Church fury as anti-gay cleric invited to talk

Controversial American preacher Franklin Graham speaking at a conference in 2017
Controversial American preacher Franklin Graham speaking at a conference in 2017
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A controversial preacher who has spoken out against gay rights and Islam has been invited to speak in Blackpool.

American reverend Franklin Graham was invited to the resort by a number of churches, including St John’s Church in Blackpool, St Mark’s Church in Layton, and All Hallows Church in Bispham.

The news has sparked an angry backlash and been criticised by members of Liberty Church Blackpool, which welcomes lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

Church pastor Nina Parker said: “It’s horrendous really. I cannot understand what has got into these churches. This is not what we stand for in Blackpool. We don’t need somebody preaching hate.”

Franklin Graham, chief executive of the Billy Graham Evangelical Association, has come under fire for his comments.

On his website he praised Russian leader Vladimir Putin’s crackdown on LGBT rights, and in a 2016 interview claimed Christian leaders who accept homosexuality ‘have allowed sin into our churches’.

He said: “We have immoral people that get into churches and it begins to affect the others in the church and it is dangerous.”

In 2010 he said then-US president Barack Obama’s ‘problem is that he was born a Muslim’.

Nina said: “I believe the majority of Christian people are more open-minded. This man represents a very extreme minority view that is not representative of us.

She said his views were ‘damaging’, and added: “This will especially affect young people who are struggling with their sexuality.”

A spokesman for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association said: “An invitation from local churches has been submitted to the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association to hold an evangelistic event in Blackpool, and the invitation is being considered.”

A spokesman for the Diocese of Blackburn said: “We understand that an invitation has been extended to Franklin Graham from a number of churches of all denominations. It has nothing to do with the Diocese.”

All Hallows Church and St Mark’s Church declined to comment. St John’s Church was unavailable.