As Martin Fleming left after the first night of the Twin Cities Billy Graham Crusade in the Metrodome in Minneapolis, a man handed him a flier titled "Why I Cannot Support Billy Graham," which criticized Graham for "hanging out with Catholics."

Fleming, director of evangelization for the Twin Cities archdiocese, touched the collar he wore to the crusade to demonstrate Catholic support for the evangelist's ministry. "They sure handed this to the wrong person," he said to himself.

In 1973, the last time Graham held a crusade on the home turf of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA), there was no support from the local Catholic church and only nominal support from Lutherans. Catholics and Lutherans make up over half the Twin Cities' population.

Sixty denominations representing 1,075 churches assisted with last month's crusade, including 119 Catholic parishes and 269 Lutheran congregations.

"I think there's a new receptivity. More openness," says Jeff Anderson, the crusade's resident director. "The message has not changed. But the receptivity among churches is there."

Fleming cites an active Catholic laity, a more ecumenical spirit, and other cooperations between Catholics and Protestants as factors in that receptivity, but he credits the BGEA with the unity in the crusade.

"We try to put [the message] in words and phrases that different backgrounds can understand," says crusade director Rick Marshall, "But Billy's not going to change the things he says."

RACIAL RECONCILIATION: The Graham team made a similar effort to reach black churches. In 1973, when only two black congregations participated in the crusade, many black pastors boycotted and protested, claiming Graham had not gone far enough in the civil rights movement. ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.

Our digital archives are a work in progress. Let us know if corrections need to be made.

Tags:
Issue: