Billy Graham Magazine: Mormons Aren't Christians
On October 11, 2012 superstar evangelist Billy Graham emerged from semi-retirement to pray with, and in effect endorse, presidential candidate Mitt Romney.
Then, on October 12, the LGBT rights group The New Civil Rights Movement broke the news that even as Graham was meeting with Romney, a page on the website of Graham's nonprofit the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association identified Mormonism as a "cult".
While the offending page pointed out by the New Civil Rights Movement story was almost immediately scrubbed from the BGEA website (a cached version of the page can still be viewed at the Internet Archive), it was not the only page on the Graham organization website that claims Mormonism, a religion which now encompasses millions of members around the world, is not Christian.
Attempts by Graham and his BGEA to walk back these anti-Mormon slurs will be complicated by the fact of widespread anti-Mormon bigotry within American Protestant evangelicalism, and because within the global evangelical Lausanne movement that Graham helped launch in 1974, the teaching that Mormonism is a cult has become accepted doctrine.
A May 1, 2008 story published in Decision magazine, by author Thom S. Ranier, with the title "The Unexpected Journey" featured a subheading which clearly identified Mormonism as non-Christian:
"A few years ago, my wife, Nellie Jo, and I traveled across America listening to Christians who formerly held other beliefs. We heard from Christians who were once Mormons, Hindus, Jehovah's Witnesses, agnostics, witches, Buddhists, Unitarians, New Agers, Muslims, Satanists and non-Messianic Jews."
Thom S. Ranier is President and CEO of Lifeway Christian Resources, the main publishing wing of the Southern Baptist Convention, a denomination which claims 16 million members, in 45,000 churches across the U.S.
LifeWay publishes several books explicitly attacking Mormonism and advising believers on how to evangelize Mormons, including Philip Roberts' 1998 Mormonism Unmasked. In an October 2011 Baptist press op-ed, Roberts wrote,
"Mormonism is clearly, absolutely, completely, and thoroughly a "religious cult." And while the word "cult" may be less than academic, it still carries popular meaning when used in a doctrinal sense as Dr. Jeffress has done. "
In 2011 at the high profile Voter Values Summit in Washington D.C., prominent Texan Southern Baptist Convention pastor Robert Jeffress, shortly before Mitt Romney took the stage for a speech, declared Mormonism to be a "cult". Jeffress subsequently endorsed Romney's presidential candidacy.
Besides its anti-Mormon sentiment, another notable feature of Lifeway CEO Thom S. Ranier's Decision article subheading was its implication that "Messianic Jews" can be considered Christians.
The issue of Billy Graham's relationship to Jews and Judaism is a curious one - in a February 23, 1973 telephone conversation with President Richard Nixon, Graham explained to Nixon that there were two kinds of Jews in the world:
"the Bible talks about two kinds of Jews. One is called `the synagogue of Satan.' They're the ones putting out the pornographic literature, they're the ones putting out these obscene films."
Graham's reference to a class of Jews who allegedly belong to the "synagogue of satan" is commonly found on overtly anti-Semitic websites, such as on the website of evangelical Christian Holocaust denier Texe Marrs.
During his conversation with Nixon, Graham also informed President Nixon that he was convening a major international meeting of conservative evangelicals to launch an effort that would serve as a political and theological counterweight to the liberal World Council of Churches, that the two men agreed during the conversation was an ideological front for communism whose agenda was, as Nixon characterized to Graham, "written right out of Moscow".
The meeting Billy Graham described to Nixon happened in 1974, in Lausanne, Switzerland, and launched the Lausanne Movement, a sprawling global evangelizing initiative guided by the Lausanne Committee on World Evangelization. Obligatory for participation in Lausanne was signing the Lausanne Convenant, an evangelical statement of faith that included an affirmation on the infallibility of biblical scripture.
From its start, the Lausanne movement and process featured an aggressive program for evangelizing Jews, spearheaded by the Lausanne Consultation on Jewish Evangelism (LCJE). In 2011, Lausanne's Ninth International Conference on Jewish Evangelism released the statement that,
"We rejoice in reports of continued numerical and spiritual growth of Jewish believers in Jesus. We recognize that in Messiah Jesus (Yeshua) is the only hope of forgiveness for sin and eternal life for all who believe.
The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association actively supports so-called "Messianic Jews", who identify as Jewish but nonetheless claim Jesus Christ as a savior.
Graham-associated efforts also target Mormons. Although evangelicals within the Lausanne movement have begun an aggressive, high profile program of dialogue with Mormon theologians, and Lausanne writings have in the past identified Mormons as Christian, more recent Lausanne doctrine labels Mormonism a cult.
While an official Lausanne process position paper released in 1980 stated that Mormons are "nominal Christians", in a newer Lausanne article subtitled "Spiritual Conflict in the Ministry of the Church", author Margaret Jacobs states,
"Cults and the occult are a little subtler. Many modern day cults have had their beginnings in Christianity often commenced by a founder disenchanted with the so-called Church gathering around him disenchanted Churchgoers... The founder or leader usually with a strong charismatic personality soon manipulates and controls his or her followers as in the Jonestown, Waco, Texas and more recently in Kenya. However not all end in such horror. Mormonism and Jehovah Witness being examples of cults centred around an "authority" other than the Lord Jesus... The focus of the cult starts and ends with YOU where as Christianity starts and ends with GOD."
This is reflected in recent, official Lausanne teaching. "Lausanne Occasional Paper No. 52", published (link to PDF of paper) in 2004 by the Lausanne Committee For World Evangelization, states,
"Emerging mission works of Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses and other cults are leading to even more spiritual confusion among youth."
This anti-Mormon bias is quietly but pervasively reflected in some of the biggest evangelical missions organizations in the world. While the mammoth organization Youth With a Mission runs a "Discipleship Training School" to train missionaries "who have a heart to reach people of the Mormon faith", the massive Campus Crusade For Christ, recently renamed "Cru", makes explicit attacks on Mormon theology.
In a Cru website writing titled "From Mormonism to Christianity", author Bill DeWandeler states,
"Like many little girls, Lisa Brockman earnestly believed that someday she would grow up to be a mommy...
The two founders, of Youth With a Mission and Campus Crusade For Christ, Loren Cunningham and Bill Bright respectively, are also associated with the rise of a dominionist strain of evangelical Christianity, that calls upon believers to take control of the "Seven Mountains", seven key areas of society including business, education, media, and government.
Over the four decades of its existence, the Lausanne process that Billy Graham helped launch enabled dominionist Christianity to move from the margins to the mainstream of evangelicalism.
In the vanguard was a form of charismatic Christianity that church-growth guru C. Peter Wagner, who was a leader in the Lausanne process from the beginning, declared in 2001 to be the advent of a second Protestant reformation, that Wagner dubbed the "New Apostolic Reformation".
Within Wagner's theological radically NAR movement, its "apostles" claim direct apostolic authority from Jesus, and from God, and its prophets claim to receive prophetic messages from God that have the force of written scripture. That NAR doctrine, which Wagner publicly stated in 2006, seems to suggest that Wagner's NAR is what Billy Graham might have defined as a "cult".
An undated article on the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association website quotes Graham's own definition of cults, a definition that could be seen as encompassing both Mormonism (which features includes in the Biblical canon new books of scripture discovered by Joseph Smith) but also Wagner's New Apostolic Reformation:
"Some cults are openly and clearly influenced by non-Christian religions (such as some that originate in the Far East). Others, however, claim to be Christian and may actually incorporate some of the teachings of Christianity, while they deny certain truths in the Bible...
Regardless, in 2012 the evangelical magazine Christianity Today (founded in 1956 by conservative evangelical theologian Carl F. Henry, at the encouragement of his friend Billy Graham) featured in its May 2012 cover story one of the apostles of the New Apostolic Reformation, Heidi Baker, who claims to be able to raise the dead and perform other sorts of miracles attributed to Jesus and his apostles.
Baker's claims of miracles manifested through her ministry range from the healing of lepers and the raising of the dead to the miraculous appearance of mass quantities of precooked chicken dinners.
Another feature of Wagner's New Apostolic Reformation is its maximalist Christian supremacy, which targets all competing religious and philosophical belief systems on Earth, including Mormonism. As I documented in a September 14, 2011 story,
"Top NAR leaders, including C. Peter Wagner, Cindy Jacobs, Ed Silvoso and, Chuck Pierce, have repeatedly emphasized in their writings the need for believers to destroy or neutralize, by burning, smashing, or flushing down toilets, objects deemed to be unholy, including profane books and "idolatrous" religious texts (such as Books of Mormon), religious relics (such as statues of Catholic saints, the Buddha, or Hindu gods), and native art (such as African masks, Hopi Indian Kachina dolls, and totem poles.)
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