Satellite and video carry evangelist Billy Graham’s Buenos Aires campaign across Latin America.

Just a few days before opening his Buenos Aires crusade last November, Billy Graham turned 73 years old. As he laid a wreath at the statue of Gen. José de San Martín, nineteenth-century hero of Argentina’s liberation from Spain, a marine band broke into the familiar strains of “Happy Birthday.”

Although he enjoyed the moment, Graham could have wished for no more satisfying a present than what he received the following week: the unprecedented unity that Argentina’s evangelical Christians displayed in backing his crusade. Pentecostals, who compose 70 percent of the country’s evangelical church, set aside differences with their Baptist, Plymouth Brethren, Anglican, and other less-charismatic brethren to offer a warm reception to Graham. That cooperation, fostered by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) and the Christian newspaper El Puente, helped fill Buenos Aires’s River Plate Stadium to overflowing (an estimated 83,500 and 81,000 people at the final two services) with crowds that clapped, sang, and waved Billy Graham pennants. Veteran Graham-watchers said they had never seen such a display at a crusade anywhere in the world.

The show of enthusiasm, however, represented a fragile unity, one that BGEA personnel feared would fragment at the last minute over Graham’s relationship with Roman Catholics. Though known for his increasing cooperation with Catholics in the United States and other developed countries, Graham avoided contact with Latin American Catholic leadership. Such association would be counterproductive, explained Charles Ward, special assistant for the BGEA in Latin America, because of the strong feelings of ...

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