Small group near Franklin Graham rally represents inclusive brand of Christianity

A banner across the street from Franklin Graham’s event Tuesday featured a quote in large letters.

“It’s the Holy Spirit’s job to convict. It’s God’s job to judge. It’s my job to love.”

The quote is attributed to Graham’s father, Billy Graham.

The banner was among the signs held by about 30 people who said they wanted to show a more inclusive brand of Christianity than the one Franklin Graham represents.

Graham’s “Decision America Tour” kicked off the first of eight North Carolina meetings at Festival Park. More than 9,000 attended.

Before Graham spoke, those at Festival Park heard country versions of “Victory in Jesus” and “How Great Thou Art.”

Across the street, the group at a “Meet Our Jesus” rally was singing, “They’ll Know We are Christians by our Love,” and “Let There be Peace on Earth.” They held signs that read, “Jesus is love,” “Love thy neighbor” and “Love wins.”

The group handed out bottles of water and fans that had seven variations of the Golden Rule from different faith traditions written on them. A few people accepted, but most glanced at the signs, smiled and kept walking.

At one point, a woman in a floral printed shirt stopped and said, “This is not political. It’s spiritual.” A man in a similar shirt tapped her to keep her moving toward the Franklin Graham event.

Nobody in the group holding the signs responded.

Later, Deborah Happel, who helped organize the event, said the group didn’t want confrontation.

“We agree with her,” Happel said.

Arleen Fields, another organizer, said she was glad that the group was noticed.

“We had no ulterior goal,” she said.

Happel said nobody yelled at those holding signs.

“Everybody seemed happy to see us,” she said.

Happel said the group believes that they are upholding Christian traditions.

“This is what our Bible says,” she said.

Mike and Lisa O’Donnell also helped organize the rally. She said the group wanted to present an inclusive view of Jesus.

“Nowhere in the scripture did Jesus say, ‘Love everybody except …’” she said. “He said to love everybody.”

Before the event, Graham was asked about the group at the “Meet Our Jesus” event.

“I don’t know what God they’re talking about,” he said. “I’m not sure what Jesus they worship, but I worship the Jesus of the Bible.”

Mike O’Donnell said the group was just trying to spread a message.

“We figure God will take care of the rest of it,” he said. “That’s not our job.”

Staff writer Paul Woolverton contributed to this report.

Staff writer Steve DeVane can be reached at sdevane@fayobserver.com or 910-486-3572.

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