Even more Blackpool Christians have announced they will not support the ‘Festival of Hope’ at the Winter Gardens following anti-gay and anti-Muslim comments from one of its speakers.
Seven churches - North Shore Methodist, New Central Methodist, Salem Methodist, South Shore Community, Marton, Waterloo Road and Highfield Road - have withdrawn support for the September event.
The festival will feature prominent Evangelical preacher Franklin Graham, who opposes gay rights and called Islam ‘evil and wicked’.
Reverend Janet Pybon, of the Methodist Circuit, said: “Blackpool Methodist Circuit welcomes initiatives to promote the Gospel and share the good news of Christ with those within our community.
“However, in line with the policies of the Methodist Church, the Circuit cannot support any preaching or teaching which promotes homophobia or is likely to be damaging to interfaith dialogue. Whilst individuals are, of course, free to engage with the Festival of Hope if they so wish, Blackpool Methodist Circuit cannot support the Festival, in the light of various comments made by Franklin Graham in the past.”
Franklin Graham, who is the son of famous American preacher Billy Graham, is the head of Samaritan’s Purse, an evangelical Christian humanitarian aid charity.
Speaking to The Guardian, a spokesman for the Billy Graham Evangelical Association said the upcoming Festival of Hope would be ‘a postive and encouraging event with music, and also a message from Franklin Graham about the hope that can be found through a relationship with Jesus Christ.’
Fellow Blackpool pastor Nina Parker, of Liberty Church, High Street, welcomed the Methodist Circuit’s decision to withdraw their support for the event.
She said: “Franklin Graham claims to exclusively know the truth of the Bible but interprets the Bible in the most barbaric ways.
“His brand of conservative Christianity has historically used the Bible to justify racism, slavery and discrimination against women, and now he is using it to condemn men and women who are gay.”