Franklin Graham's Unscriptural Ecumenism

Republished July 5, 2011 first published February 26, 1998) (David Cloud, Fundamental Baptist Information Service, P.O. Box 610368, Port Huron, MI 48061, 866-295-4143, fbns@wayoflife.org; for instructions about subscribing and unsubscribing or changing addresses, see the information paragraph at the end of the article) -

Franklin Graham is following closely in his famous father’s footsteps, which, sadly, have led further from the Bible with each passing decade. In 1996 Franklin was named the first vice-chairman of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. This was a new position with direct succession to become chairman when Billy Graham became incapacitated. Of course, this has now occurred.

Franklin Graham told the
Indianapolis Star that his father’s ecumenical alliance with the Catholic Church and all other denominations “was one of the smartest things his father ever did” (“Keeping it simple, safe keeps Graham on high,” The Indianapolis Star, Thurs., June 3, 1999, p. H2).

He said: “In the early years, up in Boston, the Catholic church got behind my father’s crusade. That was a first. It took back many Protestants. They didn’t know how to handle it. But it set the example. ‘If Billy Graham is willing to work with everybody, then maybe we should too’” (
The Indianapolis Star, June 3, 1999).

Franklin Graham’s ecumenical direction is evident from the various forums he frequents, the same ones attended by his father. In 1997, for example, he spoke at the National Religious Broadcasters in January, at Moody Bible Institute's Founder's Week in February, and at a Promise Keepers conference in Birmingham, Alabama, in May. That was at a time when one of the directors of Promise Keepers was a Roman Catholic.

Franklin’s 1998 crusade in Adelaide, Australia, left no question about his direction. Present at the media launch for the crusade were Catholic Archbishop Leonard Faulkner and Anglican Archbishop Ian George. The
Festival South Australia News said, “The Archbishops agreed that Festival SA with Franklin Graham next January would be the greatest event the churches have seen in this State’s history.” Almost 400 churches registered for Graham’s Christian Life & Witness Course which was conducted in preparation for the crusade. Twenty-three denominations were represented. The churches included 49 Roman Catholic (false grace plus works gospel), 82 Uniting Church (ultra liberal), 30 Churches of Christ (baptismal regeneration), 25 Anglican (mostly liberal), 1 Greek Orthodox (sacramental gospel), and 3 Seventh-day Adventist (Ellen White is a prophetess, death is only sleep, and punishment in hell is not eternal).

These churches, taken as a whole, represent a hodgepodge of apostasy and doctrinal error. God plainly forbids His people to yoke together with such confusion. “Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son. If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds” (2 John 9-11).

The Uniting Church in Australia is very modernistic and apostate. The Uniting Church in Paddington, Australia, for example, recently placed a 12-foot-square banner over its entrance declaring that the church is a SAFE PLACE for homosexuals, a place they are accepted and can be open “about their sexuality” (
Australian Beacon, Feb. 1998, p. 2). The Paddington Uniting Church’s pastor, Rod Pattenden, told the media, "We want to let gays and lesbians know that they are very welcome in this parish." He said that at least one-third of Paddington’s Eastside Parish is made up of homosexuals.

The Roman Catholic Church is a false “church” with a false gospel (grace plus works, faith plus sacraments), a false authority (the Bible plus Catholic tradition), and a false head (the pope). The New Catholic Catechism says: “The Church affirms that for believers the sacraments of the New Covenant are necessary for salvation” (1129). Our book
Evangelicals and Rome reviews Catholic heresies which were reaffirmed by the Vatican II Council and the New Catholic Catechism.

Those who responded to the Gospel invitation at the Franklin Graham crusade were sent to the aforementioned sponsoring churches for "discipleship." Thus we again have the strange sight of a supposed shepherd happily and willfully giving his sheep into the hands of wolves. This is the most spiritually-doctrinally confused hour which the world has ever seen.

The Vice-Chairman for the Franklin Graham Festival in Lubbock, Texas, April 28-30, 2000, was Paul Key, evangelism director for the Catholic Diocese of Lubbock. At least three of the local leaders for the “festival” are Charismatics. The Chairman was Rick Canup, an elder at Trinity Church, a charismatic congregation which formerly had ties with the Assemblies of God. The pastor of this church, Gary Kirksey, was also on the Executive Committee. Pastor Jackie White of the Charismatic Church on the Rock was another of the Vice-Chairmen (E.L. Bynum, “Franklin Graham Festival,”
Plains Baptist Challenger, April 2000, p. 1). Paul Key was a Presbyterian minister for 18 years before converting to Catholicism. He has written a book entitled “95 Reasons for Becoming and Remaining a Catholic.”

Roman Catholics participated in Franklin Graham Festivals in Corpus Christi, Texas, in 2005, and in Halifax, Nova Scotia, in 2004 (“Central Canada 2006 Franklin Graham Festival Background and Pastoral Notes for Catholic Clergy and Workers,” by Luis Melo, Director of Ecumenical and Inter-Religious Affairs, Archdiocese of Saint Boniface, n.d.).

Many Roman Catholics were trained as counsellors for the Franklin Graham Festival in Baltimore, Maryland, July 7-9, 2006. Catholic priest Erik Arnold of the Church of the Crucifixion in Glen Burnie, Maryland, led the team of 225 Catholics who participated in the crusade. He said, “It was a great opportunity for the Christian churches to show their unity in leading people to Christ” (“Catholic Counselors Attend Billy Graham Festival,”
The Catholic Review, July 12, 2006). The Graham organization delivered the names of 300 people to the Roman Catholics for “follow up,” and these received a letter from Cardinal William Keller “encouraging them in their faith and inviting them to get involved in the church.” They will be taught, among a multitude of other heresies, that it is acceptable to pray to Mary. In fact, some of the counsellors are from the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen in Baltimore.

Roman Catholics also participated in the Franklin Graham Festival in Winnipeg, Canada, in October 2006. The previous year the Graham team approached the Catholic bishops in Winnipeg soliciting their support and involvement (“Central Canada 2006 Franklin Graham Festival Background and Pastoral Notes for Catholic Clergy and Workers,” by Luis Melo, Director of Ecumenical and Inter-Religious Affairs, Archdiocese of Saint Boniface, n.d.). In response, each archdiocese in central Canada had official representation on the Festival Executive Committee, and various parishes provided workers to be trained as counsellors and to provide follow up. The Catholics were told: “Following in the footsteps of his father, Franklin Graham will present basic Christianity. The Catholic will hear no slighting of the Church's teaching on Mary or authority, nor of papal or Episcopal prerogative; no word against the Mass/Divine Liturgy or sacraments, nor of Catholic practices or customs” (Ibid.).

In an interview with Katie Couric on NBC television on April 2, 2005, Franklin Graham praised the late Pope John Paul II and claimed that they preach the same gospel. Graham said: “We disagree on a lot of doctrinal issues and I guess those disagreements will always be there. At the same time we did agree on the fundamentals that Jesus Christ is the son of the living God who came to this earth to die for our sins and when he died on that cross and shed his blood he took the sins of the world with him on the cross; and if we confess our sins and repent and by faith receive Christ into our hearts God will forgive us and cleanse us. These are fundamentals of the faith we agreed on and support and we appreciate this man and the stand he has taken on so many of these moral issues.”

We are glad that Franklin believes and preaches the gospel described in this testimony (apart from the “receiving Christ into the heart” part, which is not scriptural), but he seriously misrepresented the Pope’s gospel. The late Pope believed that the doctrine of salvation by grace alone through Christ alone by faith alone is heresy (the anathemas of the Council of Trent against the gospel of grace alone have never been rescinded). He believed that the sacraments are a necessary part of salvation, beginning with baptism, whereby one is born again, continuing in Confirmation, whereby one receives the Holy Spirit. Speaking at the confirmation of 800 young people at Turin, Italy, Sept. 2, 1988, Pope John Paul II said: “Jesus comes close to us; he enters our history precisely by means of these concrete, visible sacramental signs. ... Confirmation is your personal Pentecost. Today you receive the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, who on the day of Pentecost was sent by the risen Lord upon the Apostles. Every baptized person as a believer needs to receive the moment and mystery of Pentecost; it completes and perfects the gift of Baptism” (
L’osservatore Romano, N. 38, Sept. 19, 1988, p. 16). Nine days later, speaking in Harare, John Paul II said to the crowd gathered in Borrowdale Park: “You have thus become a new people, reborn in the Sacrament of Baptism, nourished by the Holy Eucharist, living in loving communion with God and with one another with the Successor of Peter and the Catholic Church throughout the world” (Ibid., p. 2).

In an April 5, 2005, appearance on
Hannity & Colmes on the Fox News television network, Franklin Graham was asked the following question by Sean Hannity (who is Roman Catholic): “Let me ask you this, what are some of the disagreements -- we only have 30 seconds this segment -- between, say, Catholicism and evangelical Christians? Or is it just more that you agree on than disagree on?” Graham replied: “Well, there are a lot of doctrinal issues that we disagree on. But the things that we do agree on are the cross, that Jesus Christ was the son of the living God who went to the cross, took our sins, died on that cross, was buried on the third day, according to the scriptures, rose again. And this is the essence. This is what we agree on and we can work together on and can build on.”

It is commendable for Graham to preach the Gospel on television, and I understand that he had limited time (although his time on the show did not end with that segment) and wanted to focus on the Gospel; but that does not excuse the fact that his reply was artful, erroneous, and dangerous. It was artful in that he refused to state any of Rome’s serious doctrinal heresies. It was erroneous because he said the Roman Catholic Church believes in the cross and salvation the same way that “evangelicals” do, which it certainly does not. This erroneous statement would have given Graham’s Roman Catholic listeners a false sense of security in their faith-works-sacraments gospel. Graham’s statement was dangerous because he said that evangelicals and Catholics need to work together and build on their agreements, whereas the Bible commands God’s people to separate from heresy and apostasy (e.g., Rom. 16:17; 2 Tim. 3:5) and an unscriptural unity plays more into the hands of the antichrist than Christ.

Franklin Graham not only praised the late Pope, he attended the coronation of the new one. Speaking on
Larry King Live, April 2, 2005, Billy Graham said: “I don’t have the physical strength to go, and I have been invited. I was invited about six or seven months ago by the Vatican ahead of time. And they’ve asked that I come. So I’m asking my daughter, Anne Lotz, to go [to Pope John Paul II’s funeral]. ... And then my son, Franklin, will be going to the enthronement of the new Pope [Benedict XVI].”

More than any other one man, Billy Graham paved the way for the widespread acceptance of a Catholic Pope by Protestants and Baptists. Graham’s groundbreaking ecumenical evangelism, which downplayed doctrine and exalted experiential religious unity, stretches back more than half a century.

Though bolder than his famous father in some respects, Franklin is walking in this same disobedient path in the ecumenical realm.