Thursday, January 30, 2014

Franklin Graham writing book about lessons from father

Franklin Graham is writing a book about the lessons, most of them spiritual, that he learned from his famous father, Charlotte-born evangelist Billy Graham.

The younger Graham said Thursday that he started “Through My Father's Eyes” just after his mother, Ruth Bell Graham, died in 2007 and hopes to finish the book in time to have it published in late 2014 or early 2015.

Billy Graham, now 95 and in fragile health, has written many books himself over the years, including an autobiography (“Just As I Am”) and a 2011 meditation on growing old in faith (”Nearing Home: Life, Faith and Finishing Well”).

With the elder Graham’s public career over – his last crusade was in 2005 – and now part of American history, several books about his life and legacy are expected soon from scholars and biographers.

Franklin Graham said he saw the value of a more personal book, one by a son about his father.

“I think it’s important that there be a book from the son who worked closely with his father, day in and day out, for the last 30 years,” said Graham, who heads both the Charlotte-based Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) and Samaritan’s Purse, an international charity headquartered in Boone. “It’ll be about a life of things that I have learned watching my father.”

For starters, he said, his time sitting on the BGEA board while Billy Graham was still active gave him a road map of how to organize Samaritan’s Purse. “When God gave me Samaritan’s Purse, I didn’t have a lot to go on,” he said. “But sitting on the (BGEA) board and watching my father, I learned lessons from the boardroom.”

But most of the lessons in the book will be spiritual ones that he hopes will help pastors and churches.

“I showed what I have written to one gentleman (to check for accuracy), and he gave a very large check, telling me, ‘I want this to go to every seminary student in America,'” Graham said.

Graham said he has also discussed “Through My Father’s Eyes” with his dad. Billy Graham’s reaction: “Aw shucks.”

The book will be published by the W Publishing Group, which is part of Thomas Nelson Inc., a leading publisher of evangelical Christian books.

Franklin Graham has written several books, including one about his life called “Rebel With a Cause.”

-- Tim Funk

Friday, January 17, 2014

Elevation pastor to interview Panther Steve Smith

Carolina Panthers wide receiver Steve Smith (89) glances back at Elevation Church pastor Steven Furtick as he heads to practice on Thursday, January 9, 2013. At left is Steven Drummond.

Steve Smith, the Carolina Panthers' star wide receiver, will join Elevation Church Pastor Steven Furtick on the church's stage this weekend (January 18-19).

Their Q&A will be live at Elevation's Blakeney campus Saturday at 5 p.m. and then again Sunday at 9:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. On Saturday, it'll be live on screens at the church's Matthews and Lake Norman locations; on Sunday, it'll be live at Blakeney and on screens at all the other locations.

Smith attends the fast-growing evangelical church, according to Elevation spokeswoman Tonia Bendickson.

And Pastor Furtick is apparently a big Panthers fan: He was spotted at the team's pre-playoff game practice last week.

The guest spot by Smith, 34, was announced by Furtick, 33, via Twitter and Instagram. He said the duo will talk about "Passionate People." 

And maybe, we're guessing, they'll bring up Smith's now-famous quote: "Ice up, son."

Here's Furtick's post, accompanied by a photo of #89 in action. (Click on the photo to see a bigger version.)

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Interfaith group to introduce new director

Mecklenburg Ministries will sponsor a reception Thursday night (Jan. 9) to introduce its new executive director, Danny Trapp, to the public.

The event, 6-8 p.m., will be in Oxford Hall at Myers Park Presbyterian Church, 2501 Oxford Place.

The official program will begin at 7 p.m. and will feature remarks by Adrian Bird, professor of Christian history at Union Presbyterian Seminary in Charlotte.

The South Carolina-born Trapp, 55, is a recent graduate of that seminary and had worked for nonprofits in Charlotte's criminal justice community, helping those who have been incarcerated.

 At Mecklenburg Ministries, an interfaith group with 100 member congregations, Trapp succeeds Maria Hanlin, who left the post last year to become CEO of Habitat for Humanity in Greensboro.

-- Tim Funk 

Friday, January 3, 2014

Societies can commit sin, too

Let’s talk about sin.

Not the garden-variety kind: Personal violations of the 10 Commandments get plenty of attention in sermons and confessionals.

No, I’m referring to what’s been called social sin – perfectly legal societal systems that tend to dehumanize and abuse the poor, minorities and others.

This kind of sin has been very much in the news.

When Nelson Mandela died Dec. 5, we were reminded of his lifelong battle against apartheid in South Africa. His struggle against laws that enshrined racial discrimination was also dramatized in "Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom," a powerful new film now playing in Charlotte.

Most white South Africans went to church and considered themselves good people. But they accepted a sickeningly sinful system that relegated the black majority to second-class citizenship and resorted to state-sponsored brutality to enforce inequality and racial separation.

If that example seems foreign, replace “apartheid” with “segregation” and “South Africa” with “the United States,” and you should get an idea what social sin can look like.

Because of the bravery of many people – black and white – apartheid and legal segregation have joined Nazism and Soviet Communism (other deeply sinful systems) on the ash heap of history.

So, are we now free of social sin? Pope Francis doesn’t think so. In recent writings, he discussed the ways an unrestrained market economy put money ahead of people, the environment – and God.

The pope, Time magazine’s choice as Person of the Year, lamented the growing gap between the rich and everybody else. And, he wrote, “in this system, which tends to devour everything which stands in the way of increased profits, whatever is fragile … is defenseless before the interests of a deified market.”

When you take on social sin, you get critics. Rush Limbaugh accused the pope of mouthing Marxism. That charge reminded me of what another Catholic leader, Archbishop Helder Camara of Brazil, one said: "When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why they are poor, they call me a Communist."

Is Pope Francis overstating things? I leave you with the case of Doretha Johnson, who was evicted from the Charlotte home she'd rented for four years by a Wall Street-backed investment firm.

“The house’s new owner, Invitation Homes, raised the rent by a third, beyond what she said her fixed income could afford,” the Observer reported in November.

In the shuffle of ownership, Johnson went ahead and paid the old rate of $650 when the rent was due. She got an eviction notice. When she then offered to pay $875, the new rate, for a month or two while she looked for a new place to live, the answer was no and she was forced to leave.

“They don’t care about people,” she said. “They just care about money.”

-- Tim Funk