For two years Billy Graham planned a Greater London Crusade, to kick off March 1st, 1954. This crusade was the greatest test of his ministry up to that point. The British were suspicious of the Yank and his "hot gospel." An Anglican Bishop predicted Billy would return to American with his tail between his legs. Even backers were uneasy. Nothing could shake spiritually-dull England, they thought. Hold the Crusade in outlying regions first, they urged, and test the waters. Graham refused. God did not need a pilot program.
Difficulties mounted. The crusade committee had trouble booking an auditorium. They finally settled on Harringay arena, which speakers had seldom been able to fill two nights in a row. Funds were short. During the crusade Billy and his coworkers took pay cuts.
At times Billy faltered. "To go to London for a campaign is indeed frightening and humbling. If anything is done for Christ, it will have to be the Lord's doing." Bob Jones, Sr. accused Billy of going out of pride.
Billy sailed for England. Aboard ship on this day, February 22, 1954, he was handled a telegram. "A Labor Member of Parliament announced today that he would challenge in Commons the admission of Billy Graham to England on the grounds the American evangelist was interfering in British politics under the guise of religion." This was referring to the fact that a Crusade brochure had mentioned the woes brought on by Socialism. The Labor Party took it as an attack.
London media demanded Graham's scalp. Lukewarm supporters backpedalled. Momentarily, Graham felt the crusade was ruined. Yet God had led him this far: he would go on. Meanwhile he sent an apology. When he disembarked in Britain he was mobbed by hostile reporters; he said he believed God was going to pour out revival upon England. As he passed through customs, an agent thanked him for coming. So did a cab driver. Billy's spirits lifted.
Nonetheless he was all nerves before the first meeting, shaking like a leaf. He spent the day on his knees. A senator called to withdraw his promised attendance. Someone rang to announce that only 2,000 people had showed up to the 11,000 seat arena. Again Billy dropped to his knees.
The negative publicity proved to be a blessing, however. The arena was jammed for three months. Wherever Billy went he was mobbed by friendly crowds. His team had to schedule extra meetings. Over two million people attended. Thousands came to Christ. Londoners sang hymns in the subways. Winston Churchill met Billy and heard the gospel in private. That London crusade did much to establish Mr. Graham's international ministry, which continued to expand over the next four decades.
- Pollock, John. Billy Graham, Evangelist to the World. Minneapolis, Minnesota: World-wide Publications, 1979.
- ------------- Crusades; 20 years with Billy Graham. Minneapolis, Minnesota: World Wide Publications, 1969.
Last updated April, 2006.