Bishop of Sheffield brands controversial preacher's tour a 'risk to the social cohesion of our city'

The bishop of Sheffield has spoken out against a controversial evangelist, warning his tour poses a 'risk to the social cohesion of our city'.

Thursday, 28th November 2019, 9:37 am
Updated Thursday, 28th November 2019, 5:30 pm

The Christian evangelist Franklin Graham, son of the famous US pastor Billy Graham, is due to appear at Sheffield’s FlyDSA Arena next June as part of an eight-date tour of the UK.

The booking has sparked outrage due to his previous comments, which include branding homosexuality a ‘sin’, speaking out against plans to ban gay conversion therapy and reportedly calling Islam an ‘evil and very wicked religion’.

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Christian evangelist Franklin Graham, who is due to appear at Sheffield's FlyDSA Arena on June 6, 2020 (pic: Matt Johnson (Matt A.J.) from Omaha, Nebraska, United States [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)])

The LGBTQ+ rights group Open Sheffield has expressed its disgust at his ‘hateful’, ‘abhorrent’ and divisive’ views, and urged others to speak out.

Pete Wilcox, the bishop of Sheffield, has now added his voice to those opposing the free event, calling Mr Graham’s comments ‘inflammatory’ and warning they could foster divisions.

He said: “I’m afraid I cannot support the Graham Tour mission event at the FlyDSA Arena on June 6 next year, at which Franklin Graham is due to speak, and so will not be encouraging parishes in the Diocese of Sheffield to support it either.

“Mr Graham’s rhetoric is repeatedly and unnecessarily inflammatory and in my opinion represents a risk to the social cohesion of our city.

Pete Wilcox, the bishop of Sheffield.

“I gladly took part in Billy Graham’s Mission England in 1984 as a candidate for ordained ministry, and in his LiveLink Mission in 1989 as a curate. But to my sadness I detect a tailing off of humility and generosity in the Graham organisation since those days.”

Sheffield Council has previously said it is ‘committed to promoting equality, fairness and inclusion’ and it was not responsible for the booking.

We have contacted SIV, which runs the 13,600-capacity arena, but it has yet to respond to our request for a comment.

We have also contacted the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, which is organising the tour, and we are awaiting a response.