Bishop urged to oppose controversial UK Franklin Graham rally

The Bishop of Blackburn is being urged to speak against an evangelism event in Blackpool featuring the controversial figure Franklin Graham.

Franklin, the son of famous evangelist Billy Graham, is an outspoken supporter of Donald Trump and vociferously opposes gay marriage and Islam.

He is due to speak at the town's Winter Gardens venue, which has hosted the likes of the Beatles as well as many political party conferences after being invited by a number of local churches including St John's Church in Blackpool, St Mark's Church in Layton, and All Hallows Church in Bispham for the rally next September.

It is not the first time a Franklin Graham visit has attracted controversy. Earlier this year before a rally in Vancouver the city's mayor Gregor Robertson joined Catholic, evangelical and other mainstream Protestant figures to voice concerns about Graham's provocative comments about Muslims, gay people, Democrats and atheists.Facebook

But the local bishop, Julian Henderson, himself a conservative evangelical, is being asked to oppose the event by other Anglican churches in the area.

'We are so nervous about this proposed visit and the damage it will do,' Fr Andrew Sage of St Stephen on the Cliffs and Rev Tracey Charnock of Holy Trinity South Shore wrote in an open letter. 'Our local Imam is already afraid to put his personal address and phone number on their website. We just wish that we could somehow make it clear that our opposition to Franklin Graham's visit next year is not just a "spat" between two different Christian groupings. We want to express our opposition as Christians, as citizens of the UK and more especially the North West and Blackpool.'

The letter highlights the row last week between US President Donald Trump and Theresa May after Trump retweeted videos from the far-right group Britain First. Pointing out Graham's endorsement of Trump, particularly his hardline approach to Islam, it quotes Graham as saying: 'Islam has declared war on the world, and it's high time we acknowledge it and respond decisively.'

In a 2015 Facebook post Graham added: 'We need to elect a president and leaders willing to take the fight to the Islamic State.'

Bishop Henderson has declined to comment on the matter but the open letter, posted on St Stephen on the Cliffs' website, said silence 'can only be seen as support'.

It said: 'We call upon you together or severally to at least distance yourselves from Franklin Graham and his views, and to make it clear that the invitation to Franklin Graham to come to Blackpool is "Not in your name". How else shall we be able to look our Muslim brothers and sisters in the eye?'