I noted a posting yesterday by a Facebook friend that was about encouraging a visit by Tony Campolo to the UK. That same friend had recently posted opposing a visit by another American preacher, Franklin Graham. I could say a lot about both men, but for now will let Wikipedia do the talking (here and here). As for the purposes and circumstances around the proposed / opposed visits, I will pass given others have discussed this already and, besides, this is not today’s subject. My interest is that fellow card carrying Evangelicals are divided between those who, based on principle, want to invite one but not to invite the other, the few who would be happy to see both invited and the many who have not given it much thought.
When I read the post, my mind went back to a few years ago, before I took to blogging. It was at a time when I had taken to community activism, and it began to appear on the radar of many Christians, but as well I was into seeking out sound theology. At that time and in the same week Tony Campolo had been invited to speak to Christians my town as had the greatest theologian of my generation (imo), Jim Packer. The former it might be argued represented my community activist interest and the latter my sound theology interest. The meeting with Campolo was well attended; the meeting with Packer was not. I found this somewhat disturbing as it indicated the priorities of those who were close as far as my own theological thinking went. As articulate as Campolo was and as important as his message was of getting involved in community activism, social justice etc., this was spoiled by his left wing political pontificating and his dubious theology. As for Packer, he was spot on doctrinally and this lifted me to heaven. While social action was not particularly his thing, his exposition provided me with what I needed to know in order to be remain active in this important area.
I realize Franklin Graham is not everyone’s cup of tea, and there are things that he says I don’t entirely agree with. I suspect the reason those who don’t want him here in the UK may be more to do with his right leaning views and his even greater sin of supporting one Donald J Trump and opposing Trump’s detractors. While it may be argued that Graham should keep out of politics altogether for the sake of the Gospel, he is right to speak on things like abortion, marriage, religious freedom, the dangers of Islam and integrity in politics. From what I can make out he preaches a sound and much needed gospel message. Whether or not Campolo and/or (or neither) Graham comes to the UK is not a decision that depends on me, but for what it is worth, I would not oppose either coming and even though I am more pro Graham than pro Campolo, because a lot of what Graham says I agree with and believe needs saying and too much of what Campolo says I find flawed and annoying, is I recognize both have something that could benefit the UK church. As one believing in the John 17 unity prayer, it is sad Christians, who ought to be united and working together tackling social injustice and gospel proclamation, are divided, with devastating consequences.