Evangelist Billy Graham concluded four sweltering nights of preaching in Cincinnati, standing strong after a bout of feeling faint. On the last weekend in June, Graham, 83, mixed his age-old gospel message with calls for reconciliation in the racially charged city.
Invited by a diverse coalition of community religious leaders, Graham repeatedly spoke of how God can help people learn to love those of different backgrounds. "I want to tell you we've all come together around the throne of God, and we love each other," he said.
Graham also condemned rising anti-Semitism in Europe: "Bigotry of any kind is a sin in God's eyes."
An estimated 201,600 people turned out at Paul Brown Stadium over the four days. About 11,000 came forward to make first-time or reaffirmed commitments to Christ. Sunday night's crowd of 65,600 broke a stadium record.
Graham, who has Parkinson's disease and other ailments, spoke of his growing frailty and his mortality. Graham spokesman A. Larry Ross said the evangelist, who recently had cataract surgery, reported feeling faint on the stage Friday, when temperatures soared past 100 degrees in the Cincinnati heat.
"He's repeatedly said that he has no plans to retire," Ross said. "He plans to continue preaching as long as he has strength."
Graham's next mission is scheduled for October in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
At least a few of those who support an economic boycott of downtown Cincinnati-including the stadium in which Graham preached-protested the mission. A small plane circled over the stadium as Graham spoke Saturday, pulling a "Boycott Cincinnati!" banner.
Riots erupted in the city in April 2001 after a white police officer was charged in the fatal shooting of an unarmed 19-year-old black man. Community ...1