Evangelist Billy Graham, deemed “America’s Pastor,” has died at the age of 99 reports the Associated Press.
Graham’s giant Southern California tent revivals in 1949 would become widely recognized as the beginning of the modern Evangelical movement.
Since his ministry began in 1947, Graham conducted more than 400 crusades in 185 countries and territories on six continents. The first Billy Graham Crusade, held September 13–21, 1947, in the Civic Auditorium in Grand Rapids, Michigan, was attended by 6,000 people. Graham was 28 years old. He called them crusades, after the medieval Christian forces who conquered Jerusalem. He would rent a large venue, such as a stadium, park, or street. As the sessions became larger, he arranged a group of up to 5,000 people to sing in a choir. He would preach the gospel and invite people to come forward (a practice begun by Dwight L. Moody). Such people were called inquirers and were given the chance to speak one-on-one with a counselor, to clarify questions and pray together. The inquirers were often given a copy of the Gospel of John or a Bible study booklet. In Moscow, in 1992, one-quarter of the 155,000 people in Graham’s audience went forward at his call. During his crusades, he has frequently used the altar call song, “Just As I Am”.[
Billy Graham while not as rabidly homophobic as others evangelicals of his time like Jerry Falwell, (Graham refused to join Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority in 1979, saying: “I’m for morality, but morality goes beyond sex to human freedom and social justice.”) Graham was nonetheless deeply opposed to homosexuality.
In 1974, a young woman wrote Graham saying that she was attracted to another woman. He wrote back, “Your affection for another of your own sex is misdirected and will be judged by God’s holy standards,” and also told the woman she could be “healed” of her same-sex attraction through belief in Christ.
In 1993, Graham also callously said that AIDS was punishment from God. “’ls AIDS a judgment of God” he said while preaching in Columbus, Ohio. “l could not be sure, but I think so.” He quickly backtracked, telling Cleveland’s Plain Dealer newspaper two weeks later, ”l don’t believe that and I don’t know why I said it. I remember saying it, and I immediately regretted it and almost went back and clarified the statement. … God stands in judgment of all sins, but AIDS is a disease that affects people and is not part of that judgment. To say that God has judged people with AIDS would be very wrong and cruel. I would like to say that I am very sorry for what I said.”
In 2012, he endorsed an anti-marriage equality constitutional amendment in his home state of North Carolina. “At 93, I never thought we would have to debate the definition of marriage,” Graham wrote in a full-page advertisement. “The Bible is clear — God’s definition of marriage is between a man and a woman. I want to urge my fellow North Carolinians to vote FOR the marriage amendment on Tuesday, May 8.” Voters approved the amendment, which was nullified by a federal court ruling in 2014 but remains part of the North Carolina constitution.
He also once said, “Let me say this loud and clear, we traffic in homosexuality at the peril of our spiritual welfare,” as quoted by the U.K.’s Pink News.
Graham died at his home in Montreat, North Carolina, a spokesman for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association