Franklin Graham's UK tour is going ahead 'as originally planned'
Despite numerous venues cancelling Franklin Graham's evangelistic events, his UK tour is going ahead "as originally planned", the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association UK (BGEA UK) has said.
Liverpool ACC, the FlyDSA Arena in Sheffield, Glasgow Hydro, Arena Birmingham, ICC Wales and Milton Keynes Arena have all cancelled his summer tour events following pressure from LGBT+ campaigners. The venue for a finale event scheduled for October 4 has also not yet been determined..
The Utilita Newcastle is the only venue not to have cancelled his event but local Pride campaigners and Newcastle City Council leader Nick Forbes are putting pressure on the venue to pull the plug.
A petition started on Change.org by Northern Pride calling on Utilita to cancel the event has been signed by over 5,000 people.
Northen Pride said Graham - the son of late evangelist Billy Graham - had "publicly promoted homophobia" by claiming that homosexuality is a "sin".
"We are really disappointed to hear that Utilita Arena is planning to give a platform to Franklin Graham, whose statements about the LGBT+ community are offensive and completely unacceptable," Ste Dunn, chair of Northern Pride.
"Franklin Graham's views are wholly inconsistent with our city, which is preparing to welcome huge celebrations and tens of thousands of people this summer for UK Pride.
"We hope that Utilita Arena will show their support for the LGBT+ community by following the example set by other cities and cancelling his event in June."
A spokesperson for Utilita Arena said: "We are aware of the concerns raised regarding the Franklin Graham event scheduled at the Utilita Arena in June.
"We are currently talking with our partners and relevant stakeholders in order to come to a measured and fair conclusion."
Despite the cancellations, BGEA UK is pressing ahead with the tour and its associated local training events.
"We are still finalizing 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," it said in a statement.
"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.
"All Christian Life and Witness courses are proceeding as scheduled."
Graham has asked for prayer as preparations continue to be made for the tour. He has called the backlash "spiritual warfare".
In a letter to the UK's LGBT+ community last week, Graham said: "The rub comes in whether God defines homosexuality as sin. The answer is yes."
He added, however, that "we are all sinners—myself included" as he invited the LGBT+ community to come and hear him preach, insisting that he was not bringing a "hateful" message.
"My message to all people is that they can be forgiven and they can have a right relationship with God. That's Good News. That is the hope people on every continent around the world are searching for," he said.
"In the UK as well as in the United States, we have religious freedom and freedom of speech. I'm not coming to the UK to speak against anybody, I'm coming to speak for everybody. The Gospel is inclusive. I'm not coming out of hate, I'm coming out of love.
"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. You are absolutely welcome."