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Billy Graham, despite health woes, vows to continue ‘until the end’

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–A vow to continue preaching until health concerns force him to stop was voiced by the nation’s most prominent evangelist on the eve of the Middle Tennessee Billy Graham Crusade in Nashville’s Adelphia Coliseum.

During a May 31 news conference, Graham, 81, addressed a report in The Tennessean newspaper that indicated he would soon end his crusades.

“When The Tennessean quoted me last week as saying this could possibly be my last year holding crusades, that was the medical patient in me speaking,” Graham said. “But I went on to say that I would never stop preaching, which was the evangelist in me talking.”

Graham, who has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, said he also has a hydrocephalus-like condition of too much fluid on his brain, causing some forgetfulness when fluid presses on certain parts of his brain.

At times appearing deliberate, Graham quickened his responses when asked about spiritual matters relating to the middle Tennessee crusade. “At times there are things that I forget, but I can still quote most of the Scriptures” he has quoted over the years, Graham said. “The future belongs to the Lord and I intend to keep on preaching until the end.”

The middle Tennessee crusade marks Graham’s third crusade appearance in Nashville and the evangelist said that while the city has changed somewhat, his message remains the same.

“I’m going to deliver the same message I gave the last two times I was here,” Graham said. “God is a God of love and he loves everyone. … [Jesus] is alive and he’s coming back again,” and each person needs to “repent of your sins and receive him as Lord and Savior by faith.”

“I’m preaching the same message because the gospel is still the same, man’s heart is the same and people are doing the same old things,” he added.

Graham also commented about the Southern Baptist Convention, the nation’s largest non-Catholic religious body. “Southern Baptists are a tremendous power for God in this country,” he said in response to a question about a proposed revision of the SBC’s Baptist Faith and Message confessional statement.

On the nation’s moral health, Graham referenced the Ten Commandments and other religious influences that have been removed from schools and other public settings, saying, “When we took religion out, we put sex in, and things began to deteriorate.” Church-state questions are “very difficult” in contemporary America, he said, noting that people in today’s multi-religious society must have “a certain amount of tolerance toward each other.”

Concerning the Internet and other facets of modern technology, Graham said they offer many opportunities to advance faith, but also are “an opportunity for the devil.” Some Internet content, he lamented, is “so beyond what our Christian teaching is.”

After the middle Tennessee crusade, Graham will host Amsterdam 2000, an international conference for evangelists from all over the world, July 29-Aug. 6. The conference will include more than 10,000 invited evangelists and church leaders from 190 countries and territories.

Following Amsterdam, Graham will conduct a crusade in Jacksonville, Fla., Nov. 2-5.

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  • Todd Starnes & Art Toalston