In calling down the wrath of wokery on US evangelist Franklin Graham, Sheffield Cathedral is unfortunately cutting itself off from the Christian mainstream.
The cathedral has decided to hold an "Affirming Prayer Vigil" tonight - the same night that Graham is due to preach at the Sheffield Arena during his God Loves You tour of the UK.
According to a statement by the cathedral, Graham "has made a number of statements over the years that are hurtful and damaging to many, especially to those who identify as LGBTQI+".
The cathedral's self-righteous indignation with Graham has registered with Sheffield's evening paper, The Star, which reported: "The service, on Wednesday, May 25, has been described as a 'counter' to the hate Graham's critics say he peddles and the chance to send a message that 'every person will be cherished and loved exactly as they are'."
The paper reminded its readers that in 2019, Graham, who it called "an outspoken supporter of former US president Donald Trump", tweeted: "As a Christian I believe the Bible which defines homosexuality as sin, something to be repentant of, not something to be flaunted, praised or politicized."
So, Graham's cardinal sin is to have called homosexuality a sin. Yet in condemning the practice of homosexuality, Graham is totally in line with the traditional Christian sexual ethic, which is part of the public teaching of the Roman Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox churches, the majority of Anglican Provinces around the world, and still officially upheld by the Church of England.
The Church of England's Book of Common Prayer describes sex outside of heterosexual marriage as "fornication". One of its Canons (rules), which its clergy are expected to uphold in their own teaching and practice, declares:
"The Church of England affirms, according to our Lord's teaching, that marriage is in its nature a union permanent and lifelong, for better for worse, till death them do part, of one man with one woman, to the exclusion of all others on either side, for the procreation and nurture of children, for the hallowing and right direction of the natural instincts and affections, and for the mutual society, help and comfort which the one ought to have of the other, both in prosperity and adversity" (Canon B30).
The truth is inescapable that Graham is in the Christian mainstream in his convictions on this controversial subject.
I was a parish vicar in Sheffield Diocese for 19 years and attended many events at the cathedral, including the Bishop's Shrove Tuesday lectures, Confirmations, Holy Week services and the swearing in of churchwardens.
In a letter to The Star, I tried to show that Graham's views, far from being "extreme", as the paper called them, are mainstream Christian. I also tried to anticipate the immediate heckle when anyone tries to defend the received biblical teaching of the Church on sexual morality: "That teaching cannot be blamed for the sexual abuse committed by church leaders and for the cover-ups. In fact, if the teaching had been followed, the abuse would not have happened."
It is sad to see the cathedral worshipping at the altar of neo-Marxist identity politics in its decision to jump on the cancel culture bandwagon against Franklin Graham.
Julian Mann is a former Church of England vicar, now an evangelical journalist.