BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — Franklin Graham’s Festival of Hope is coming to Birmingham in August.
There is a lot of preparation going on currently with training to make sure Bartow Arena is packed for the event.
The last Graham to pack a sports venue in Alabama was Billy Graham with two crusades. Franklin Graham spoke with WIAT about his father’s crusades and his relationship with Birmingham.
During the second crusade in Alabama at Legion Field in 1972, football legends Tom Landry, Joe Namath and Paul “Bear” Bryant were in attendance.
During the first, in March of 194, the goal was “taking down the ropes of segregation.” In snapshots from that crusade you can see blacks and whites together, filling the stands at Legion Field on Easter Sunday to hear a message of love.
Five months prior an act of hate cut through the heart of the city and the nation when a bomb blast killed four girls at the 16th Street Baptist Church.
“Birmingham for my father, that was in the height of the civil rights issues we were having in our country, at that time for my father to accept that invitation and go he was criticized by some people for going down there and getting involved. He just felt that was an important invitation for him to accept,” said Graham.
Billy Graham’s had a role in some of the world’s most divisive issues: apartheid, segregation.
The title “Taking Down the Ropes” comes from an act of righteous defiance to segregation in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
“My father, in the early part of his ministry, the meetings were segregated and they were his meetings they were set up by the local committee,” said Graham. “The local committee had them segregated.”
And Billy Graham didn’t believe that was biblical:
“He went down there first thing and he said, ‘I’m not going to do that,’ and he took the rope down. He asked the head usher to do it and he wouldn’t, so daddy went down there and did it himself and a lot of the churches pulled out of the meetings because of my father’s position on standing against the segregation,” said Graham.
Our report on the Festival of Hope with Franklin Graham has certainly brought to surface the issues that the younger Graham has taken a stand against. Many of them well known, like same-sex marriage, which is the current social struggle in Alabama. Keeping that in mind, WIAT made it a point to ask Graham, why Birmingham?
“We got an invitation. Birmingham is an important city in our country, it is one of the more important cities in the south, it represents a lot of change,” said Graham.
What Graham said won’t change is the message he plans to bring to Birmingham. It’s the same message Dr. Billy Graham preached more than four decades ago:
“The gospel is for all men, it’s not for one race or one group or one tribe, it’s for all men. Christ died for all and we’re all guilty before God. But the Bible tells us very clearly that God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son. That whosoever believes in him should not perish but should have eternal life.”
Copyright 2015 WIAT 42 News