Evelyn Rempel Petkau
WINNIPEG - Mennonite Church Manitoba (MCM) and the Mennonite
Brethren Church of Manitoba together with nine other denominations
signed on last year as supporters for the 2006 Central Canada
Franklin Graham Festival.
However, some members of the Mennonite conferences are now voicing
concern about participating in the October event.
"A number of concerns have been raised about MC Manitoba's
participation in this event due to Graham's support for war,
comments about Muslims and concerns about Samaritan's Purse.
Because of these concerns some individuals are calling for us to
withdraw our support," wrote Norm Voth, director of evangelism and
service ministries for MCM, in a letter to MCM congregations
earlier this year.
In February MCM held a workshop on the issue at an annual meeting,
and came up with a resolution "to engage in dialogue with Franklin
Graham and with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and give
witness to our concerns regarding statements made by Franklin
Graham advocating unrestrained violence and denigrating Islam and
In a letter to the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, Voth
wrote, "Many people in Canada, the U.S. and around the world take
your words very seriously; for you to advocate for peace instead of
war would have a positive impact reflecting God's desire that all
things on Earth and in heaven be reconciled in Jesus."
But some say that action is not enough.
Gerhard Neufeld attends Sargent Avenue Mennonite Church and has
shared his concerns with MCM and his church. He is disappointed MCM
has not done more to inform its delegate members and to engage the
churches in dialogue.
"I am in no way against evangelism or opposed to cooperating with
other denominations," says Neufeld. "My major objection to
this is the credibility of the speaker, not the event
He suggests the conference use the discussions about the Graham
Festival as an opportunity to examine the traditional Mennonite
peace stance and discern what it means for modern Mennonite
River East Mennonite Brethren Church circulated a letter asking
the Mennonite Brethren conference "to reconsider its participation
in the event, citing reasons of Graham's remarks regarding Islam,
Muslims and the use of nuclear weapons." The letter garnered 50
signatures before it was sent to the conference.
Arnaud Mennonite Church has completely withdrawn its support of
the Franklin Graham Festival after its adult Sunday school class
studied some of Graham's messages pertaining to Islam and
"We felt that even though a lot of good could come from the
evangelistic [festival], as a peace church we did not want to be
associated with a gospel message that could be muddied by the kind
of hatred and violence [that Graham appears to support]," says
pastor Lynne Martin.
Dan Klug, festival director for Central Canada Franklin Graham
Crusade, says the Mennonite Brethren and Mennonite Church of Canada
conferences are the only denominations that have voiced concern
about the festival.
"At first I was surprised by the Mennonite response but I
certainly understand," says Klug. "But we are here for one purpose
only, at the invitation of local pastors for an evangelistic event.
Franklin will preach a gospel message and not express any political
For the time being the MCM and Mennonite Brethren conferences are
leaving the issue of support for the festival up to individuals.
However, some say an organized response to the event may be
The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association of Canada