Mixed messages following the death of Dr. Billy Graham

Graham lauded and damned for his ministry by church leaders and critics

Anglican leaders have offered praise for the life and work of BIlly Graham and offered their condolences following the news yesterday of his death at age 99. While the encomiums from church leaders have lauded Dr. Graham, some commentators have denounced him for not thinking as they do.

Writing on his Facebook page, the Archbishop of the Anglican Church in North America, the Most Rev. Foley Beach stated:

A great man of God has finished his run. I am eternally thankful for Billy Graham and the impact he had on my life and so many around the world for Jesus Christ. Rest in peace, great warrior of the Faith!

The Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, the Most Rev. Michael Curry stated:

The phrase “a big tent” is often used to suggest gracious openness and respect for varieties and diversities of people and perspectives. It reflects the sentiment of the old spiritual that says, “There’s plenty good room in my Father’s kingdom.”

The crusades and ministry of the Rev. Billy Graham was a big tent, a revival tent — big, gracious, welcoming, and deeply grounded in the love that is the way of Jesus.

Before it was popular or widely accepted, Billy Graham required that his crusades must be interracial without a hint of segregation in the body of Christ at worship. Before the ecumenical movement had really taken hold in the culture, Billy Graham’s crusades were intentionally ecumenical. He was spiritual advisor to presidents and leaders of the nation, from both political parties, from many persuasions. As a faithful follower of Jesus Christ, he related to people of many faiths with genuine respect and a manner of love, reflecting the very spirit and teaching of Jesus.

He was truly a man of God, a follower of Jesus, and a witness that there really is a more excellent way for the human family.

May we follow his example as he followed the way of Jesus. And now may a chorus of angels sing, as they always did at the crusades he led,

Just as I am,

Thy love unknown

Has broken every barrier down;

Now to be Thine, yea,

Thine alone,

O Lamb of God,

I come,

I come.


The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev. Justin Welby wrote:

“Dr Billy Graham stood as an exemplar to generation upon generation of modern Christians. When it comes to a living and lasting influence upon the worldwide church he can have few equals: for he introduced person after person to Jesus Christ. There are countless numbers who began their journey of faith because of Dr Graham.

“The debt owed by the global church to him is immeasurable and inexpressible. Personally I am profoundly grateful to God for the life and ministry of this good and faithful servant of the gospel; by his example he challenged all Christians to imitate how he lived and what he did.

“He was one who met presidents and preachers, monarchs and musicians, the poor and the rich, the young and the old, face to face. Yet now he is face to face with Jesus Christ, his saviour and ours. It is the meeting he has been looking forward to for the whole of his life.”

The Archbishop of York, the Most Rev. John Sentamu stated:

Christian people the world over will be thanking God at this time for the life of Billy Graham, a great lover of Jesus Christ, who went to be with the Lord today. He was 99 years old. So often throughout my life I have worked alongside those who have shared with me that their journey of faith in Christ began after hearing Billy Graham preach of the love of God for us sinners, and of Jesus’ power to change lives and lead us out of darkness into his marvellous light. In this country many will recall the new life that came to the churches through his missions, especially Mission England in 1984. I met him that year at a rally at Crystal Palace where a member of our music group from Holy Trinity Tulse Hill, Jacqui Hall, was one of the singers. Before that I was with him in the early 1970s when he was leading a mission in Kenya, where Bishop Festo Kivengere, one of Uganda’s best known evangelists, was his interpreter, translating into Swahili. During his life he has faithfully invited millions to come and follow Jesus!

Though initially ambivalent about the Civil Rights Movement in America, Graham came to understand through his reading of the Bible that the Gospel embraced all people without distinction. As St Paul had taught, ‘There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.’ (Galatians 3.28)  A good friend of Dr Martin Luther King Junior, Billy Graham preached: “Jesus was not a white man; He was not a black man. He came from that part of the world that touches Africa and Asia and Europe. Christianity is not a white man’s religion, and don’t let anybody ever tell you that it’s white or black. Christ belongs to all people; He belongs to the whole world.”

Now, after many years of failing health, Billy himself has gone to share in the glory of which he so often spoke, cleansed by the blood of the Son of God, shed on the cross, in whom he put his trust, and welcomed at the throne of the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who first loved us, and gave himself for us. Wherever people remember Billy Graham today, there will be gratitude for this faithful servant of Christ, for his bold witness, and for the legacy of changed lives and communities which continues to spread hope, transformation, and a living story of salvation today. I thank God for his witness and for his example.

May he rest in peace, and rise in glory!

“The world has lost one of the most significant figures of the late twentieth century,” the Most Rev. Glenn Davies, Archbishop of Sydney told Anglican Media Sydney “Billy Graham’s extensive ministry has affected the lives of millions of people around the globe, and under God, hundreds of thousands of people have been brought to faith in Jesus Christ through his anointed preaching ministry.”

“We in Australia are especially grateful for his first visit to our country in 1959, where his crusade in Sydney of that year had all the hallmarks of revival with increased church attendance, increased candidates offering themselves for the ministry and a marked effect on criminal statistics with fewer crimes being committed. His visits in 1968 and 1979 were again welcomed by church leaders, which again saw an increased level of cooperation among the Churches and many people becoming Christians.”

“Billy Graham was passionate about Jesus Christ and unrelenting in finding ways to persuade people to put their trust in the Saviour of the world. We have lost a giant among us – but the angels in heaven rejoice in his arrival in his eternal home.” 

These beliefs were not enough to save Dr. Graham, a university professor opined the Guardian, as the evangelist did not lend his voice to the climate change debate. “Racial tensions are rising, the earth is warming, and evangelicals are doing little to help. That may be Graham’s most significant, and saddest, legacy,” wrote Dr. Matthew Sutton on 22 Feb 2018.

Canadian Anglican Michael Coren conceded there was some good in Dr. Graham.

Billy Graham brought countless people to a deep Christian faith, and to better lives; and unlike so many other high-profile evangelists, he was not financially corrupt or vainglorious. But his theology was rigid and conservative, and he was unable or unwilling to allow experience to temper his fierce resistance to the new and non-traditional. On issues of sexuality in particular, there are too many broken relationships, too much pain and suffering, too many suicide attempts, and children thrown out of parental Christian homes, for the complete man not to be exposed. He had so much influence, and knew so many world leaders, and could have done so much better. Rest in Peace sir, but let us pray that in the afterlife you think again.


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