SBC to unveil Billy Graham tribute sculpture at '06 meeting

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)--The Southern Baptist Convention will unveil a bronze statue honoring the life and ministry of evangelist Billy Graham at the 2006 annual meeting in Greensboro, N.C., SBC President Bobby Welch announced during the closing session of the 2005 annual meeting in Nashville, Tenn.

The announcement was accompanied by a tribute to Graham, which included messengers approving by acclamation a statement drafted by the SBC Executive Committee honoring Graham and a video chronicling the evangelist's ministry.

The sculpture, which will depict Graham under a cross offering an evangelistic invitation with uplifted hands, will be produced by Wyoming artist and pastor Terrell O'Brien. A bronze model sculpted by O'Brien was revealed to messengers during the tribute.

Funds for the sculpture will be provided by Matt Samuelson and Chris Fryer, owners of CCL Associates, an Atlanta-based church construction consulting firm, Welch said.

"There is no better-known name in all the entire world, when it comes to being a person of faith, than Billy Graham," Welch said. "... In addition to that, there has never been a man on the planet who has preached face to face to as many multiplied hundreds of millions of people [as] this man.

"Beyond that, there has never been a man like that ... who has preached such a clear Gospel of Jesus Christ to be Savior and Lord of your life. And in addition to all of that, he is one of us. He's a Southern Baptist. That's a pretty good son to have."

Graham's grandson, William Franklin Graham IV, acknowledged the tribute on behalf of his grandfather and noted that the evangelist could not be in attendance due to a crusade in New York City scheduled to begin in late June.

"Thank you on the behalf of my grandfather, my father and all of the Graham family," William Franklin Graham said. "I wish my grandfather could be here. He sends his regards. He loves being a Southern Baptist."

The younger Graham, pastor of Wakefield Baptist Church in Raleigh, N.C., urged Southern Baptists to use the statue as a reminder to be faithful to their own callings rather than longing to be like Billy Graham.

"I want to remind people that when they see this statue, I don't want them to think, 'Man, I wish I could be like Billy Graham.' My grandfather and I would say, 'You're shooting too low.' ... He'd say to aim higher. He'd say, 'Just be faithful to the call you have,'" Graham said.

"Be faithful to that one call that God has given you. God's going to use you just like He used my grandfather. And it may not be to hundreds of thousands or millions of people, but it's a job designed just for you."

Graham is a graduate of Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., and Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C.

O'Brien said sculpting the statue, titled "There is Room at the Cross for You," is one of the "greatest privileges that I've had in some 24 years of that profession."

"When I came to do this, I knew that Dr. Billy Graham has been one of the most visible and greatest preachers of our time and has always preached the Gospel plainly and strongly," O'Brien said. "So when I came to this, I wanted the Gospel to be seen in it. So as you see it in just a few moments, you'll see the cross and Dr. Graham, who has preached the cross faithfully. And that's why so many people have come to Christ under his preaching."

A framed copy of the tribute statement was presented to the Graham family by EC President Morris H. Chapman.

The statement affirms Graham's ministry as unprecedented and uniquely effective, noting, "No one in history has preached the Gospel to as many people, and no one has been used of God to lead so many to faith in Christ within his own lifetime," citing Graham's use of rallies, crusades, publications, broadcasting, evangelism schools and feature film releases over the past 60 years.

Graham's ministry has impacted Southern Baptist life in numerous ways, the tribute states, such as cultivation of evangelistic fervor and focus among pastors and the equipping of local church members in personal evangelism during preparation for Graham's citywide crusades.

The tribute says Graham has provided Southern Baptist evangelists with a "premier model ... of crusade evangelism" and set an example of integrity, effectiveness and innovation.

Praising God for "the life and ministry of Billy Graham ... the Southern Baptist Convention prays with deepest affection and anticipation that God will continue to bless the life, family and ministry of Billy and Ruth Graham for many years to come," the tribute concludes.


Keith Hinson contributed to this report.

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