By Lewis Willis
(Author’s Note: When this series was started, I lived in Amarillo, Texas. I have moved to Irving, Texas, where 1 am now working with the North Irving Church. This note is included because I am “changing my source material” for the most part. Some articles will still appear from newspaper articles I have clipped from the Amarillo Daily News. And, I also have a friend up there who is sending me articles. However, most material referred to in the future will be from the Dallas Morning News. As various articles have appeared, I have received related news items from brethren across the country. I appreciate this very much and some of this material adds force to what I already have. A Request: If you send a clipping to me, please include the name of the paper from whence it came and the date when it appeared. Thanks for the kind things you have had to say about this series.)
A Skunk in the Collection Plate
To most he is known as “Reverend.” To others, he is affectionately called “Doctor.” He, in the past, has been friend, advisor and confidant to Presidents. He is known and read by people from all parts of the earth. Multitudes gather to hear him speak no matter where he might be. However, to the Better Business Bureau BBB), he is an enigma. They know precious little about him. And, if he has his way, they will not learn anything more about him. I speak not of the Chairman of the Board of Exxon Corporation or Ace Vacuum Cleaner Company. In the very nature of the case these financial enterprises must be responsive to the BBB. But, this world-renowned personality has informed the BBB that his “Board refuses to cooperate.” He is none other than the great (?) Billy Graham!
You see, the good “Reverend” has concealed a fund which he has concealed from public view in the best way he could. Yes, he has mentioned it on an occasion or two and he has told the IRS about it. But, he has failed to supply pertinent information in which contributors to his evangelistic organization are interested. So, requests have been made of the BBB for more information-just as one is able to do with a vacuum cleaner company. The Dallas Morning News reported on September 28, 1977 that the BBB had made 20 specific requests for information (two of them by registered mail), all of which have been ignored. The “justification” for his refusal to respond is that his is a non-profit, religious organization which is not responsible to a non-legal entity such as the BBB. Say there, “Rev.,” it looks like you might be hiding something. And, such he is!
A front-page article in the Dallas Morning News on June 27, 1977, written by reporter Helen Parmley, reports that this little fund only amounts to $23 million dollars! I think if I had duped a gullible public into giving me $23 million dollars I would probably prefer to keep quiet about it too. If he put this money in multi-year certificates, he would only make a mere $1.6 million per year interest, or approximately that amount. A reporter for a Minneapolis paper asked why he had not responded to the inquiries from the Council of BBB’s. His answer was he did not want to “waste the donor’s” money by replying. So, he doles out a few large sums from the fund occasionally, tells the IRS about it, and expects the American people to swallow this corrupt mess. I would suspect that he has a few more problems in front of him because of this $23 million he has accumulated from his well-known ministry.
Many will think that he pays for his campaign efforts from this fund. What they do not know about his campaigns would shock them. When he goes into an area, his organization goes before him and persuades churches in those areas to pay the bill. I have never been to one of his rallies and could not say if contributions were taken at them. So, I called a Baptist preacher located just up the street from me. He confirmed that they do take up collections at these rallies. These are used to pay the costs of the campaign, the funds are audited with reports being sent to contributing churches, and any excess “may be given to the Billy Graham Evangelistic Committee,” according to this local Baptist preacher. This is intriguing. I have never seen a collection being taken during any of these televised campaigns. But, I would like to see the size of the barrels used in gathering in this money from the thousands of emotionally-charged people who are present. Or, maybe the size of the trucks used to take it to the bank!
The Baptist preacher with whom I spoke knows “Billy” personally. He explained that Billy is a philanthropist, divesting himself of material things by giving them as gifts to his friends. Well, so did Elvis and he still had a fortune at his death. Somehow I suspect that Billy will end up that way too. If I had $23 million stashed away somewhere, I think I could give a friend an occasional car or set of golf clubs as Billy did, and for which he was praised by his local preaching buddy!
One has to suspect that Mr. Graham has some legal problems facing him. But, he is not alone in this. His fellow, nationally-known evangelist, Oral Roberts, has some legal problems of his own now. Perhaps Roberts and Graham will quietly establish a multi-million dollar, publicly funded foundation to handle the costs of their legal difficulties. Get this if you can fathom it! During the week of September 25, 1977, a Metroplex TV station reported that a suit had been filed against Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Oklahoma, charging discrimination against the handicapped in their admissions policy. For Roberts, this must be a very embarrassing thing. He is the fellow who has made a fortune by traversing this nation claiming to heal the sick and handicapped. He has milked millions from poor people who are racked with disease. His coffers were so enriched that he could build that great university. Forgive me for asking but, why did he not just heal
those handicapped students and let them go to school, instead of rejecting them?? He did not and could not, and today, he will have to go to court to answer the discrimination suit.
It just might be that the American people will one day see through the guise of these fellows and recognize them for what they really are. They are not bountiful reapers as a result of having sown bountifully (2 Cor. 9:6). Instead, “they with feigned words make merchandise” of their hearers (2 Pet. 2:3). “For filthy lucre’s sake” (Tit. 1:11), they have deceived many unwitting souls. Maybe they shall now be exposed as such.
The next time someone starts extolling the greatness of Billy Graham or Oral Roberts, just ask them about a $23 million dollar fund and a discrimination suit. Maybe your friend does not know about them. The Baptist preacher with whom I talked went to great lengths to explain that Billy did not try to answer all the scandalous charges raised against him. “He just loves and prays for” those who charge him. Financially, he can afford to do a lot of loving and praying, as the probate of his estate will one day show. Spiritually, he would be well-advised to spend some time repenting and being converted (Acts 3:19). Of course, many will say that this is written out of jealousy. No, it is written to remind those who read this not to believe every fellow who comes along and gets a great name for himself (1 Jno. 4:1). Instead of finding a “pig in a poke” you just might find a skunk in the collection plate!
Truth Magazine XXI: 45, pp. 713-714
November 17, 1977