A recent installment of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) religious news program, “Sunday,” featured a lively pro-and-con debate on evangelist Billy Graham. Program producer John Newbury gives a first person account of what transpired and of the public reaction that followed.

Next to the Pope, Billy Graham is probably the best known Christian in the world. So when the Manchester Guardian newspaper published an article headlined “Stay Away, Billy Graham, for God’s Sake Stay Away,” I became interested.

The author of the article was Anglican priest Peter Mullen, who is vicar in Tockwith, a village outside York in northern England. I invited Mullen to take part in a discussion on the “Sunday” program with another vicar, Ian Barclay, from Brighton, who is a keen supporter of Graham’s work. It had become known that Billy Graham was due to lead a Cambridge University mission in February 1980, and rumblings had begun among some people who felt that Graham ought to be invited to stay on to conduct a national crusade.

Peter Mullen’s objection to Billy Graham’s return was based upon both the style and the content of Graham’s message: “In my experience Billy Graham frightens people.… He’s a very frightening man.” Mullen claimed that the “frightening things” that Graham said were derived from Graham’s “fundamentalism”—a “silly” word, said Mullen.

Mullen quoted from a passage that he claimed was written by Graham: “[Jesus] said, ‘I thirst’: the blood was being extracted. God demands death either for a sinner or for a substitute.” This, said Mullen, “is not the loving father of our Lord Jesus Christ so far as I’m concerned. It’s a savage beast of a God.”

In reply, Barclay accused Mullen of being “superficial” in his criticisms of Graham. ...

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