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Billy Graham....

A NY Times article on evangelist Billy Graham who is probably speaking in his last crusade. This article traces briefly the history of evangelists like Billy Graham in USA and potential successors. It's worth reading. It hints at the possibality of Pastor Graham coming to London this year. I hope that I have a chance to go to one when he is here.


Billy Graham, a Hard Act to Follow
By MICHAEL LUO

WHEN the Rev. Billy Graham, 86 and slightly stooped, shuffled into the Rainbow Room on the 64th floor of Rockefeller Center last week to address a roomful of reporters, he confirmed what he and his associates have been saying for months: a three-day crusade in New York City is likely his last.
He might still accept an invitation to go to London in November, but if he feels too weak, his sermon at Flushing Meadows, scheduled for this afternoon, will almost certainly conclude Mr. Graham's remarkable run as the world's evangelist, having preached to more than 210 million people in over 185 countries and territories.
Among the evangelical faithful, talk has been bubbling for years about who might inherit Mr. Graham's mantle as America's spiritual leader, with everyone from his son, Franklin, to the mega-church pastor Rick Warren, author of the blockbuster bestseller, "The Purpose Driven Life," to T. D. Jakes, an African-American Pentecostal preacher, offered up as contenders.
But if history is any guide, it may be a long time before someone of Mr. Graham's stature emerges again. "In a sense, no one takes their place," said David E. Harrell Jr., a history professor at Auburn University, referring to evangelists who attained mountaintop status, like Mr. Graham, or those in history to whom he has been compared, including Dwight L. Moody, Charles G. Finney and George Whitefield.
The ascendance of Whitefield, the legendary 18th-century Methodist preacher who helped spark the revivals of the Great Awakening, was similar to Mr. Graham's rise in terms of scope and impact, said Professor Harrell, who has written several books on American religious history. "What Whitefield did was to not only bring a message of new religious vitality in his Methodism," he said, "but to capture the emerging sense of national unity among the colonies."
Similarly, Mr. Graham's emergence came through a combination of his sterling personal attributes and specific societal currents that he tapped. His catapulting to national prominence in the 1950's, for example, coincided with the country's shift toward a more visible faith, meant to serve as an antidote to the godless scourge of Communism, said Robert Wuthnow, director of the Center for the Study of Religion at Princeton University.
"His early sermons, they're very much part of the cold war mentality," Dr. Wuthnow said. "The fear of Communism, a need to be a God-fearing America."
At the same time, Mr. Graham's brand of evangelical Christianity, with its emphasis on personal conversion and the authority of the Scripture, was just coming onto the national scene, and he quickly became identified as its leader.
Today, however, the evangelical landscape has exploded, becoming part of the American mainstream. But that, paradoxically, might make it harder for someone with Mr. Graham's broad appeal to emerge again, some experts said.
"Evangelicalism has grown so large and complex and diverse," said William Martin, who wrote a biography of Mr. Graham. "There are so many more centers of power. There's no one person to stand above those people."
Steering clear of divisive political issues that might narrow an aspiring evangelist's audience has also becoming increasingly difficult. In his early years, Mr. Graham hobnobbed with politicians of all stripes and moved easily in the halls of power. He spoke out against Communism and made sure his crusades were racially integrated. He was known for his relationships with a long line of presidents. (One would come to haunt him. In 2002, on a released tape recording from the Nixon White House, Mr. Graham is heard making derogatory remarks about Jews. Mr. Graham has since apologized, but his reputation was stained.)
Similarly, Mr. Graham's emergence came through a combination of his sterling personal attributes and specific societal currents that he tapped. His catapulting to national prominence in the 1950's, for example, coincided with the country's shift toward a more visible faith, meant to serve as an antidote to the godless scourge of Communism, said Robert Wuthnow, director of the Center for the Study of Religion at Princeton University.
"His early sermons, they're very much part of the cold war mentality," Dr. Wuthnow said. "The fear of Communism, a need to be a God-fearing America."
At the same time, Mr. Graham's brand of evangelical Christianity, with its emphasis on personal conversion and the authority of the Scripture, was just coming onto the national scene, and he quickly became identified as its leader.
Today, however, the evangelical landscape has exploded, becoming part of the American mainstream. But that, paradoxically, might make it harder for someone with Mr. Graham's broad appeal to emerge again, some experts said.
"Evangelicalism has grown so large and complex and diverse," said William Martin, who wrote a biography of Mr. Graham. "There are so many more centers of power. There's no one person to stand above those people."
Steering clear of divisive political issues that might narrow an aspiring evangelist's audience has also becoming increasingly difficult. In his early years, Mr. Graham hobnobbed with politicians of all stripes and moved easily in the halls of power. He spoke out against Communism and made sure his crusades were racially integrated. He was known for his relationships with a long line of presidents. (One would come to haunt him. In 2002, on a released tape recording from the Nixon White House, Mr. Graham is heard making derogatory remarks about Jews. Mr. Graham has since apologized, but his reputation was stained.)
In his later years, Mr. Graham has tried to avoid hotly contested social issues, like gay marriage, that have come to define many evangelical Christian leaders. His issue, he has said again and again, is the Gospel.
Remaining independent is much harder today, because the movement is much more engaged in social reform, said Timothy C. Morgan, deputy managing editor of Christianity Today, an evangelical magazine. "There's two schools of thought," Mr. Morgan said. "One is the kind of, 'Stick to your knitting' school, focus on getting more souls into your kingdom. The other is, 'We really have a broader agenda to help society reform itself.' "
Some question whether the stadium-size evangelism that Mr. Graham rode to world renown is still a relevant means of communication, especially to a younger generation that has been said to crave more religious intimacy and authenticity.
But declaring the demise of revival evangelism would be premature, experts said. Indeed, after Dwight L. Moody\'s evangelistic triumphs of the 1870's, some made the very same declaration. Then, along came a colorful former professional baseball player, Billy Sunday, whose fire-and-brimstone preaching helped bring about Prohibition.
"There's a collective effervescence that emerges in a situation like that that has an incredible impact on people, whether you're looking at Woodstock, whether you're looking at a rock concert, or whether you're looking at Billy Graham," said Dr. Tony Campolo, a prominent evangelical speaker.
At this point, Christianity's axis is shifting from developed nations to the developing ones. With it, a more charismatic style of Christianity, known as Pentecostalism, with its emphasis on signs and wonders, like speaking in tongues, is on the rise.
Just as some of the country's great evangelists emerged from smaller movements, the next Billy Graham may come from a tradition that has not yet grabbed hold here, or does not come from America at all.
Remaining independent is much harder today, because the movement is much more engaged in social reform, said Timothy C. Morgan, deputy managing editor of Christianity Today, an evangelical magazine. "There's two schools of thought," Mr. Morgan said. "One is the kind of, 'Stick to your knitting' school, focus on getting more souls into your kingdom. The other is, 'We really have a broader agenda to help society reform itself.' "
Some question whether the stadium-size evangelism that Mr. Graham rode to world renown is still a relevant means of communication, especially to a younger generation that has been said to crave more religious intimacy and authenticity.
But declaring the demise of revival evangelism would be premature, experts said. Indeed, after Dwight L. Moody's evangelistic triumphs of the 1870's, some made the very same declaration. Then, along came a colorful former professional baseball player, Billy Sunday, whose fire-and-brimstone preaching helped bring about Prohibition.
"There's a collective effervescence that emerges in a situation like that that has an incredible impact on people, whether you're looking at Woodstock, whether you're looking at a rock concert, or whether you're looking at Billy Graham," said Dr. Tony Campolo, a prominent evangelical speaker.
At this point, Christianity's axis is shifting from developed nations to the developing ones. With it, a more charismatic style of Christianity, known as Pentecostalism, with its emphasis on signs and wonders, like speaking in tongues, is on the rise.
Just as some of the country's great evangelists emerged from smaller movements, the next Billy Graham may come from a tradition that has not yet grabbed hold here, or does not come from America at all.
"I fully expect major personalities to come forward from Christendom, but my hunch is they're going to come from other parts of the world," said Dr. Lonnie J. Allison, director of the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College, which focuses on global evangelism. "My hunch is they will either be Chinese, Korean, Nigerian or Brazilian."

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