America’s Pastor, historian Grant Wacker’s assessment of the long career of Billy Graham, is to be published at the end of November by Harvard University Press. It is a highly readable study of how ‘a lanky farm kid from North Carolina’ was to have such a major impact on American culture. More an academic interpretation of Graham’s life than a straightforward biography it does contain revelations that will shock some readers. No. There are no scandals concerning sex or money. Graham’s life is refreshingly free of the kind of the dark clouds that have hung over some evangelists. His non-evangelical critics have mainly concentrated on his close links with a number of US Presidents, especially Richard Nixon. They will find material to support their case here although Wacker reveals the President Graham was probably closest to was Lyndon Johnson. But the really shocking revelation, that will confirm the worst fears of critics among the fundamentalists at Bob Jones University and elsewhere, is that Graham told one reporter that if he was starting over again he would be ‘an evangelical Anglican’. He once told veteran journalist Kenneth Woodward he saw ‘spiritual beauty in Anglican order’. Leighton Ford has revealed in an email to Wacker that Graham has asked Richard Bewes, former Rector of All Souls, Langham Place, to help officiate at his funeral service.
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