Ottawa, as Billy Graham observed during his recent visit to Canada's capital city, is like a house divided. The geographical division of the Ottawa River between the province of Ontario and the province of Quebec is symbolic of the country's "two solitudes"—English on one side and French on the other.
The church is not exempt from that division. Traditionally, Anglophone Canadians have been largely Protestant, while Francophones have been Roman Catholic. Suspicion of each other has often prevented the two branches from cooperating.
But in the months preceding the June 25-28 Billy Graham mission to the national capital region, an area of about one million people, the barriers between Catholic and Protestant—and to an extent, between French and English—began to dissipate. Out of the 470 area churches that supported the campaign, 60 were Catholic. The Catholic involvement was the most significant of any Graham evangelistic crusade ever.
LONG TIME COMING: Graham's visit to Ottawa marked the first time in 92 years—since Chicago evangelist R. A. Torrey preached—that the city had hosted a major interdenominational outreach.
Mission chair Allen Churchill, a United Church minister, said Christians had been praying about such a unifying event for three decades. "God pulled the blinkers off our eyes," Churchill said.
Division among Protestants constituted a major obstacle in itself, according to Doug Ward, a Baptist pastor on the executive committee. But the greater issue facing the committee concerned determining whether Protestants could work with Catholics. "We crossed that line," Ward said, "and then it was a go."
Receiving an endorsement from the region's Roman Catholic archbishop, Marcel Gervais, helped. ...1