CHARLOTTE, N.C. – The Rev. Billy Graham would like to give one more sermon. That, everybody can agree on.

But there appeared to be mixed signals coming out of Graham’s family this week over whether, at age 91 and in fragile health, he’ll be up to achieving that goal. And if he is, where, when and in what format should he preach?

On Monday, Graham’s youngest daughter, Ruth, said her evangelist father was preparing a sermon and was thinking about delivering it sometime next year at Charlotte’s Bank of America Stadium — the site of his last hometown crusade, in 1996.

But on Tuesday, spokesmen for Billy Graham and his son Franklin, who heads the Charlotte-based Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, dismissed that scenario as mere speculation. The elder Graham does want to preach again, said his spokesman Larry Ross, but the likeliest possibility would be to have him speak into a camera and then widely distribute the video.

“Though many potential venues have been suggested to him,” Ross said, “his son, Franklin, and he thought perhaps it would be on video, so that more people could be reached with the transformational message of faith in Christ that he has preached for more than six decades.”

But Ruth Graham, founder of Ruth Graham & Friends ministry, said she encouraged her father to preach before an audience.

“When I talked to him, he said, “‘I’ll just have a video camera and a chair.’ And I said, ‘No, Daddy, you need people to interact with as you preach,”‘ she said in an interview with the Associated Press. “Then the next thing I heard, he was thinking about the Panthers’ stadium — because of Charlotte being his hometown.”

It was another of Graham’s daughters, Anne Graham Lotz, a Raleigh, N.C.-based evangelist, who first revealed that her father wanted to come out of retirement to preach one more time and that the family “is praying that he’ll have that opportunity.”

In an interview with The Charlotte Observer last month, Franklin Graham confirmed sister Anne’s report, saying the once-globe-trotting evangelist even had his message: “He wants people to know that they can have forgiveness of sins and that they can be assured of the certainty of heaven.”

But the younger Graham, who took over his father’s ministry and moved its headquarters to Charlotte, said his father’s health woes — ” including fading eyesight and hearing” — ruled out another crusade in a stadium.

“I would like him to do something on video, talking into a camera,” Franklin Graham said. “Then we’d have it for generations to come.” He said the family hoped to work out a plan in the next few months.

Billy Graham’s sister, Jean Ford of Charlotte, also said she had not heard of any plans for Billy Graham to speak at the Panthers’ stadium.

“I know Billy would like to preach again, but I don’t think that’s realistic at all,” she said. “His mind is very good — but he is not physically able to do that, in my opinion. His voice is so weak, you can’t hear him across the room.”

Ruth Graham said her father “is doing great” and that “he says God’s given him a time line for his death. (Preaching next year) is within his time line. He does not feel like this is the year he’s going to go to heaven.”


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