Southern Baptists Pay Tribute to Billy Graham

The Southern Baptist Convention on Wednesday paid tribute to its best known evangelist, Rev. Billy Graham, during its annual meeting in Nashville, Tenn.

"There is no better-known name in all the entire world, when it comes to being a person of faith, than Billy Graham," Welch said to the thousands gathered in the Gaylord Entertainment Center. "... And in addition to all of that, he is one of us. He's a Southern Baptist. That's a pretty good son to have."

During the tribute, Rev. Terrell O’Brien, a Wyoming artist and pastor, unveiled a bronze model sculpture of Graham. A full bronze statue will be presented during the 2006 annual meeting in Greensboro, N.C.

In addition to the sculpture, the SBC’s executive Committee honored the ministry and life of Graham with a brief statement.

"No one in history has preached the Gospel to as many people, and no one has been used of God to lead so many to faith in Christ within his own lifetime," the statement read.

Meanwhile, William Franklin Graham IV, Graham’s grandson, attended on behalf of his grandfather.

"Thank you on the behalf of my grandfather, my father and all of the Graham family," William Franklin Graham said. "I wish my grandfather could be here. He sends his regards. He loves being a Southern Baptist."

The tribute comes one day after Graham announced his retirement from evangelistic crusades in America – one of the trademarks of his ministry. He announced on Tuesday that this summer’s New York crusade will be his last in the U.S., though he is still considering an invitation from London for November.