CHARLOTTE — Evangelist Billy Graham will be the focus of a conference next week featuring Graham’s sister and brother-in-law and panel discussions exploring the legacy of Charlotte’s native son.
“Billy Graham And Modern Evangelism” will be from 2 to 8:30 p.m. Friday at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, 14542 Choate Circle, off Carowinds Boulevard. The event is free and open to the public, and no reservations are needed.
While the conference will be of interest to seminarians, other students and clergy, organizers say, it is also meant for those who have long admired Graham, attended a crusade or simply want to know more about this child of a south Charlotte dairy farm.
Duke Divinity School professor Grant Wacker – whose book, “Billy Graham And The Shaping of Modern America,” is due out later this year from Harvard Press – is among the featured speakers.
“Billy Graham was the most important figure on the American religious scene in the half century that followed World War II,” Wacker said. “His personality, presence and image were keys to the growth of modern evangelicalism.
“This event is part of a larger attempt to come to grips with Graham’s long career and ministry and its importance within the larger American context.”
Graham, 95, is in poor health at home in Montreat, N.C., his public ministry largely over.
The conference schedule is:
• 2:15 p.m. – Showing of the 50-minute video “A Gathering of Souls: The Billy Graham Crusades.”
• 3:30 p.m. – An introduction, “Billy Graham and American History,” by Wacker, and “Reflections on the Life and Ministry of Billy Graham” by Garth Rosell, who teaches church history at Gordon-Conwell’s South Hamilton, Mass., campus.
• 5 p.m. – Supper break, participants are on their own.
• 6:45 p.m. – Wacker moderates a conversation with Jean Graham Ford and Leighton Ford of Charlotte, Graham’s sister and brother-in-law, sharing memories and the more personal side of the story.
• 7:15 p.m. Edith Blumhofer, director of Wheaton College’s Institute for the Study of American Evangelicals, leads a program exploring the music behind Billy Graham’s ministry – “Singing to Save: George Beverly Shea and Cliff Barrows.”
• 8:30 p.m. – A reception will offer conference-goers a chance to speak informally with panelists.
For more information, go to wheaton.edu/ISAE.