An outspoken and controversial American preacher is to address a massive rally in Sheffield – almost 35 years to the day his famed father Billy Graham preached to 300,000 people in the city.
Franklin Graham will speak at the FlyDSA Arena this June as part of a nationwide UK tour.
Back in 1985, his father Billy preached for seven consectutive nights at Sheffield United’s Bramall Lane stadium, sending our his message to more than 300,000 people during the week-long stint.
However, his son’s visit, which will take place on June 6, has already attracted critcism, with the Bishop of Sheffield branding the tour a “risk to the social cohesion of our city.”
Christian evangelist Franklin Graham has previously branded homosexuality a ‘sin’, has spoken out against plans to ban gay conversion therapy and reportedly calling Islam an ‘evil and very wicked religion’.
Pete Wilcox, the Bishop of Sheffield, has called Mr Graham’s comments ‘inflammatory’ and warned last year that 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.”
The tour will take in eight UK towns and cities – Glasgow, Newcastle, Sheffield, Milton Keynes, Liverpool, Cardiff, Birmingham and London.
“The year 2020 marks a huge shift in the UK.
“In a year of change we need the certainty that only God can provide,” said Judah Cole, pastor of Open Well Church.
“Franklin Graham is going to bring a clear message of faith and peace as he points people to Jesus Christ, the source of true and lasting stability. We are excited to partner with the Graham Tour UK and we can’t wait to see what God will do here.”
Added Mr Graham: “I’m coming to the United Kingdom to share the same powerful message that my father preached here for more than three decades.
“My father loved the UK and preached here more than any other place in the world outside of the United States. Just like my father, I’m looking forward to sharing with the people of the United Kingdom that God loves them and has a purpose for their lives.”
The Graham Tour UK will be free of charge and everyone is welcome.
His dad Billy died in February 2018 at the age of 99.
Described as one of the most influential preachers of the 20th century, he was one of the world's best known promoters of Christianity and hosted a week-long series of rallies in Sheffield in the summer of 1985.
Between June 22-29 of that year, he spoke to more than 329,000 people at Sheffield United's Bramall Lane - including singer Sir Cliff Richard who was a special guest at the final night of the Mission Britain event
Over 60 years, he is estimated to have personally preached to 210 million people.
During his visit, he was pictured sporting a Sheffield United tie on his arrival at Sheffield railway station.