The exciting vision of Billy Graham holding a crusade in London this autumn has faded away as the evangelist declined the invitation from UK evangelicals after much prayerful consideration, a press release from the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) revealed yesterday.
The 86-year-old American evangelist, Billy Graham, said in a letter notifying those who had invited him, "After much prayerful consideration I determined I should not be that far from home."
"This was a difficult decision because London has played such a significant part in the life of my ministry," he added.
The press release also gave a mention to the evangelist’s troubled physical health as well as his 85-year-old wife Ruth Bell Graham, who is now suffered from illnesses, including pneumonia.
In fact, in the latest three-day crusade last month in New York City, Billy Graham’s son and successor Franklin already hinted that his father could no longer adjust well to time zone changes and did not like to be away from his sick wife.
Despite physical sufferings from fluid on the brain, prostate cancer and Parkinson's disease, Billy Graham made the long trek from his home in Montreat to hold his last high-profile domestic crusade in New York City last month, which attracted more than 242,000 people.
Graham made his decision early last week - before the devastating terrorist bombings on the London transport system. The press release said Graham has closely followed the recent major events happening in London including the city’s selection as the site to host the 2012 Olympic Games.
The press release also stated, "The evangelist further assured British church leaders of his continued prayers for the people of London - especially the victims and their families - in these uncertain days." Graham even requested prayers from all people of faith around the world.
The UK top evangelicals, including the Revd Joel Edwards, General Director of the Evangelical Alliance; the Revd Sandy Millar of Holy Trinity Brompton, home to the Alpha Course; Roy Crowne, National Director of British Youth for Christ and Viscount Brentford, a UK conservative politician, were the main organisers in the invitation to Bill Graham in April.
The Revd David Coffey, General Secretary of the Baptist Union of Great Britain (BUGB), signed the invitation as moderator of the Free Churches group, with the support of the Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Westminster Cardinal Cormac Murphy O’Connor and the Revd Esme Beswick, president of the Joint Council for Anglo-Caribbean Churches.
The UK evangelicals were looking for an opportunity to revive the mission-heart in the country; something that has happened on each of Graham’s visits. Billy Graham’s first crusade to the UK was held in London's Harringay arena in 1954. It was so successful that it lasted for 12 weeks in addition to many other special events held around London
Graham’s last crusade to the UK was held in 1989. Billy Graham preached from London to more than 800,000 people gathered at 247 "live-link" centres throughout the UK and the Republic of Ireland, and to 16,000 sites in 13 nations of Africa.
At the end of the press release, it was stated that Graham will continue his ministry of evangelism and resume work writing several books and contributing to other special projects he has begun in recent years.
Another major event Graham has planned to attend will be the dedication of the Billy Graham Library at his ministry’s new headquarters in Charlotte, N.C., which will take place on 26th August.
In addition, the BGEA has planned an aggressive schedule of crusades with Franklin Graham, already extending into 2007 and beyond.