falling foul of the Gospel. During a 1953 rally in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Graham tore down the ropes that organizers had erected to separate the audience into racial sections. He recounted in his memoirs that he told two ushers to leave the barriers down "or you can go on and have the revival without me."

He warned a white audience, "we have been proud and thought we were better than any other race, any other people. Ladies and gentlemen, we are going to stumble into hell because of our pride." Graham's faith prompted his maturing view of race and segregation; he told a member of the Ku Klux Klan that integration was necessary primarily for religious reasons: "There is no scriptural basis for segregation," Graham argued, "The ground at the foot of the cross is level, and it touches my heart when I see whites standing shoulder to shoulder with blacks at the cross."

In 1957, Graham's stance towards integration became even more publicly shown when he allowed African-American ministers Thomas Kilgore and Gardner Taylor to serve as members of his New York Crusade's executive committee and invited the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., whom he first met during the Montgomery bus boycott in 1955, to join him in the pulpit at his 16-week revival in New York City, where 2.3 million gathered at Madison Square Garden, Yankee Stadium, and Times Square to hear them.

Billy Graham with Martin Luther King

Graham recalled in his autobiography that during this time, he and King developed a close friendship and that he was eventually one of the few people who referred to King as "Mike," a nickname which King asked only his closest friends to call him. Following King's assassination in 1968, Graham mourned that America had lost "a social leader and a prophet"

Billy Graham, then, was a man of his time. But through his Christian conviction he come to see the wrongness of his original stance on segregation. He learned through his faith, and publicly acknowledged this. That surely is a sign of true greatness.

I don’t mind now that he ‘bumped’ my ordination!

I was pleased then, when a number of parishes in our Deanery of Blackpool announced that they planned to contact the Billy Graham Mission, (still running, without Billy of course, by his son, Franklin) with a view to a Mission in 2018.

I had a vision of a venue in our town filled and moved just like in Sheffield all those years ago. I pledged my support. Then I began to discover more about Franklin Graham and the ways in which he has run his Missions, and some of his viewpoints.

He is a committed supporter of Trump – but hey his father supported Nixon. Who am I to judge?

But then, prompted by a number of people, I have delved a little deeper. I have not liked what I have found. Franklin is not his father.

Franklin Graham is a homophobe of the deepest and worst kind. His arguments are based on prejudice and ignorance.

Let me give you few examples. (All the below is corroborated from legitimate sources and from Franklin’s own web pages)

Franklin Graham. The son of preacher Billy Graham wrote that Russian President Vladimir Putin “is right” in the actions he has taken against gay men and lesbians in his country. Quote

“Isn’t it sad, though, that America’s own morality has fallen so far that on this issue — protecting children from any homosexual agenda or propaganda — Russia’s standard is higher than our own?

In my opinion, Putin is right on these issues. Obviously, he may be wrong about many things, but he has taken a stand to protect his nation’s children from the damaging effects of any gay and lesbian agenda.

Our president and his attorney general have turned their backs on God and His standards, and many in the Congress are following the administration’s lead. This is shameful.”

No, what Graham wrote was shameful. And he compounded that shame on “This Week With George Stephanopoulos.” Before asking Graham whether he still believed what he wrote, guest anchor Martha Raddatz played a clip of another sit-down with Graham where he said,

“Yes, they can recruit” when the interviewer noted that gays and lesbians can adopt children.

(Washington Post, Jonathan Capehart April 21, 2014)

In another programme in 2016, Graham called for Christians to keep their kids away from gay people and to take over school boards across the nation in order to remove gay-friendly programs.

“We have allowed the Enemy to come into our churches,” Graham said. “I was talking to some Christians and they were talking about how they invited these gay children to come into their home and to come into the church and that they were wanting to influence them. And I thought to myself, they’re not going to influence those kids; those kids are going to influence those parent’s children.”

“What happens is we think we can fight by smiling and being real nice and loving,” he continued. “We have to understand who the Enemy is and what he wants to do. He wants to devour our homes. He wants to devour this nation and we have to be so careful who we let our kids hang out with. We have to be so careful who we let into the churches. You have immoral people who get into the churches and it begins to effect the others in the church and it is dangerous.”

Graham then went on to lament that

“homosexuality is taught to be okay” in schools and “that is why I want to get the school boards back”

before insisting that he loves gays and therefore feels obligated to tell them that

“you cannot stay gay and call yourself a Christian.”

That eventually prompted his colleague Dobson to rail against the entire LGBT agenda by once again absurdly misunderstanding bisexuality.

“You know what the ‘B’ stand for?” Dobson asked. “Bisexual. That’s orgies! That is lots of sex with lots of people!”

(Kyle Mantyla | American Right Wing Watch, January 19, 2016)

Franklin Graham has urged Christians to boycott Disney's new Beauty and the Beast remake because of a gay storyline that features in it.

The remake of the classic is the first Disney feature film to have an openly gay character. It features Lefou having feelings for Gaston

The evangelist and president of aid charity Samaritan's Purse, who is son of the renowned evangelist Billy Graham, lamented that Walt Disney would be shocked at the decision the company he founded has made. . (Quoted AS POSITIVE in Premier Christian Radio, Fri 03 Mar 2017 article by Aaron James)

Well, that just makes the jaw drop in its ignorance and crassness. It is purely and simply utter poisonous prejudice. This goes against everything we believe and what has been backed up by the Archbishops and Church of England in general.

For example:

In a press statement of 15 January 2016, quoted in The Guardian, Welby said:

“It’s a constant source of deep sadness that people are persecuted for their sexuality. I want to take this opportunity personally to say how sorry I am for the hurt and pain, in the past and present, that the church has caused and the love that we at times completely failed to show, and still do, in many parts of the world including in this country.”

General Synod January 2017

“(The report) affirms the place of lesbian and gay people within the Church. Even in 1991 Issues in Human Sexuality said that those in same sex partnerships should be included within the life and fellowship of the Church. We reaffirm that gladly and decisively, recognising that for Christians our identity in Christ is primary, and of greater significance than gender, sexuality, age, nationality or any other characteristic.


“This means - as the report suggests - establishing across the Church of England a fresh tone and culture of welcome and support for lesbian and gay people, for those who experience same sex attraction, and for their families, and continuing to work toward mutual love and understanding on these issues across the Church. And so we speak in the report about re-examining the existing framework of our pastoral practice to permit maximum freedom within it. We recognise two areas in particular where advice in relation to the pastoral care and support of lesbian and gay people needs fresh thought.”

How can such a mission be seen in our town except as undermining the C of E’s position and putting forward a picture of the Church being prejudiced against LGBTI people?

Franklin Graham is most certainly not his father! Given this information, to support such a mission at all, let alone in a community like ours, is an affront to say the least. How is this proclaiming the Gospel? How is this likely to draw people to Jesus? How can using ignorance and lies be supportive of the God of Truth?

Given all of this information, which I didn’t have before, I have made the following decisions

  • I personally will not support the Franklin Graham Mission in any way

  • I will resign from any part of our Deanery organisation which promotes the Mission

  • Our Parish will not support the Franklin Graham Mission in any way

  • We shall not publicise it in any way

  • We shall do all we can to make it clear that everyone, regardless of sexual orientation is welcome to meet Jesus Christ at St Stephen’s, and be part of our fellowship

  • We shall remind ourselves, that all of us need the grace and forgiveness of Jesus

Of course, it goes without saying that individual members of our congregation are free to do as they wish. I make it clear that this is my decision as Vicar.

I am happy to be supported or disagreed with. But I have made the decision. There will be a backlash from some quarters. None of you need be a part of that unless you wish to be.

With my love in Christ,

Fr Andrew

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