Billy Graham Library Raising Concerns

At 88, the Rev. Billy Graham plans to evangelize generations of people through a library dedicated to the Gospel and soon to be erected in his name. But not all are happy with the project.

Graham's children are at odds over the function and design of the nearly completed Billy Graham Library, which is slated to open in spring 2007. The Washington Post reported that Ned Graham, the youngest of five, and a family friend are concerned the library could be a mockery.

The 40,000 square foot library takes the shape of Billy Graham's early childhood home – a dairy farm near Charlotte, N.C. Visitors, which are estimated to reach 200,000 annually, have to pass through a 40-foot-high glass entry cut in the shape of a cross.

In response to the negative opinions, Franklin Graham expressed disappointment and wrote in a statement, "While I respect the right of anyone to disagree with this project or to personally dislike the architectural style, the Board of Directors of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, along with my father, approved the decision to build this Library as a means of continuing Billy Graham's 60-year ministry of preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ."

Billy Graham, who has Parkinson's disease, had initially rejected the idea of constructing the library. He did not want a memorial or museum to honor him or his works. But after Franklin, who heads the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, assured his father that the new building would function as an ongoing evangelistic ministry and not a shrine, the elder Graham gave his support.

Both Grahams broke grounds on Aug. 26, 2005 in Charlotte, N.C., for the new "ministry."

"I would hope every person who comes through hears the message and by the time they come out of the library be confronted with a decision to accept or reject Christ," said Franklin Graham, according to the Washington Post.

Ruth, 86, wife of Billy Graham, however, is concerned the library would turn out to be "a tourist attraction."

A mechanical cow named Bessie will greet visitors, giving an introduction to Billy Graham and trying to engage young children. Visitors will then enter rooms of multimedia exhibits and have opportunities to sign up to be on a mailing list, or what Ned called a "donor list."

With traditional donors aging, younger donors are needed, explained Graeme Keith, BGEA board member, according to the Washington Post.

And at the end of the walk, visitors will be led to a garden where the bodies of Billy and Ruth Graham could lie.

There is some dissonance in the Graham family as to the burial site. Ruth wants to be buried in a quiet area at the Cove in Asheville, N.C. There, a Billy Graham Training Center had been set up as a place of rest and finding new energy for those working for Christ. Billy Graham is still deciding where to be buried as he had been asked to consider burial at the library.

But Franklin Graham made clear that this is a personal matter and does not intend to debate it publicly.

"I believe that the decision about where my parents will be buried should be made by them, and not by me, my siblings, or any outsiders," he said.

"As a son and the president/CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, I support my mother and father fully and I am determined to ensure that the organization remains faithful to the Gospel and committed to the work of evangelism around the world."

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