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Tag: Billy Graham

Memory Eternal! Billy Graham


Billy Graham and Metropolitan Hilarion (2014)


While I was at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in 1993, I was fortunate to see Billy Graham on one his visits there.  Rev. Graham helped found Gordon-Conwell in 1969 and later served as Chairman of the Board of Trustees from 1989 to 1993.  In addition to his administrative duties, he was there that day to meet with the student body. When I first saw him outside chatting with some students, I was struck by how tall he was (6’2”).  Later inside the school chapel, I became concerned when he slumped into the chair. He explained to us that he was suffering from early stage Parkinson disease.  The conversation with the Gordon-Conwell student body was open, unrestricted, and wide ranging.  One striking remark was his regret that he never completed his theological studies.  Writing as one who found studies at Gordon-Conwell helpful to my journey to Orthodoxy, I wonder where rigorous theological studies might have taken Rev. Graham.

The Billy Graham I saw that winter afternoon in the early 1990s was a mature elder statesman, not the young firebrand preacher I had read about.  I came away from that meeting grateful for the opportunity to have met one of Evangelicalism’s great leaders.  With Billy Graham’s passing, Evangelicalism has lost one of its guiding personalities. Among the things we can appreciate are his moderation and theological stability in the midst of massive, wrenching changes sweeping through American Evangelicalism.  When we look at his character and conduct, it is admirable how Billy Graham’s life was untouched by sexual scandal.  He reportedly received a relatively modest salary from his organization and lived a relatively modest lifestyle.  We can only lament that American Evangelicalism has become unrecognizable to those of us who became Christians during the 1970s and earlier.

I also appreciate Rev. Graham’s openness to Orthodoxy.  His willingness to meet with Metropolitan Hilarion of the Russian Orthodox Church in 2014 is striking evidence of the openness that Evangelicals can have with the Orthodox.  In many ways the spirit of theological conservatism combined with openness to other religious traditions that I saw in Billy Graham and experienced at Gordon-Conwell helped me begin my journey to Orthodoxy.  I approached Orthodoxy with friendly curiosity, not with fear and paranoia.  Today as an Orthodox Christian I am convinced that Orthodoxy has the fullness of the Faith, but I am also grateful for the many valuable lessons I learned from Evangelicalism: the need for personal faith in Christ, the importance of reading the Bible, and daily prayer.  These lessons I have retained as an Orthodox Christian.

Robert Arakaki


Robert Arakaki.  2014.  “Evangelicals Talking With Orthodox.” ReformedOrthodoxBridge

Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.  2018.  “In Memoriam: Billy Graham.

Michael Hyatt and John Maddex.  2018.  “6 Things Orthodox Christians Can Learn From Billy Graham.”  Ancient Faith Presents . . . .


Franklin Graham Meets With the Patriarch Kiril


Rev. Franklin Graham Meets with Patriarch Kyril of Moscow

Rev. Franklin Graham meets with Patriarch Kyril of Moscow – 28 October 2015


On 28 October 2015, the Rev. Franklin Graham met with His Holiness Patriarch Kiril of Moscow.  They met to discuss shared concerns like the persecution of Christians all around the world, especially in the Middle East, and the recent religious and moral shifts in the West.


His Holiness Patriarch Kirill noted that the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association courageously confessed its faith and defended Christian values. “This gives us a sign of hope: there are people among Western Christians akin to us in ethic principles, sharing them with the Russian Orthodox Church,” His Holiness said and reminded his listeners that the Moscow Patriarchate had suspended any contacts and dialogue with Christian Churches and communities which perform same-sex marriages in church and even ordain people of non-traditional sexual orientation as priests and bishops. “For instance, we had to break off contacts with the Episcopal Church in the USA, but we support the Anglican Church in North America which remains faithful to Christian ethics. I would like to note once again the role played by the conservative evangelicals in the United States as their position gives us an opportunity to continue our dialogue with Christians in America.”  Source

The controversial adoption of same-sex marriage has affected Orthodoxy’s relations with Reformed churches.  In June 2015, the Russian Orthodox Church severed all ties with the Kirk of Scotland and the United Protestant Church of France.  (Note: the United Protestant Church of France resulted from a merger of Lutherans and Reformed in 2013.)  The Kirk of Scotland voted to allow gay ministers in civil partnerships and the United Protestant Church of France voted to allow pastors to bless same-sex marriages.

This recent conversation between Rev. Graham and an encouraging indicator that Protestants can work together with Orthodox on areas of shared concerns despite their differences.  As American society becomes increasingly post-Christian it becomes all the more urgent for Protestants from mainline churches and evangelical congregations to engage in conversation with historic Christians.   Evangelicals are encouraged to read Metropolitan Joseph’s “Archepiscopal Directive On So-called ‘Same-sex Marriage‘” to see where they have common ground with the Orthodox.


Evangelical and Orthodox in conversation

Evangelical and Orthodox in conversation


This is not the first time an Evangelical leader met with the leadership of the Russian Orthodox Church.  Franklin Graham happens to be following example of his father.  The Rev. Billy Graham was visited by Metropolitan Hilarion November 2014.  In light of Billy Graham’s upcoming 97th birthday on 7 November 2015, we send him a traditional Orthodox greeting: “God grant you many years!”


Billy Graham and Metropolitan Hilarion (2014)

Billy Graham and Metropolitan Hilarion (2014)  OrthodoxBridge article


Robert Arakaki



Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese.  29 October 2015.  “Metropolitan Joseph’s Archepiscopal Directive On So-called ‘Same-sex Marriage.'”

BBC.  16 May 2015.  “Church of Scotland votes to allow gay ministers in civil partnerships.”

Dept. of External Church Relations — The Russian Orthodox Church.  28 October 2015.  “His Holiness Patriarch Kirill Meets With William Franklin Graham President of Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.

The National.  5 June 2015.  “As Moscow severs ties to the Kirk, Lewis decides against split.”

Reuters.  17 May 2015.  “French Protestant church allows gay marriage blessing.

Christian Examiner (Gregory Tomlin).  8 June 2015.  “Russian Church severs ties with Scotland & France churches; warns a blessing of LGBT clergy paves he way for the Antichrist.

Christian Post (Stoyan Zaimov).  30 October 2015.  “Franklin Graham Travels to Moscow for Meeting on Persecution.”

Evangelicals Talking With Orthodox


Billy Graham and Metropolitan Hilarion (2014)

“God grant you many years!”     sung version

Evangelicals Talking With Orthodox

In early November 2014, Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev of the Russian Orthodox Church visited the Rev. Billy Graham to wish him a happy 96th birthday. The visit was more than a symbolic gesture. Soon afterward, Metropolitan Hilarion delivered a speech to a group of Evangelical leaders at a forum organized by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. In his address Metropolitan Hilarion reviewed the Russian Orthodox Church’s interaction with American Protestantism.

Among the vivid testimonies to the good cooperation between the Moscow Patriarchate and American Christians is our friendship with Billy Graham’s Evangelistic Association, the founder of which has visited Russia several times. We appreciated the understanding that representatives of the Association and the Rev. Graham personally expressed towards the stand taken by the Russian Orthodox Church in various historical periods.  Source

He further noted that Orthodox and Evangelicals need to work more closely to uphold traditional biblical morality.

Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev addressing American Evangelicals (2014)

Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev addressing American Evangelicals (2014)    Speech








Billy Graham and Russia

Billy Graham Being Received by the Patriarch of Moscow

Billy Graham’s interest in Russia goes back as early as 1959 when he made a personal visit to Moscow and prayed for Russia at Red Square (p. 232). In 1992, Billy Graham returned to Russia to conduct a three day evangelistic crusade (p. 235).

Billy Graham’s passion for preaching the Good News of Jesus Christ is not incompatible with Orthodoxy.

Metropolitan Kallistos Ware noted:

The Orthodox have always had good cooperation with Billy Graham. When Billy Graham went to Russia, he was received by the patriarch, because he worked on the principle that those who came forward to make a commitment to Christ at his preaching were handed over to the clergy of their own church. He did not try to set up his own evangelical communities that would be rivals to the Orthodox. (Christianity Today) (St. Elias Church)

After decades of Soviet rule some of the Orthodox Christians have succumbed to nominalism and preachers like Billy Graham have played an important role in renewing their faith in Christ. What is important to Orthodoxy is the fact that Rev. Graham has been respectful of the Orthodox Church. His goal has been to bring people to faith in Christ, not establish rival Evangelical Churches as an alternative to the historic Russian Orthodox Church.

Ecumenicism Through Personal Friendship

Billy Graham approached ecumenicism through personal friendship rather than through theological negotiation. David Aikman in Billy Graham: His Life and Influence (2007) tells how Billy Graham met the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Pimen, in 1982 and 1984. In 1988, Billy Graham visited Patriarch Pimen by his bedside as he lay dying. He recounted:

I sat by his side for a long time and held his hand. . . . . He told me again, as he had on an earlier visit, that he wanted his priests to learn how to preach evangelistic sermons. I prayed with him as my brother in Christ. (Aikman 2007:168)


Billy Graham’s Example

I was delighted when I saw the picture of Billy Graham with Metropolitan Hilarion. This is a wonderful example of Evangelical-Orthodox friendship. If Billy Graham is open to talking with Metropolitan Hilarion, it then follows that Evangelicals should also be open to talking with Orthodox Christians and making friends with Orthodox Christians.

Probably the biggest impediment to Evangelical-Orthodox dialogue is ignorance. Many Evangelicals are unaware of the existence of Orthodoxy. Fortunately, this situation is changing as growing numbers of Protestants and Evangelicals are learning of Orthodoxy’s ancient roots and its liturgical style of worship.

At first sight Orthodoxy looks strange, foreign, or exotic to many Evangelicals. That is because so many Evangelicals do not know of Christianity’s ancient roots. Once they get over their initial shock Evangelical inquirers will be pleasantly surprised to find there are former Protestants and Evangelicals among the Orthodox. These former Protestants can explain the ancient Christian faith in terms familiar to Evangelicals. They thus become a bridge between two important religious traditions. For Evangelicals looking for something more the Orthodox response is: Come and see!

Robert Arakaki


See also

Rod Dreher. “An Orthodox-Evangelical Alliance?” In The American Conservative

Shirwood Eliot Wirt.  Billy: A Personal Look at Billy Graham (1997) Ch. 26

Robert Arakaki.  “Which Path to Church Unity: Recognition vs Reception