In light of the Graham Tour UK venues canceling their contracts, Decision asked Rico Tice, senior minister for evangelism at All Souls Langham Place, about the current moral and spiritual climate in the United Kingdom, and how he sees God moving in the midst of it.
Q: What are your thoughts about a public venue canceling its contract because a group disagrees with the purpose of a scheduled event?
A: I would be interested to know if there are any legal implications to this, but it clearly shows that freedom of speech is dropping dangerously down the list of priorities for many people. It is not healthy for a culture to defend a position by silencing those who oppose it. Our moral muddle is also highlighted as Franklin is “banned” in the name of “inclusiveness”!
Q: You’ve had similar experiences, haven’t you?
A: I’ve been “no-platformed.” I’ve been refused to speak in Parliament at Easter. I’ve been refused to speak at Westminster Council at Christmas. Schools have canceled invitations to speak. And all I’ve been doing is repeating the orthodox teaching of the Church of England, but that has stopped me from being allowed to speak.
I left the Archbishop’s Evangelism Task Group in 2018 because the Bishop of Liverpool joined Gay Pride as a patron. I refused to sit under his authority because I’m convinced the Holy Spirit will depart from one’s ministry if you don’t hold to orthodoxy. Jesus tells us in Revelation, “I will remove your lampstand”
(Cf. Revelation 2:5). And I made statements at the Global Anglican Future Conference, saying the Bishop of Liverpool and I have different religions—I believe you have to repent of all sins, and there are some things that he doesn’t think you have to repent of.
So, the big issue revolves around the word repentance. Everything that’s going on in this country is about whether the church, or anyone, has a right to say, “If you have sex outside of marriage—whether it’s heterosexual or homosexual—you need to repent or you will face judgment. And on the Day of Judgment, you’ll face condemnation. So go to Christ. Seek forgiveness.”
Q: How can Christians show people in the LGBTQ community that we aren’t trying to hurt them, but that we want them to find the abundant life God desires for them?
A: We don’t just believe in inclusion; we believe in transformation. I often refer people to Living Out, a Christian organization that says, “We know what it is to be same-sex attracted, but we are celibate because we sit under the authority of Jesus, and we can flourish as celibate single people.”
I think the church has thoroughly repented of its homophobia. A survey two years ago found that 67% of people in England have a Christian friend whom they like. And what do they like about them? Kindness and selflessness. Of that 67%, only 6% think their Christian friend is homophobic. So Christians are doing all they can to love friends who are same-sex attracted, but the media narrative says otherwise. And time and again, the people who are doing the real charitable work in the world are Christians. Samaritan’s Purse is case in point. I mean, how many people have said, “Franklin, tell us about what you do with Samaritan’s Purse”? There’s a lack of listening.
Q: To what extent is public expression of Biblical truth being shut down in the U.K.?
A: I think there is a small minority within the liberal elite who are trying to do that, but I think there are many socially conservative people who are looking for a voice. Our job is to give people courage and to say that what you’re hearing constantly from the media, from the liberal elite, is not reality, so take courage.
The Franklin Graham “ban” is a galvanizing moment for voices of orthodoxy, who are pretty disparate across the culture, to come together and say, “What’s happening, and how are we going to fight?”
Q: How do you see God working in all this?
A: What is terrific, and I can see that in the sovereignty of God He’s allowed this, is that when you lead with a Biblical view on human sexuality—that it’s just for a man and a woman in a marriage—it establishes the cost very quickly. That’s a really helpful thing because my job as an evangelist is to say to people, “Take up your cross and follow Christ.” So, very quickly we’ve got a means of saying, “Here’s an issue you’ll face.” People then realize that’s going to be difficult, so they get the cost clear. Then, when I’m passing people on to the pastor-teacher, I’ve already explained the Gospel clearly and told them, “We’ve got to repent in that area, and we’ve got to think biblically.”
So I can see how the Lord is using this to make sure people understand that it’s a costly thing to come to Jesus. You know, Britain is full of people who are professing but not converted. It’s full of cheap grace. The church can be full of people who are nominal because of a cultural background. This sorts things out. The Lord is using this issue in order to refine His church.
Q: What happens when Christians capitulate to the culture’s view of these issues?
A: Some people are convinced that if you raise the gay issue, it will immediately shut down the conversation, like Franklin being no-platformed. They’re not prepared to say that Jesus is Lord in the area of human sexuality. The problem with that is this: 2 Corinthians 4:1-2 says that we have this ministry through God’s mercy, and therefore we do not distort the Word of God. But some, in order to try to get a hearing for the Gospel, use deception and distort the Word of God because they think that otherwise people will walk away.
And 2 Corinthians 4:5 says, “what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord.” They’re preaching “a Jesus,” but not the One who is Lord of the body. They’re afraid to call people to repent. So here’s an example where liberalism comes into the church through evangelism—because we’re not prepared to preach the real Jesus from the start—which Franklin is prepared to preach. He is preaching Jesus as Lord.
If you get discouraged by the culture, you change the message. So that is, I think, how the church is being affected. Lots of people are saying “For the sake of evangelism, I’m not going to talk about this.” But that means they’re preaching a different Jesus.
Q: How does the Gospel confront the culture?
A: The key to it, of course, is that we preach Christ as Lord and God opens blind eyes, so it’s the Holy Spirit who brings people to Himself.
Pastor Tim Keller says the Gospel confronts every culture, but in different ways. So, in England I can say, “love your enemies,” which is what Jesus says in the Sermon on the Mount, and everyone will applaud. Culturally that seems a good thing. But if I say “love your enemies” in the Middle East, people will say, “Leave now; we’re not going to do that.” However, in England, if you say “repent of all sexual sin; sex is only for a man and a woman in marriage,” they say, “We hate you.” But if you say that in the Middle East, they say, “Absolutely; we’re with you.” So the Gospel confronts different cultures in different ways.
Q: What are the consequences when a culture repeatedly ignores the truth of the Gospel?
A: It’s a Romans 1 situation, where if you suppress the truth, you are handed over more and more to your own blindness and depravity. In Romans 1, the wrath of God is expressed not so much at the end of life when you’re judged for your sin; it’s actually expressed in this life, where you’re handed over to your own decisions. It shows itself by a deepening blindness. The phrase gave them over is repeated three times in Romans 1. When we suppress the knowledge of God, we are given over to more and more depravity.
And if you turn away from God, you turn away from each other. So we’ll see increasing isolation. Increasing individualism. We’ll see the break-up of family. We’ll see sin doing its terrible work—its radioactive work. We’ll see an increase in suicide among young people. It’s because God is giving us over.
Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version.