Billy Graham: The Transparent Evangelist

By now, most readers of social media know that Billy Graham passed away today. While he leaves behind many legacies, one seldom noted is his early dedication to financial accountability. In a 2016 Christianity Today article, a story is told of Graham’s conversion to transparency.

In the 1950s, one event solidified Billy Graham’s dedication to financial transparency, according to Grant Wacker, author of America’s Pastor: Billy Graham and the Shaping of a Nation

In Graham’s early crusades, he accepted “love offerings” made by the throngs who came to hear him speak. But in 1950, an Atlanta newspaper ran two front-page photos that changed Graham’s mind. One photo depicted “three or four gunny sacks stuffed with greenbacks,” said Wacker. Next to it was a photo of Graham wearing a big smile.

“The implication was that Graham was gloating because he’d just gleaned so much money from the crusade,” said Wacker. “It wasn’t true, but it appeared that way.” It was the beginning of what Wacker called “Billy Graham’s long-running effort to avoid the appearance of evil, as well as evil.”

By 1952, Graham required every ministry salary to be regularized and public. The elder Graham was the first to formalize salary transparency, Wacker said. “I don’t know of any other evangelistic organization that preceded his.”

It is a shame that the ministry that uses his name changed IRS status a couple of years ago and no longer files documentation of donations and expenditures. The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association is now considered a church. Churches don’t have to file such forms. All this does is shield information and reduce accountability, something that is contrary to Graham’s legacy.

However, today, we should remember that Graham’s principle focus in life was the Gospel. He stood in sharp contrast to “evangelists” such as Kenneth Copeland and Benny Hinn who brag about their wealth with no accountability or transparency.

Today, BGEA is broadcasting Graham’s sermons and crusades continuously.

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