a billy graham center archives exhibit
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The crusade resulted in a break between Graham and many fundamentalist leaders and also caused severe criticism from liberal Christians.
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"It is my prayer that this difference of judgement as to sponsorship shall be swallowed up in a glorious realization that God has over-ruled and blessed despite the frailties of all of us, His servants." Letter from Billy Graham to G. Archer Weniger. October 7, 1957. From Collection 318, Box 12, Folder 13.

 In the past, Graham had sometimes been accused of being insincere and mostly interested in money, such as the fictional Elmer Gantry in the novel by Sinclair Lewis. However, years of holding crusades around the country under stringent financial controls and Graham’s personal contacts with reporters, editors and opinion makers had almost totally silenced these critics. There were two other lines of criticism that were at full force in New York.

Liberal Protestants associated with the National Council of Churches had long complained that Graham’s brand of evangelism was not concerned with social justice and the impact of Christianity on society, only with individual conversions. Reinhold Neibur, in an article in Life magazine, summarized this view.

More serious were the complaints from some Fundamentalists that Graham, by accepting an invitation that included a wide spectrum of churches, was confusing converts and diluting his message by reaching a compromise with theological liberalism. They were particularly concerned that the information cards of some new converts would be turned over to liberal or Catholic churches to be followed up on. Bob Jones Sr. had long severely criticized Graham on this theme. The New York crusade marked the final break between Graham and some Fundamentalist supporters, such as John R. Rice. Other leaders, such as Jack Wyrtzen, remained friends but privately chided the crusade because of what they saw as undue liberal influence. Graham consistently maintained that he would accept support from anyone, provided there were no restrictions on the Gospel message he preached. The dispute during the crusade led Graham’s research associate, Dr. Robert Ferm, to publish a book explaining the basis for the BGEA’s methods, called Cooperative Evangelism.

Although Graham rarely responded personally to critics, he had answered some of the more common complaints in an article in Look magazine that appeared February 7, 1956. A reprint of this article was widely distributed by the crusade staff during the New York City meetings.

Click below for items on Critics
item 111: from Collection 360
item 23: from Collection 1, box 1, folder 46
item 24: from Collection 108, box 1, folder 1
Magazine cover
Magazine reprint
item 26: from Collection 17, box 1, folder 4
item 27: from Collection 27, box 4, folder 5
item 28: from Collection 360, July 1957 file
John Jess letter
Article excerpts
© 2005 Wheaton College and © 2005 BGEA