Franklin Graham's backing of President Donald Trump and his policy stances on refugees and immigration have offended conservative evangelical groups in Europe. Leading evangelicals and churches in Norway are reportedly withdrawing from a "revival festival" in late 2017 in Oslo where the renowned evangelist is scheduled to speak.
In a CP opinion piece Wednesday, Stefan Fisher-Høyrem, a historian in the Department of Religion, Philosophy, and History at the University of Agder, Norway, who has also taught Christian apologetics at Norway's evangelical NLA University College, noted that while politics may be local, the Church of Jesus Christ is universal. And Graham's close ties and vocal support of the 45th U.S. president is greatly harming the witness of the Gospel in Europe, he argued.
Fisher-Høyrem also cited several Norwegian evangelical leaders, Christian members of Parliament, and even the head of Norway's largest Christian think tank who share Graham's core theological convictions but no longer want to be connected to him.
"It is precisely because these conservative Evangelical leaders care about the Christian witness and the importance of conservative Christian values in society that they are saying they cannot be associated with Franklin Graham. While they all agree that the Christians should pray for political leaders and that God can use the worst leaders for his purpose, they have said Franklin's increasingly unChristian rhetoric and claim that God intervened to ensure Trump won have undermined Franklin's credibility and witness," Fisher-Høyrem wrote.
Though Graham did not officially endorse Trump during the presidential election and denounced his past "crude" comments about women, the evangelist said he believes "God's hand intervened" on election day "to stop the godless, atheistic progressive agenda from taking control of our country."
Graham also backed Trump's controversial immigration order — that halted the United States' entire refugee resettlement program for 120 days and blocked citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries from entering for 90 days — earlier this year, though some evangelicals opposed it. He argued that borders need to be secured and that everyone needs to go through a screening process to make sure "the philosophies of those entering our country are compatible with our Constitution."
The Christian Post reached out to Franklin Graham for comment to confirm if indeed many churches were withdrawing from the upcoming evangelistic events in Norway.
Viktor Hamm, vice president of Crusade Ministries with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association replied in a statement shared with CP, saying: "The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association is holding the Franklin Graham Festival in November at the invitation of local church leaders. We are excited about the opportunity to share the hope-filled message of Jesus with the people of Norway. This will be a positive event that focuses on one thing only: Jesus Christ. The festival is free and all are welcome, so our hope is that everyone in Oslo will come see and hear it for themselves."
Yet according to Fisher-Høyrem, Graham's actions and statements have already depressed interest and he does not expect many to attend the Nov. 11-12 event.
"Only 5 people participated in the first information session this past week for churches interested in attending — it will never be more than a small shell of what it could have been," he said.
This is not the first time that Christian leaders outside of the United States have objected to Graham's close alignment with President Trump.
The Christian Post reported Feb. 10 that Baptist leaders in Puerto Rico — while a U.S. territory — objected to Graham's political posturing and withdrew their support from a similar evangelistic rally held in San Juan in February.
Puerto Rico Executive Minister Roberto Dieppa-Báez and President Margarita Ramirez wrote in a statement that their groups "cannot agree with the expressions of Trump as they attack the life of our neighbor and Jesus has always called us to love even enemies and to be our brother's keeper."
Trump's stances, and by extension Graham's, they said, are "contrary to the values of the Kingdom."