Friday, September 04, 2009

Billy Graham Association Being Sued Over Racial Discrimination

There is some turmoil within the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) as the organization is battling a lawsuit filed by a former employee in which the BGEA is being accused of racial discrimination. The woman, an African American, says that she was fired after complaining that the BGEA was not doing enough in its efforts to reach out to predominately black churches.

If these accusations are true, I would certainly be surprised by it. Even though Rev. Graham no longer leads the day-to-day operations of the BGEA, his influence would certainly still be felt today by the current leadership. Although we can look back on his ministry and point to times when he could have done more when it came to matters of race relations, Dr. Graham played a prophetic role among white Christians when many other Christian leaders failed to address or contributed to the problem of race in America.

For example, he integrated his crusades in the South, before Brown v. Board of Education or the Montgomery Bus Boycott took place. In the face of great opposition from others, he welcomed Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to his crusade platform. He even traveled to South Africa when that country was in the throes of apartheid and preached to integrated audiences.

The lawsuit that Graham's ministry is now facing may simply be a case of a disgruntled former employee who is playing the race card. Or it may be something deeper. I don't know. But I do think that history shows that the BGEA has made efforts to reach across racial and denominational lines so that the gospel of Christ could go forth. But like many other predominately white Christian organizations, there are inherent challenges faced when seeking to include those of other ethnicities.

Although the intentions may be good and the heart is in the right place, ministries seeking to transcend the racial divide encounter all sorts of difficulties when seeking to do so. It may not be that Billy Graham's ministry doesn't want to include black churches, they may just not know how.


Anonymous said...

How can someone claim the racism card to an organization that sends out evangelistic efforts all over the world? They set up Christian events and give to Latin-American countries, European nations, India, China, etc. Billy Graham was holding crusades all over our country in a time when segregation was still around and Mr. Graham did not preach unless those barriers were cut down. Today people can't even imagine what that must have been like and this lady says her job was cut because she was black? Yeaaaah right. If they were so racist do you think they would have even hired her? All companies/organizations have had to downsize this past year. It's just the hard truth of our ecomony. BGEA let go 10% of their staff earlier in the year. I'm sure there were whites who were laid off as well. This case won't get very far.

Anonymous said...

BGEA makes a point that Billy Graham insisted on preaching to unsegregated audiences, which may well be true. Billy did not however support the Civil Rights Movement with any enthusiasm, possibly because of the influence of his father-in-law Nelson Bell whose views on race were somewhat backward.

BGEA cut 10% of its workforce earlier this year, who lost access to healthcare as well as their salaries, while contineuing to pay Franklin Graham. Will Graham, Roy Graham and other relatives extremely generous salaries. I gather even Frankilin is embarassed by this news becoming public.