Billy Graham never lived in Dallas, Texas, but his membership has been at the First Baptist Church in Dallas since 1953. The Dallas Morning News now reports that Rev. Graham has moved his membership to the First Baptist Church of Spartanburg, South Carolina. Here’s the full report below.
For more than half a century, the First Baptist Church of Dallas could claim among its members one of the most famous of Christians â€“ the Rev. Billy Graham.
But that distinction has ended with the 90-year-old evangelist’s decision to join the First Baptist Church of Spartanburg, S.C., which is much nearer his home in Montreat, N.C.
On Christmas Eve, Mr. Graham met with the Spartanburg church’s pastor, the Rev. Donald Wilton, and asked to join. Members of First Baptist Spartanburg voted him in on Sunday.
The Rev. Robert Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Dallas, confirmed the membership switch on Monday.
“We’ll always treasure the relationship,” Dr. Jeffress said.
Mr. Graham joined First Baptist Dallas during his first crusade in the city, held at the Cotton Bowl in 1953. First Baptist Dallas was then led by the Rev. W.A. Criswell and was widely considered the preeminent church in the Southern Baptist Convention.
But Mr. Graham never lived in Dallas and attended the church sporadically through the years.
A widower and infirm, Mr. Graham is essentially homebound in Montreat these days and watches TV broadcasts of First Baptist Spartanburg services.
He also is close to Dr. Wilton, who sometimes preaches for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and regularly visits him in Montreat.
“This was not an easy or quick decision by Mr. Graham, but he increasingly felt it was important to unite with First Baptist Spartanburg, as that has had his attention and focus, especially through television, in recent years,” said Larry Ross, a spokesman for Mr. Graham.
The evangelist has relayed to Dr. Jeffress his “love and appreciation” for First Baptist Dallas and Dr. Jeffress’ ministry, Mr. Ross added.
Dr. Jeffress said he understands Mr. Graham’s decision.
“We always encourage people to be a member of a church that is close to them and can minister to them,” Dr. Jeffress said, “and Dr. Graham felt like at this stage in his life and ministry, that’s what he needed.”