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Billy Graham gets seminary’s 20-year report

MONTREAT, N.C. (BP) — At the 20-year anniversary of the Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism and Ministry, the famed evangelist received a report from the president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, R. Albert Mohler Jr., and the school’s new dean, Adam W. Greenway.

The Graham School was founded at Southern in 1993 when Mohler became the seminary’s ninth president.

Mohler said the visit with Graham, Oct. 29 at the evangelist’s home in Montreat, N.C., provided the privilege “to affirm the friendship that has existed between him and Southern Seminary for so many decades.”

Graham played “such a pivotal role in the establishment of the Graham School,” Mohler said, “and in my inauguration as president” when the evangelist addressed a worship service the evening before the inauguration.

“You have elected a young man here with a tremendous vision, not only for the future of this theological seminary but the future of evangelism and missions in the Southern Baptist Convention and in the world,” Graham told the seminary’s trustees, among the 9,000 people in attendance at the service. “I support him with all my heart and will pray for him daily from now on.”

Trustees had tasked Mohler with returning Southern to its founding commitments, from which the seminary had drifted over the years. Upon his hiring, Mohler faced criticism from the seminary faculty and an uproar among the students.

“There will come difficult times,” Graham said during Mohler’s inauguration. “There are many decisions that you have to make. And one of the things that will be difficult for Dr. Mohler will be the great expectancy there is of him at this moment. And he’ll have to make hard decisions. And it won’t be a decision that everybody will like.”

Graham’s words have proven both prophetic and as source of encouragement to Mohler.

“Dr. Graham’s coming in 1993 to speak at my inauguration was such an incredible gift, and it was not only a gift in his presence, but in his words,” Mohler said.

Now, 20 years later, Graham “continues to marvel at what he calls the ‘new Southern,'” said Graham’s chief of staff, David Bruce, who was present at the meeting. Graham expressed to Mohler his “joy at knowing that the school is reliant on the truth of God’s Word as the focus of study,” Bruce recounted.

“Praise God for the faithfulness of Dr. Mohler and his leadership of Southern Seminary,” Bruce quoted Graham as saying.

Addressing Mohler directly, the evangelist said, “I am grateful to you, Dr. Mohler, for leading Southern Seminary in a reaffirmation of the truth of God’s Word.”

With the Billy Graham School’s founding announced at the 1993 inauguration, Mohler updated Graham during their Oct. 29 meeting about the only school he permits to use his name and introduced him to Greenway, the school’s new dean.

“The invitation to visit with Billy Graham personally was truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” said Greenway, who became the fourth dean of the Graham School in June. “Being dean of the only school Dr. Graham ever endorsed with his own name is a singular honor and a sacred trust, and I took great pleasure in being able to report to him that we remain unwavering in our commitments to the same gospel message and urgent mission that he has so faithfully embodied.”

Greenway is the first dean of the school the since it expanded to the Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism and Ministry, combining the Billy Graham School of Missions and Evangelism and the School of Church Ministries. The new Graham School serves students of both international and domestic missions, church planting, worship leadership and both local church and educational leadership.

“Seeing [Graham’s] face light up with great joy as Dr. Mohler and I shared about the incredible work God has done and is doing at Southern Seminary in general, and the newly expanded Billy Graham School in particular, was a deeply moving experience,” Greenway said. “I know with certainty that Dr. Graham has a special affection for the Billy Graham School and Southern Seminary, and I left his presence with an even greater conviction about the tremendous stewardship entrusted to me as I lead this flagship school for Great Commission training — a school from which I am a proud alumnus.”

In the meeting, Mohler asked Graham to offer advice for students at Southern Seminary. In reply, Mohler said Graham spoke about the necessity of a devotional life to “lead a preacher to truth, spiritual power and ministry effectiveness.”

“Tell them to study more and speak less,” Graham told Mohler and Greenway, Bruce quoted the evangelist as saying.

The visit came only a week before Graham’s 95th birthday. Mohler said he and Greenway wished the evangelist a happy birthday. A week later, Nov. 7, Graham attended a birthday celebration, where he, in the form of a video recorded during the past year, preached his familiar message. The video is part of the national My Hope America with Billy Graham evangelistic campaign during the first half of November.

In the video, Graham says “how far people have wandered from God” has caused him to weep for the United States and to call anew for a spiritual awakening.
Aaron Cline Hanbury is manager of news and information at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter
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  • Aaron Cline Hanbury