Billy Graham, who is considered one of the most renowned evangelical leaders of the 21st century, recently endorsed Republican candidate Mitt Romney for the office of president. Following a meeting with Romney, Graham’s ministry removed a page from its website that referred to Mormonism as being a “cult.”
According to reports, Graham, 93, met with Romney at his home in Montreat, North Carolina, during which the two shared cookies and soft drinks together. The meeting lasted approximately 30 minutes, and concluded with Graham praying with Romney.
“I’ll do all I can to help you. And you can quote me on that,” Graham told the Republican candidate, a longstanding Mormon.
Graham issued a statement following the meeting.
“It was an honor to meet and host Governor Romney in my home today, especially since I knew his late father former Michigan Governor George Romney, whom I considered a friend,” it read. “I have followed Mitt Romney’s career in business, the Olympic Games, as governor of Massachusetts and, of course, as a candidate for president of the United States.”
“It was a privilege to pray with Governor Romney—for his family and our country,” he continued. “I will turn 94 the day after the upcoming election, and I believe America is at a crossroads. I hope millions of Americans will join me in praying for our nation and to vote for candidates who will support the biblical definition of marriage, protect the sanctity of life and defend our religious freedoms.”
Following the meeting, Graham’s ministry reportedly removed a page from its website that classified Mormonism as a cult. Although the page no longer exists in general searches, it is accessible via Internet archives.
The page, entitled, “What is a Cult?” reads, “A cult is any group which teaches doctrines or beliefs that deviate from the Biblical message of the Christian faith. It is very important that we recognize cults and avoid any involvement with them. Cults often teach some Christian truth mixed with error, which may be difficult to detect.”
It then lists among three bullet points on how to identify a cult, “They do not adhere solely to the sixty-six books of the Bible as the inspired Word of God. They add their ‘special revelations’ to the Bible and view them as equally authoritative.”
“Some of these groups are Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, the Unification Church, Unitarians, Spiritists, Scientologists, and others,” the webpage states.
Following reports of the removal, Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) spokesman A. Larry Ross released a statement explaining the move.
“Mr. Graham’s calling is not to pass judgment, but to proclaim the Biblical truth that Jesus is the only way to heaven, allowing every individual and group to fall along that plumb line,” Ross outlined. “He further stressed that salvation is the work of Almighty God, and that only He knows what is in each human heart.”
“We removed the information from the website because we do not wish to participate in a theological debate about something that has become politicized during this campaign,” added Ken Barun, chief of staff for BGEA.
Graham’s son, Franklin, who currently serves as president of the ministry, also explained BGEA’s position in an article in this month’s edition of Decision Magazine, entitled “Can an Evangelical Christian Vote for a Mormon?”
“My answer is yes, for if a Biblically faithful evangelical could only vote for a candidate who was perfectly aligned theologically, he or she would be unable to cast a vote for president on November 6,” Franklin wrote. “[W]e are not electing a pastor-in-chief, but a commander-in-chief.”
“Certainly, many evangelicals voted for Ronald Reagan over Jimmy Carter, even though then-President Carter was undeniably more evangelical than Governor Reagan was. These voters were choosing Reagan for his competence and proposed policies, not his theology,” he continued. “I pray that all Christians and God-fearing Americans will put aside labels and vote for principles.”
However, others strongly disagree with this sentiment, and advise that Christians must adhere to God’s standards for selecting rulers.
“The problem Christians have in politics today is that they have no specific Biblical anchor to direct their involvement in politics and voting. They have jettisoned Scripture and obedience to God for political expediency,” Pastor William Einwechter of Immanuel Free Reformed Church of Stevens, Pennsylvania told Christian News Network.
“The recent endorsement of Mitt Romney for president by Billy Graham and his son Franklin continues the parade of evangelical Christian leaders casting their support for a man who cannot be considered a Christian by any Biblical definition of that term,” he stated. “For a bowl of political pottage evangelicals seem willing to sell their birthright as preachers and defenders of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”
Doug Phillips, president of Vision Forum Ministries in San Antonio, Texas, agrees. Phillips, whose father, Howard Phillips, ran for office during the 1992, 1996 and 2000 presidential elections, served as the personal driver for Billy Graham during the 1988 inauguration of George H.W. Bush.
“I have deep respect for Dr. Graham and profound appreciation for the many ways in which he has been used of the Lord to change the world. Yet, it’s my opinion that the decision to remove Mormonism as a cult from the Billy Graham Evangelical Association’s website — which was made after a visit between Mitt Romney and Dr. Graham — is profoundly regrettable,” he stated. “In my view, it is improper to change our theological positions to accommodate political contingencies.”
“At the end of the day, there are only two approaches for voters as they enter the ballot box. The first choice is for them to base their decision-making on ethical standards clearly articulated in the Bible. The second choice is to base their decisions on their own opinions,” Phillips added. “I believe Christians are bound by the former and must reject the latter.”
“Obedience to God’s law is more important than putting a Republican ‘conservative’ in the White House,” Einwechter concurred. “The standard of God’s law — as revealed in the Old and New Testaments — must guide us in all we do in every area of life, including politics. This standard teaches us to work to elect and to vote for only those who truly fear the God of the Bible and are men committed to governing in submission to Jesus Christ and following His law-word in all they do (Ps. 2:10-12; Exod. 18:21; Deut. 1:13; 2 Sam. 23:3).”
“Judged by this standard, Mitt Romney utterly fails to qualify for the office of president and the vote of believers in Jesus Christ,” he concluded.