Graham’s Diversity Push Lives On

Graham’s Diversity Push Lives On

Will Graham

The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) may not be the first organization people think of as a leader in reconciliation ministry, but at the Jersey Shore Will Graham Celebration that took place in Ocean Grove, New Jersey, on May 20-22, the ministry’s emphasis on diversity brought Christians together to meet the spiritual needs of an ethnically, racially, and denominationally diverse population, as the legendary evangelist’s grandson, William Franklin Graham IV, and others addressed enthusiastic crowds.

“For us to move into a city and begin to work with churches, it’s understood that we look for denominational and racial inclusiveness. It’s not something that we have to be told. It’s in the BGEA DNA, and that goes back to Dr. Graham’s commitment to racial inclusiveness,” said Rod Barnett, director of BGEA’s North American crusade field staff.

Christians counseling new believers at the Jersey Shore Will Graham Celebration

“We look at the number of churches in each denomination and make sure that at least the top five or six denominations are represented on our executive committee. And then we look at the ethnic mix. … The strategy of each of these committees is they have a reach into each of these areas that nobody else does,” said Celebration director Terry Wilken, adding that BGEA requires women and business leaders to be represented as well.

Owen Alston is pastor of Harmony Ministries in Lakehurst, New Jersey, and was on the executive committee for the Jersey Shore Celebration. Alston said he’d met and become friends with pastors of white churches that he wouldn’t have otherwise met.

“Most of the pastors and leaders project unity. They push for it, but they still have to deal with all the people in their congregations,” said Alston.

“I’ve put extra effort into mobilizing what we would consider the black churches to get them on board and to allow this to be a tool to help break down the racial barriers. What’s unfortunate is I’m getting more negative input from the black community than I am from the white,” he said.

Alston had invited nine black pastors to participate when UrbanFaith talked to him this spring and only two had declined. UrbanFaith was unable to contact these two pastors.

“It’s always challenging convincing the churches that we want them to be involved. … That happens in almost every city,” said Wanda McCurdy, a longtime BGEA employee and the only African American staff member on site at the Jersey Shore Celebration.

“The Graham Association always goes the extra mile to make sure everyone is involved and has opportunities,” she said.

James Taylor Jr. teaching youth in preparation for the Jersey Shore Will Graham Celebration

James Taylor Jr. taught at a series of  youth training events before the Celebration. He had previously volunteered with BGEA after his predominantly African American church didn’t want to support its efforts to host a festival in his city, he said.

“It was kind of more of a politic thing,” said Taylor. “What are you going to do for us as blacks? But I felt like it would really help integrate our students, because what was a problem for me was that I had so many black students and white students at a predominantly African American church. … I knew when the Graham festival came, that was a way for our kids to see more diversity,” he said.

Now Taylor pastors a racially and ethnically diverse church in Portsmouth, Virginia. He said BGEA’s diversity commitment is one of the top two reasons he works with the organization.

“[Dr. Graham’s’] concept of racism was basically that it’s not just a social problem, that the root of racism is sin. The only way to overcome that sin is through Jesus Christ. It’s the changed heart of an individual. You’re not going to legislate it. He was saying you gotta’ change the human. That’s always been BGEA’s stance,” said Barnett.

Alston said denominational “spirits” are just as bad as racial ones, but both were overcome at the Celebration through the prayers of spiritually mature people.

“Our prayers were to break down these barriers. We really shouldn’t have to break them down. Jesus already did that. He broke down the wall of partition, but here again the adversary has built them back up. It takes concerted effort to [break them down] and if you don’t do it, it won’t happen,” said Alston.

Barnett recalled a 2006 event in Gainesville, Florida, where there had been a white ministerial group and a black ministerial group that had never worked together.

“As an outcome, at the end of the festival, there had been such a movement between these two groups and a softening of the heart that when we finished the festival there, two weeks after the festival, both ministerial groups met and dissolved and they formed one ministerial group,” said Barnett.

“[Dr. Graham] had one single focus and that was leading people to the cross, leading them to Christ. For us to do that way of evangelism, you work through the local church and when you work through the local church and that is your single focus, one of the outcomes is a better sense of unity,” he said.

On June 25-26, BGEA will hold its first ever bi-lingual American Hispanic Festival at the Home Depot Center in Los Angeles. According to its website, more than 600 Hispanic churches are involved.

“The Hispanic population in southern California is looked at and treated many times as second-class citizens,” Festival co-chair Danny de Leon told BGEA. “For a Crusade to come for them sends a very important message that they are loved and cared for.”

Barnett said Franklin Graham’s interest in this community is born of his passion for people.

“You look back through Dr. Graham, and you look back with Franklin and with Will, there is a passion to reach people for Christ. And with them, it doesn’t make a difference who they are, where they’ve come from, what their background is, what color their skin is. They realize that everyone stands in need of the savior, and they want to reach as many people as they possibly can,” said Barnett.

This Week’s Pendulum

This Week’s Pendulum




The FBI will release a revised edition of the “Domestic Investigations and Operations Guide” that gives their agents more flexibility when it comes to violating your constitutional rights. It is difficult to believe the agency’s recent action has managed to fly under the media radar, but a great deal of the nation has been overly concerned with Anthony Weiner and his inability to act like a morally reasonable adult. FBI agents will be allowed to use commercial and law enforcement databases to gather intelligence without having to file any records. They will also be given the authority to evaluate “potential informants” by sorting through trash or giving lie-detector tests. In a letter to the director of the FBI, Senator Jon Tester of Montana says “until law enforcement agents have reason to investigate any American, it is unacceptable for those agents to cast a wide, non-specific net when they are evaluating a target as a potential informant.” With Big Brother growing more and more powerful, we may soon be living (and not just reading about) George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four.


Wikileaks is auctioning 8 tickets to have lunch with founder Julian Assange as a fundraiser. The bidding began last week and was already at $812 by Wednesday. The lunch will be held on July 2nd, at one of London’s finest restaurants. Along with Assange, guests will have the opportunity to dine with Slovenian Marxist philosopher Slavoj Zizek. Assange is currently on bail and has pled not-guitly for sexual misconduct against two women. Bidding closes today; will you win this once in a lifetime opportunity?


Derrick Kayongo, an Uganda native, was not content with simply fleeing the tyrannical rule of a dictator. Instead he has made it his business to lower child-mortality rates in poor countries. Kayongo and The Global Soap Project (GSP) recycle soap from hotels and create new pathogen-free soap to distribute to struggling villages and families. GSP does not chargerecipients and relies mostly on volunteer assistance. By providing recycledsoap to thousands, Kayongo and The Global Soap project has freed people from having to decide between eating or washing their hands of potential life threatening bacteria. With a more socially conscious generation entering into adulthood, we are bound to see more world citizens like Derrick Kayongo.


Kreayshawn, no that’s not a typo, was recently signed to Columbia Records, and has been supported by artist, Snoop Dogg. Based on her single, “Gucci, Gucci,” she is not bound to attract a conservative audience, but there is something worth discussing concerning this artist. Kreayshawn was born Natassia Zolot. She dropped out of high-school, made a career directing music videos, and then decided to be a rapper. Her single dismisses label brands like “Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Fendi, and Prada,” because she is above labels. Her claim to fame is supposed to be her originality, but aside from her being a white girl from San Francisco, I’m struggling to find the uniqueness. Once again, a gimic wins over the sheep. How will we effectively market real messages in this sea of confusion called the media? Watch Interview below (WARNING: Explicit language) Tweet


Leanne Archer is 15 years old and has a successful hair care business that had revenues of over $100,000 last year. Robert Nay is 14 years old and, with no coding experience, went to a library and learned how to create an iPhone app game. A month later, he created Bubble Ball, which has been downloaded more than 7 million times. Lizzie Marie is 11 and the star of the cable series “Healthy Cooking with Lizzie.” These are just a few of the successful young moguls. They all had one thing in common: their parents’ blessing! Encourage your kids now to do what they want to do “when they grow up.”


For the past five years, insurance premiums have remained stable, but due to rising costs of energy and building materials (gasoline is up 37%, copper is up 20%, and plywood is up 8%) insurance premiums are rising. Consequently, premiums at State Farm Insurance Co. increased its rates 7.3% on average last year. Experts anticipate more increases for homeowners as a backlash for the recent uprising of natural disasters around the world; some say the increase could be as much as 20%. How will your family brace for the increase?


IBM recently announced that it will offer a packaged software platform for cities with applications such as real-time video feeds and street sensors for police, and aims to eventually offer advancements for urban populations. The first three “solutions” will roll out over the next two years and will provide innovative technology for public safety, water management, and transportation monitoring. The future is upon us!


According to the Hollywood Reporter, Oprah has declared, “I have a dream of O.J. Simpson confessing to me…And I am going to make that happen people.” Winfrey hopes to bring this exclusive on her new interview show, Oprah’s Next Chapter, which is set to launch in January. Although she has referred to her new goal as not “that lofty,” I doubt Simpson would confess unless he was on his deathbed. Nevertheless, I am looking forward to seeing Winfrey start her “next chapter,” and I hope that inspires other 50-somethings to keep dreaming beyond mid-life.


Jennifer Hudson will play Winnie Mandela in biopic ‘Winnie,’ due later this year. Although the film has been set up as a tribute to Mrs. Mandela, she does not support the film and expressed her disdain in an interview with CNN because she was not consulted. Mandela has never seen the script; she has never even met Hudson. They have positioned the film as a love story between Nelson and Winnie Mandela during the apartheid struggle. Mandela has exclaimed, “I don’t know what would be romantic in our bitter struggle.” Mandela argues that the filmmakers have done exactly what the enemy did, “they thought for (me)…they (know) what I thought, what I felt like….” Powerful words.

Watch the interview below. Do you think the film is an act of disrespect?


Tracy Morgan had no choice but to go into damage control after saying anti-gay statements in a recent standup in Nashville, TN. Morgan will go with GLAAD to protest the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which outlaws the discussion of homosexuality before the ninth grade in public schools. Morgan recanted his offensive statements saying, “I was bullied when I was a kid. I’m sorry for what I said. I didn’t mean it. I never want to use my comedy to hurt anyone. My family knew what it was like to feel different. My brother was disabled and I lost my father to AIDS in 1987.” Morgan also plans to do a PSA. It seems like every other week a new celebrity has to go into PR rehab after saying an offensive anti-gay statement. Is this an unnecessary parade, or does this issue need to be publicly addressed?