American evangelist Franklin Graham responds to calls for LGBTQ+ apology ahead of Liverpool event

Reverend Graham, who has faced criticism from the LGBTQ+ community in the UK before, is due to speak at an evangelical event in Liverpool next year.

<p>Rev. Franklin Graham speaks during Franklin Graham’s “Decision America” California tour. Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images</p>

Rev. Franklin Graham speaks during Franklin Graham’s “Decision America” California tour. Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Liverpool-bound American evangelist Franklin Graham has responded to remarks from the city’s cabinet member for culture calling on him to apologise for “historical comments and statements made regarding the LGBTQ+ community”.

Harry Doyle, Councillor for Knotty Ash, who describes himself as an LGBTQ+ Christian, released a statement expressing disappointment that a Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) UK Tour, featuring Franklin Graham, will be going ahead next year with a date at the ACC Liverpool.

Cllr Doyle said he considered taking his own life at the age of 15 due to conflicts around his faith and sexuality.

He and Mayor of Liverpool Joanne Anderson are working with the LGBTQ+ community and faith leaders “to arrange an alternative event that will promote peace and love, challenging the historical rhetoric against our community”.

What was Franklin Graham’s response?

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Franklin Graham, who is the son of arguably the world’s most famous Christian evangelist Billy Graham, did not offer an apology.

In a statement to LiverpoolWorld, he said: “Throughout our 71 years of evangelistic outreach ministry, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association has worked with hundreds of venues in cities all over the world, and with thousands of pastors, business and civic leaders who share a deep sense of responsibility for their communities.

“We understand that balancing various community interests, particularly in today’s diverse society, can present complex challenges, and we are grateful to God for this renewed opportunity to share the Good News of Jesus Christ in Liverpool.”

Who is Franklin Graham and what is the God Loves You Tour UK?

Franklin Graham is the son of famous American evangelist Billy Graham who passed away in 2018, aged 99.

Graham Snr was known for holding huge evangelistic rallies and was spiritual adviser to 12 presidents from Harry S. Truman to Barack Obama.

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Franklin Graham has been an outspoken supporter of former US President Donald Trump. His critics, including some church leaders in the UK, have questioned Rev Graham’s views.

Rev. Franklin Graham, son of the late evangelical Christian leader Billy Graham, is a supporter of Donald Trump. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

LGBTQ+ campaigners in Sheffield stated last year that he has “repeatedly promoted homophobic beliefs”.

Liverpool will start off the ‘Gospel-focused outreach’ tour on May 14, with additional dates in South Wales, Sheffield and London later in May and July.

In 2020, ACC Liverpool was one of a number of venues across the UK which tried to stop the eight-city tour and cancel bookings due to Rev Graham’s views.

The Sheffield event is being staged after BGEA took legal action claiming breach of contract when the event was cancelled. Sheffield Council has since said the dispute has been resolved and the event can go ahead.

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What has ACC Liverpool said?

The ACC was the scene of large-scale protests last month following the decision to go ahead with a controversial arms fair in the city and have been in talks with the BGEA.

An ACC Liverpool Group spokesperson said: “Subsequent to confirming a booking with the BGEA to host one date of its planned Graham Tour UK 2020, we were made aware of a number of statements made by the intended keynote speaker for the event - the Reverend Franklin Graham - which we do not support or condone and which various groups and individuals have taken issue with.

“This led us to take the decision to challenge the original event taking place in the format proposed by BGEA. Since that time we have been in conversation with BGEA regarding our respective concerns and how best to reach a resolution, to ensure the rights and interests of all communities, groups and individuals are respected.”

“We have continued to work with BGEA to come to an agreement to host a date of ‘The God Loves You Tour UK’ at Exhibition Centre Liverpool on 14 May 2022.”

The spokesperson added that they had received “satisfactory assurances” from BGEA that Rev Graham’s message at the event would not be “discriminatory, disrespectful or negative towards any particular communities, groups or individuals”.

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LGBTQ+ community response

The Liverpool City Region Pride Foundation released a statement earlier in November calling on the community to “work together creatively to respond and show just how LGBT+ friendly our city region can be” instead of campaigning to cancel the event.