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 . . . .



  1. Hi Robert,
    I enjoyed reading about Billy Graham and appreciate the photo of he with Metropolitan Hilarion.
    Thank you for relating your experience.

  2. Minor local connection to the late Rev Graham…

    Rev Graham appointed Dr Sanden as Dean of Liberal Arts at Northwestern Schools in Minneapolis MN where he (Rev Graham) served as President. [] So these two knew each other. Dr Sanden later served as the pastor at Warrendale Presbyterian Church in St Paul MN. Warrendale’s church building is still in use by Mission Orthodox Presbyterian Church, where I attend. Northwestern Schools is now University of Northwestern in St Paul MN []. I have been told that Rev Graham preached occasionally at Warrendale but cannot independently verify. If true, the pulpit he preached from is probably in storage in the basement at Mission Orthodox Presbyterian Church.

  3. A Saint across all denominational boards, he should be canonized by the Catholics and Orthodox, Graham was instrumental to the flowering of orthodoxy under the iron curtain and a mighty evangelist that spanned all denoms. period.

    1. Jordan,

      While I sympathize with your suggestion, the Orthodox Church has certain criteria for canonization, one of them is being a member of the Orthodox Church. For example, a Latin Christian who died after the Great Schism of 1054 is not likely to be deemed a canonical saint. This explains why Francis of Assisi and Mother Teresa are not considered Orthodox saints. We can admire their example and give thanks to God for their life of service to others, but the Tradition Orthodoxy follows prevents their being canonized as saints. The same thing can be said about Billy Graham. He lived an admirable life and many good things came out of his crusades but all this would not qualify him for canonization. God’s grace is not confined to the Orthodox Church but mysteriously at work outside the Church as well. We believe that God’s grace is uniquely made manifest in the Mysteries (Sacraments) of the Church, especially the Eucharist. Thank you for the suggestion though.


  4. Fine job Michael. Dr. Graham has been exemplary for decade that is unique
    in our day. A man of real integrity and faithfulness. Here is another Orthodox
    friend of our Deacon Michael Hyatt, who in his recent interview by Mr. John
    Maddex gives us “Six Things Orthodox Christians Can Learn From Billy Graham.
    One funny moment about “using air” but I mention it to get you to listen. No,
    Mr. Graham never converted to Orthodoxy (on Earth 😉 ) but he is such a fine
    example in so many other ways, we are foolish not to learn what we can.

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