During a recent interview with CNN, Franklin Graham, son of Billy Graham and president of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA), advised that a page that was removed from the ministry website last month following Graham’s endorsement of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, which classified Mormonism as a cult, is “not going to come back.”
“I was shocked that we even had that on there,” Franklin Graham said. “[W]e’re calling people names. If I want to win people to Christ, how can I call them names?”
“So, we just took it off,” he continued, insinuating that he made the final decision in the matter. “And it’s not going to come back, because I don’t want to be involved in calling a person a name.”
BGEA Media Relations Director Brent Reinhart confirmed to Christian News Network that Franklin Graham was the ultimate decider in the removal of the web page.
As previously reported, following a meeting last month with Mitt Romney, Graham’s ministry removed a page from its website that included Mormonism in a list of religious cults. Although the page no longer exists in general searches, it is accessible via Internet archives, which show that it was first posted in June 2010.
The page, entitled, “What is a Cult?” read, “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 listed 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 web page stated.
Following reports of the removal, Billy Graham’s media representative, 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.
Several days after the election, Christian News Network contacted BGEA Media Relations Director Brent Reinhart to inquire if the ministry would now be restoring the web page.
“There are no plans in regards to that,” he said. “Not that I’m aware of.”
Christian News Network also spoke with A. Larry Ross Communications to obtain clarification on where Billy Graham stands on the issue of Mormonism.
“If [Billy Graham] would do something that would alienate an audience, he wouldn’t be able to reach them,” stated representative Melany Ethridge.
When asked if Mr. Graham personally believes that Mormonism is a cult, she said that he has never made a declaration on the matter “one way or the other.”
“Because Mr. Graham has been called to a ministry of proclamation, rather than apologetics, throughout this period he has never proselytized, targeted or labeled specific people groups, faiths or denominations,” added A. Larry Ross in a supplied statement, which was a virtual carbon copy of the statement issued after the Grahams’ removed the cult page from the ministry website.
This is not the first time that Billy Graham has been criticized by evangelicals for his beliefs and actions, however. In 1997, Graham came under fire after appearing on Robert Schuller’s Hour of Power and stating that whether an individual comes from “the Muslim world or the Buddhist world, the Christian world or the non-believing world, they are members of the Body of Christ.”
“I think the Body of Christ, which comes from all the Christian groups around the world, or outside the Christian groups — I think everybody that loves Christ or knows Christ, whether they’re conscious of it or not, they’re members of the Body of Christ,” he said. “They may not even know the name of Jesus, but they know in their heart that they need something that they don’t have, and they turn to the only light that they have. And I think that they are saved, and that they are going to be with us in heaven.”
When Schuller replied, “This is fantastic! I’m so thrilled to hear you say that. There’s a wideness in God’s mercy,” Graham agreed, “There is.”
In 2005, during an interview with Larry King, Graham repeated that he is welcoming of all religions.
“I love them all, and welcome them all, and love to be with them, and friends with all of them. For example, I just talked to a man in New York City — he was a Mormon,” he said. “And I’ve loved the Mormons for years, and yet there is a big divide between the Mormons and some of the other groups. But, I have great friends among the Mormons, and the same among the Catholics. Of course, I loved Pope John Paul II and watched the whole process of his suffering, his dying and the tremendous — my daughter went to represent me .”
King then asked, “What about those like the Jews, the Muslims, who don’t believe [in Christ]?” Graham replied, “That’s in God’s hands. I can’t be the judge.” King echoed, “You don’t judge them?” Graham answered, “No. Going to hell and all that.”
“What is going on here?” asked John McArthur, pastor of Grace Community Church of Sun Valley, California, in response to Graham’s comments. “It’s an almost inconceivable contradiction that a man who believes that has raised millions and millions and millions of dollars to gather people from all over the world into large stadiums and tell them they need to believe in Jesus Christ.”
Earlier this year, Franklin Graham also was questioned on MSNBC’s Morning Joe about his beliefs regarding those of other faiths, specifically whether Mormons are of the “Judeo-Christian faith.”
“Most Christians would not recognize Mormons as part of the Christian faith,” he stated, but did not reveal his personal beliefs on the matter. “I’m just saying that most Christians would not recognize Mormonism. Of course they believe in Jesus Christ. They believe in a lot of other things, too, that we don’t accept theologically.”
“We may have some disagreement and that’s fine,” he added last week. “I’m an evangelist. I want to reach as many people as I can. If I’m calling them names, it doesn’t work.”
“[Mormonism] is a damning religious system,” McArthur said. “It is so far from Christianity that it is more like paganism than Christianity.”
“Evangelicalism is in a desperate situation, and that is made manifest by its inability to distinguish who is a true Christian. We have abandoned any clear understanding of what it means to really be saved,” he asserted. “We have no right to redefine [salvation] in our own terms in order to be be popular or in order to be accepted. True and historic Christianity has never been confused about what it means to be a Christian.”