By Stuart Mann
The Festival of Hope “might not be everybody’s cup of tea,” but it is one way to learn how to share the Good News, says the Rev. Canon Philip Bristow.
The event, organized by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association of Canada, will culminate Sept. 12-14 at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto. Each evening will feature Christian musicians, testimonies and a Gospel message by Franklin Graham.
Between now and then, churches of every denomination are being invited to take part in several activities and programs, many of them designed to introduce people to Jesus Christ.
“I think there’s no greater joy and privilege than sharing the Good News in a way that enables people to respond and see their lives transformed,” says Canon Bristow. “I’ve seen that happen quite a few times over the years.”
Canon Bristow, who is an associate priest at St. Paul on-the-Hill, Pickering, is leading a group of 15 from his church to the festival. He also took part in Billy Graham crusades in 1990 and 1995.
He says it’s understandable that some Anglican clergy and laity might be reluctant to take part in the festival because of its evangelical nature. However, he says it’s worth a try because it might lead some people to Christ.
“It’s not everybody’s cup of tea, for sure, but it is a way to share the Good News,” he says. “My position is, I never want to block what the Spirit is doing in people’s lives. I want to be a vessel rather than a dam. So I would use any resource available.”
Bishop Patrick Yu, the area bishop of York-Scarborough, echoes his comments. “My hope is that some churches will get involved and will learn things that will form part of their evangelism strategy,” he says.
Bishop Yu says the festival can energize Anglicans as they pray and learn alongside Christians of other denominations and cultural backgrounds. “I think that every time Anglicans get involved in an ecumenical effort with other Christians who are really serious about praying, and praying that other people will come to faith, they themselves are energized and their eyes are opened,” he says. “Praying with other people about people turning to faith is the most important learning that churches can get from this event.”
He says the College of Bishops is aware of derogatory remarks made by Franklin Graham about gays and lesbians and has expressed its concern to him. “On behalf of the bishops, I’ve written the organization a letter raising our concerns about his comments, which I don’t believe are appropriate in any context but definitely not appropriate to the Canadian context or the context of our diocese,” says Bishop Yu.
He says the College of Bishops carefully weighed its decision before agreeing to support the festival. “There are people in our diocese who hold a variety of opinions – some of them we agree with and some we do not. But they’re our brothers and sisters, and if you only work with people you absolutely agree with, then you become like those people who leave the church because they don’t agree with some of the positions it holds. We’re a big-tent church. We believe that Franklin Graham will come to talk about Jesus and we hope that his other comments are quite peripheral to his message. We’ve made that clear to him.”
Bishop Yu says his work with the Anglican Communion’s Evangelism and Church Growth group has opened his eyes to working with people who hold opposite opinions. The group includes people from Kenya, South America, South Africa and Nigeria. “When we talk about evangelism, we don’t fight a lot – there’s too much work to do.”
To learn more about the Festival of Hope, visit its website at www.billygraham.ca.