Billy Graham Center

Interviews of William E. Pannell - Collection 498

[Note: What follows is a description of the documents in this collection which are available for use at BGC Archives in Wheaton, Illinois, USA. The actual documents are not, in most cases, available online, only this description of them. Nor are they available for sale or rent.The oral histrory interviews in this collection can be boorowed through interlibrary loan.]

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Table of Contents

Brief Description of This Collection

Title Page and Restrictions


An Essay on the Contents of the Collection (Scope and Content)

Lists of Audio Tapes in This Collection (Location Records)
    Audio Tapes


Collection 498 [May 12, 2011]
Pannell, William E.; 1929-
Interviews; 1995-2007
Audio Tapes

Brief Description. Oral history interviews in which Pannell talks about his boyhood in Michigan, his family, conversion as a teenager, his growing awareness of racism in America and especially its influence on American Christianity, education at Fort Wayne Bible College, involvement with the Brethren Assemblies, the part preaching has played in his life, the divide between urban and suburban culture and its impact on black and white churches and institutions, his work with Youth for Christ, the difficulties in reaching urban black youth, of his association with Tom Skinner and the development of Tom Skinner Crusades (TSC), the 1966 World Congress on Evangelism, his first experiences as an author, early meetings of TSC, difficult relations between TSC and Campus Crusade for Christ, Skinner's speech on "Christ the Liberator" at the 1970 InterVarsity Urbana conference and its impact; later history of TSC; Pannell’s years on the faculty of Fuller Theological Seminary and the impact of people such as David Allan Hubbard and Donald McGavran

Restrictions: None



Full name William E. Pannell
Birth June 24, 1929 in Sturgis, Michigan
Parents William and Olive Pannell. Stepfather was Joseph Perkins
Siblings Beverly (full sister), Edna, Olive, David, Sarah, Richard, Mary Ann
Marital Status Married to Hazel
Children Philip, Peter
Conversion April 1946, an a revival meeting
1947?-1951 B.A., from Fort Wayne Bible College, Fort Wayne, Indiana
1980 M.A. in Social Ethics from the University of Southern California
1951-1978 Itinerant evangelist (usually served as song leader at the very beginning of his ministry)
1955-1965 Assistant youth pastor in Detroit and area youth director for the Brethren Assemblies in southern Michigan
1964-1968 Assistant director of leadership training and staff evangelist with Youth for Christ
1968-1974 Vice president and associate evangelist with Tom Skinner Crusades (later Tom Skinner Associates)
1974- Faculty member of Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena, California. He began as assistant professor of evangelism and director of the Black Pastors' program. In 1992 he became the Arthur DeKruyter/Christ Church Oak Brook Professor of Preaching. Dean of Chapel from 1992-1998.
Other significant information
Attended the 1966 World Congress on Evangelism, the 1969 United States Congress on Evangelism; authored books: My Friend, the Enemy (1968), Evangelism from the Bottom Up (1992), The Coming Race Wars?: A Cry for Reconciliation (1993); received honorary doctorates from Malone College and Geneva College; served as board member of Fuller Theological Seminary (1971-1974), Taylor University, Sojourners/Call to Renewal


Scope and Content

William Pannell was interviewed by Robert Shuster in 1995, 1998, 2000, 2003 and 2007at the Billy Graham Center in Wheaton, Illinois and at his office in Fuller Seminary in Pasadena, California. The events described in the interview cover the time period 1929-2007

T1 ( 67 minutes). Birth in Michigan; early memories; migration pathways of Black men north to Michigan; limited and awkward contacts with his father when he was growing up; later appreciation of his father's struggle; characteristics of his mother (love of the piano, center of the family), description of his stepfather; demasculinizing of Black men in society; more on his mother as the center of the family; Aunt Edna; aspects of his mother's personality he inherited; effect on the family of the death of his mother and his stepfather's remarriage; "all of the [Black] men who worked in that town...pushed mops;" contrasting messages Black children were receiving from the town's society because of underlying racism; more on the character of the small town in which he grew up; his acceptance as a child and a teenager of society's social conditioning; awareness of the elite culture in high school and at the country club and elsewhere in town; memories of his grandfather and the impact of his death; mourning traditions in the Black community; more information on his grandparents' biographies; importance of pleasing his mother and of family, school and Sunday school; awareness of the difference caused by being Black; place of sports in his life; his expectations for his life shaped by his Christian faith; early Christian influences and thoughts about God and Jesus; importance of attending Brethren Assemblies Sunday school; becoming involved in a Christian youth group as a teenager; his conversion to Christ in April 1946 in a revival meeting, reaction of family and friends

T2 ( 67 minutes). Reason for going to Bible college after high school; first efforts at evangelism in his home town; reason for going to Fort Wayne Bible Institute; the ethos for witnessing at the local Missionary Church; support Pannell has received from women; the tradition of African Americans serving as domestic servants; comments of the Black community in Sturgis; memories of his grandfather; Mildred's efforts to raise the means for Pannell's education and her influence on Pannell; going to Bible school; changes in him during his time in college; reflections on his education at Fort Wayne; comparison of a Bible college with a seminary; the emphasis on missions and ministry at Fort Wayne; his later relationship with the Bible college; teachers who influenced him (Jarred Gerig, Safara Austin Witmer); the difference between a devotional and scholarly approach to biblical studies; the experience of serving on the Institute's Gospel teams; beginning of evangelistic ministry (first as a song leader) after graduation; reflections on his experiences as an evangelist; African American pastors in the Christian and Missionary Alliance; Thomas Florence and the Cedine Bible Mission; the effect of there being almost no other Black students at Fort Wayne; reason for white preference for Jamaicans over African Americans; reflections on the responsibility and joys of preaching; Richard Gerig; development of a radio ministry; characteristics of radio evangelism; first contacts with B. M. Nottage

T3 ( 70 minutes). Relations between blacks and whites in the Brethren Assemblies in the Detroit area; meeting Jim Wallis; Pannell's movement to a more radical Christianity; Vern Miller and the Mennonite perspective; more on Wallis; disenchantment of Pannell with the white Brethren Assemblies and the racial and generational split; the exodus of whites from Detroit after the riots of the late 1960s; B. M. Nottage's attitude toward patronization by white churches; changes in Pannell's preaching style (different audiences, the importance of the cultural reality of the city and of politics); difference between evangelistic and prophetic preaching; differences in the preaching invitations he received as his preaching changed; preaching as artistry in words; criticism of his preaching as too political; contrasts between the views and realities of the white and Black preaching in the United States; changes in preaching following changes in consciousness; description of the life of an itinerant evangelist; taking his family on his trips; criticisms of him because of his white friends

T4 ( 70 minutes). Early fascination with Youth for Christ (presentation, style, emphasis on preaching, American quality); Paul Robbins; attempts of some YFC leaders to make the organization meaningful for Black teenagers (Jay Kesler, Sam Wolgemuth); Pannell's involvement with YFC; Ted Engstrom; Pannell's reasons for joining with Tom Skinner Crusades; work of a YFC staff evangelist and description of a typical YFC Saturday night rally; influence of Southern California and music on YFC; YFC efforts to take Black youth more seriously; place of entrepreneurs in YFC; contrast of humble spirit of Kesler with other American ministers; Kesler's help for the leaders of local chapters; Pannell's efforts to build support in the Black community; limitations on YFC's outreach to th Black community (budget, lack of contacts); YFC's following of white flight out of the cities; Pannell's advocacy of a division of urban ministry; effect of the divide between urban and suburban on the American church; Young Life's development of urban ministry; influence of former YFC staff on current (2000) urban ministry; discontent of some YFC staff with Pannell's emphasis on social action and urban ministry; the emergence of urban Christian leaders; final comments on YFC; Carl Henry; memories of the 1966 World Congress on Evangelism; impressiveness of delegates; Paul S. Rees; weaknesses of the Congress program; Frank Laubach; Michael Cassidy and the struggle over his comments on nationalism in his speech; African Enterprise; Judy and Richard Peace; memories of the city of Berlin and the Berlin Wall; Oral Roberts; David Hubbard; reflections on the 1969 United States Congress on Evangelism

T5 ( 35 minutes). Inadequate emphasis at the 1969 United States Congress on Evangelism on the urban environment; use of Pannell and Skinner as tokens or window dressing by some Evangelical institutions; using speaking opportunities to bring about change; growing unwelcomeness for Pannell and Skinner at many Evangelical institutions; paradox of the "simple" gospel; Pannell's early experiences as a writer; writing My Friend the Enemy to describe Black Evangelical experience; influence of the book on Black young people; reaction to the book and Pannell at Fort Wayne Bible College; Clarence Jordan; Pannell's feeling of being an orphan between Evangelical and liberal Protestants; John Yoder; encouragement and help Pannell received from the Mennonite tradition and his involvement with Mennonite churches and institutions; Pannell's current (2000) evaluation of My Friend the Enemy; writing of The Coming Race Wars?

T6 (90 minutes). Summary of his involvement with Youth for Christ (Paul Robbins, no place for Blacks in the movement and changes desired by the "Young Turks," Jay Kesler); hearing about Tom Skinner; Skinner speaking at a Winona Lake conference; Jack Daniel's efforts to have a more effective program among Black young people in Chicago; movement of white Evangelicals from the city and the effect on YFC; reasons for the lack of effective outreach to African American urban youth; impact of the inner city riots of 1965 and 1966; working with Ken Anderson and his influence on Pannell's first book; plans for Tom Skinner to address a citywide meeting of the Brethren Assemblies in Detroit; the Tom Skinner Crusade organization; Vivian Skinner; reasons for Pannell joining TSC in 1968; model of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (urban nature of mass evangelistic work, assistance from the BGEA staff and Walter Bennett, Bennett's comments on plans for a meeting in Chicago); Jack Wyrtzen; impact of television on citywide meetings; the meetings held in Newark in 1968 (responsibilities for organizing the meetings, the invitation from white Evangelical association, influence of the riots of 1967, importance of a Black Power conference convened by a Episcopal priest, issues of identity, community and power and their influence on Pannell and Skinner, importance of the riots in the life of the city, opposition or indifference to many Black pastors and leaders to the Skinner meetings, results of the meetings and lessons learned) the importance of reconciliation in TSC's ministry as opposed to other Evangelical ministries; more on the lessons of Newark; Stuart Barton Babbage; controversy over the move of Conwell Seminary from Philadelphia to Massachusetts and the part of Harold John Ockenga and J. Howard Pew; Skinner's ability to understand the politics of a meeting or a group; more on Babbage; development of TSC after the Newark meetings; contacts with other evangelistic organizations as a reflection of society's realization that African Americans had to be taken more seriously; Eldridge Cleaver, tensions over Skinner's accepting invitations to speak indiscriminately; special emphases of the ministry (city crusades for African Americans, campus ministry, management seminars) attempts to provide management training for Black churches and organizations; Ted Engstrom and Ed Dayton; Skinner's and Pannell's affinity with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship; lack of affinity with Bill Bright and Campus Crusade for Christ; tensions at a seminar at Arrowhead Springs; "Negro" vs. "Black," E.V. Hill; difference between IVCF and CCC; name change from "Tom Skinner Crusades" to "Tom Skinner Associates"; Donald McGavran and Alan Tippett; Pannell's position paper on African American culture for TSC; recruiting people for TSC; Carl Ellis; growth of the staff and changes in the organization; Richard Parker

T7 (30 minutes). Special emphases of TSA; efforts to hold seminars for African American pastors; influence of TSC on a new generation of young Blacks; the importance of Skinner's speech "The Liberator Has Come" at the 1970 InterVarsity Urbana conference (background to the invitation to speak, efforts to get African Americans to attend the conference, theology from below; the search of the TSA staff for a new theology that spoke to freedom and liberation; the importance of the emphasis on the Kingdom of God motif; preaching about Christ the Liberator; reasons for accepting the invitation to speak at the 1970 Urbana; the Black minister or professor does not have the luxury of doing just one thing; reasons for the influence of TSA and the 1970 Urbana meeting; Pannell's influence on Skinner)

T8 (140 minutes). Strategies to involve black students in InterVarsityís Urbana conferences; Elward Ellis; informal sessions for black students during the 1970 conference; Skinnerís sermon on Christ the Liberator and the reaction of students and the InterVarsity leadership; David Howard; Kingdom of God as a response to liberationist impulse around the world; reaction of conservative Christians; the impact over time of the 1970 Urbana conference; Peter Hammond; Pannell speaking at a student conference in Hattiesburg, Mississippi; impact of urban riots in America around the world and white reaction in the United States; the development and problems of TSC in the early to mid-1970s; struggling to hold urban crusades centering on local black churches; Billy Grahamís leadership in the Evangelical movement in America; white and black attitudes toward the Skinner organizationís Newark, New Jersey meetings; organizing a citywide event in Newark right after the 1968 uprising; the work with black college students; ďto be evangelistic and in solidarity with the needs of the black community;Ē Carl Ellis and LíAbri; Vivian Skinner; Richard Parker; Parkerís beginnings with TSC; evangelism vs. reconciliation; Skinnerís drift away from the organization and Pannellís departure; the impact on Pannell of his work and friendship with Skinner; reasons for going to Fuller to teach; contacts with David Allan Hubbard; Glen Barker; Bob Munger; the move from Michigan to California as a great change in Pannellís life; the reforming personality of Fuller Seminary; Hubbard as president of Fuller; Max De Pree and Fuller board of trustees; Fullerís ďmission beyond the missionĒ to the Evangelical community; Richard Mouw; Hubbardís ability to interact with liberal theologians; his style and sophistication; Fullerís fidelity to Scripture; concern at Fuller with justice and mercy; Pannellís enthusiasm for Fuller; changes in Fullerís faculty and students over the years; Donald McGavran, Alan Tippit; the School of World Mission at Fuller; C. Peter Wagner; Paul Heibert


The materials in this collection were given to the Archives of the Billy Graham Center by William E. Pannell, 1995-2007

Accession:95-93, 98-18, 00-12, 03-58
August 8, 2002
Robert Shuster

Accession: 03-58
September 7, 2004
Bob Shuster

Accession 07-19
May 12, 2011
Bob Shuster


Accession: 95-93, 98-18, 00-12, 03-58, 07-19
Type of Material: Audio Tapes

The following items are located in the AUDIO TAPE file.

# R/C/D speed length in min. Sides Contents Dates
T1 R 3.75 67 1 Oral history interview of William Pannell by Robert Shuster 5/25/1995
T2 R 3.75 67 1 Conclusion of oral history interview of William Pannell by Robert Shuster 4/21/1998
T3 R 3.75 60 1 Oral history interview of William Pannell by Robert Shuster 4/21/1998
T4 R 3.75 70 1 Oral history interview of William Pannell by Robert Shuster 2/28/2000
T5 R 3.75 35 1 Oral history interview of William Pannell by Robert Shuster 2/28/2000
T6 C -- 90 2 Oral history interview of William Pannell by Robert Shuster 8/18/2003
T7 C -- 30 1 Oral history interview of William Pannell by Robert Shuster 8/18/2003
T8 D -- 140 -- Oral history interview of William Pannell by Robert Shuster 3/27/2007

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Last Revised: 5/12/2011
Expiration: indefinite