Christian people the world over will be thanking God at this time for the life of Billy Graham, a great lover of Jesus Christ, who went to be with the Lord today. He was 99 years old. So often throughout my life I have worked alongside those who have shared with me that their journey of faith in Christ began after hearing Billy Graham preach of the love of God for us sinners, and of Jesus’ power to change lives and lead us out of darkness into his marvellous light. In this country many will recall the new life that came to the churches through his missions, especially Mission England in 1984. I met him that year at a rally at Crystal Palace where a member of our music group from Holy Trinity Tulse Hill, Jacqui Hall, was one of the singers. Before that I was with him in the early 1970s when he was leading a mission in Kenya, where Bishop Festo Kivengere, one of Uganda's best known evangelists, was his interpreter, translating into Swahili. During his life he has faithfully invited millions to come and follow Jesus!
Though initially ambivalent about the Civil Rights Movement in America, Graham came to understand through his reading of the Bible that the Gospel embraced all people without distinction. As St Paul had taught, 'There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.' (Galatians 3.28) A good friend of Dr Martin Luther King Junior, Billy Graham preached: “Jesus was not a white man; He was not a black man. He came from that part of the world that touches Africa and Asia and Europe. Christianity is not a white man’s religion, and don’t let anybody ever tell you that it’s white or black. Christ belongs to all people; He belongs to the whole world.”
Now, after many years of failing health, Billy himself has gone to share in the glory of which he so often spoke, cleansed by the blood of the Son of God, shed on the cross, in whom he put his trust, and welcomed at the throne of the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who first loved us, and gave himself for us. Wherever people remember Billy Graham today, there will be gratitude for this faithful servant of Christ, for his bold witness, and for the legacy of changed lives and communities which continues to spread hope, transformation, and a living story of salvation today. I thank God for his witness and for his example.
May he rest in peace, and rise in glory!
+ Sentamu Ebor