Forty years before churches were articulating "vision and values," there was the Modesto Manifesto. This statement, drafted by the Billy Graham team

in 1948, set a standard for ethics and integrity that guided and protected the ministry of Graham's profoundly influential organization.

Here's the story, as told in Billy's book, Just As I Am:

"Sinclair Lewis's fictional character Elmer Gantry had given traveling evangelists a bad name. To our sorrow, we knew that some evangelists were not much better than Lewis's scornful caricature.

"One afternoon during the Modesto meetings, I called the team together to discuss the problem. Then I asked them to go to their rooms for an hour and list all the problems they could think of that evangelists and evangelism encountered.

"When they returned, the lists were remarkably similar, and we soon made a series of resolutions that would guide us in our future work."

There were four points:

  1. Money. "Nearly all evangelists at that time—including us—were supported by love offerings taken at the meetings. The temptation to wring as much money as possible out of an audience, often with strong emotional appeals, was too great for some evangelists. In addition, there was little or no accountability for finances. It was a system that was easy to abuse—and led to the charge that evangelists were in it only for the money.

    "I had been drawing a salary from Youth for Christ and turning all offerings from YFC meetings over to YFC committees, but my new independent efforts in citywide campaigns required separate finances. In Modesto we determined to do all we could to avoid financial abuses, to downplay the offering and depend as much as possible on money raised by the local committees in advance."

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From Issue:Winter 2003: Integrity & Ethics
December
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