As Billy Graham’s family say their final goodbyes at his funeral today, the chief operating officer at the Anglican Communion Office, David White, reflects on his memories of the evangelist from his time as one of the organisers of Mission ’89.
Over the last week, many people have given their personal reflections on the life of Billy Graham, whose funeral is being held today. This has included US presidents and other leaders as well as many thousands who owe their Christian conversion and commitment to his global ministry over 70 years.
It was my privilege to play a very small part in his story. I was in the team organising Mission 89, Billy Graham’s last London meetings at Upton Park, Crystal Palace, Earls Court and Wembley in June 1989. More than 20,000 people came forward for commitment or recommitment at the 12 mission meetings.
Apart from the machinery of organisation, the mission meetings and the other public events, I was able to see something of Billy Graham in action privately as well. Introducing him to the staff and team of volunteers in the London office, his genuine warmth, humility and thankfulness for all who were playing their part in the mission activity was there for all to see.
Those who experienced it will never forget it. Just as God is interested in each of us as individuals, so it was with Billy Graham.
What I share now is not novel: the characteristic that is most clear in my memory is integrity. Billy Graham’s personal integrity came from his imperative to live a Christ-like life and it led him to the highest possible standards of personal behaviour.
At a time when Christian leaders, and particularly US-based evangelists were falling, Dr Graham was the number one target for the media. But they could find no scandal or abuse to accuse him of – because there was none. Billy’s humility and integrity went hand-in-hand and they gave him the authority to share Christ so powerfully to so many.
As institutions committed to good are under such attack for their corporate integrity and standards, the example of the personal integrity of this great Christian leader and communicator shines as a beacon in a world of darkness.
What a privilege to have known him.