Institute for Studies of Religion to Honor Rev. Billy Graham’s Centennial with Symposium

November 2, 2018
Billy Graham Symposium

Media Contact: Lori Fogleman, Baylor University Media and Public Relations, 254-710-6275
Follow Lori on Twitter at @LoriBaylorU
Follow Baylor Media Communications on Twitter: BaylorUMedia

by Jessie Jilovec, student newswriter

WACO, Texas (Nov. 2, 2018) – To recognize Rev. Billy Graham’s vital significance, Baylor University’s Institute for Studies of Religion (ISR) will host the Billy Graham Centennial Symposium, a gathering of leading scholars of Graham and his work to honor the centennial of his birth, from Tuesday, Nov. 6, to Wednesday, Nov. 7, in the Paul Powell Chapel of the George W. Truett Theological Seminary, 1100 S. Third St.

Elesha Coffman, Ph.D., assistant professor of history in Baylor’s College of Arts & Sciences, said Graham’s birthday would be an opportune time for discussion of Graham’s legacy, focusing on two specific areas: Billy Graham in global perspective and Billy Graham in American Evangelicalism. Baylor is known as a hub for research on both topics, she said.

“The invited scholars come from diverse backgrounds and bring a variety of research questions to the study of Graham, world Christianity and evangelicalism,” Coffman said. “The symposium aims for a balance of appreciation of this towering figure and critical engagement with his complicated legacy.”

During the symposium, experts will assess and celebrate Rev. Graham’s contributions to the Christian faith across the century, in the United States and globally.

Symposium events and speakers include:

Tuesday, Nov. 6:

11 a.m. – Ed Stetzer, Ph.D., Billy Graham Professor of Church, Mission and Evangelism; executive director of the Billy Graham Center; and dean of the School of Mission, Ministry and Leadership, Wheaton College, will present “The Legacy of Billy Graham.”
7 p.m. – Grant Wacker, Ph.D., Gilbert T. Rowe Professor Emeritus of Christian History, Duke University, will present “Humility and Ambition in the Formation of an Evangelical Titan.”

Wednesday, Nov. 7:

10:30 a.m. – Roundtable 1: Billy Graham in Global Perspective

  • Alister Chapman, Ph.D., professor of history, Westmont College, will present “The One That Got Away? Billy Graham and the Lausanne Movement.”
  • Helen Kim, Ph.D., assistant professor of American religious history, Candler School of Theology at Emory University, will present “Why Was Graham’s Largest Crusade in South Korea, of All Places?”
  • Uta Andrea Balbier, Ph.D., senior lecturer in modern history, King’s College London, will present “Bigger in London than in Dallas: How Billy Graham’s ministry took shape in Europe.”

1:30 p.m. – Anne Blue Wills, Ph.D., Davidson College, will present “Ruth Bell Graham: In the Footprints of a Pilgrim.”

3:15 p.m. – Roundtable 2: Billy Graham and American Evangelicalism

  • Edward Gilbreath, journalist, will present “Pulling Down the Ropes: Howard Jones, MLK and Billy Graham’s Pioneering Forays Against Racial Segregation.”
  • Roger Olson, Ph.D., professor of theology and holder of the Foy Valentine Professor of Christian Theology and Ethics at Baylor’s Truett Seminary, will present “Billy Graham as the Unofficial ‘Pope’ of American Evangelicalism.”
  • William Martin, Ph.D., Harry & Hazel Chavanne Professor Emeritus of Religion and Public Policy at Rice University, will present “All the Presidents’ Man.”

Coffman said the keynote addresses and roundtable discussions promise to be lively and timely.

“The goal of any symposium is to facilitate an exchange of ideas that can only happen in a roomful of engaged participants, including audience members, with different perspectives,” Coffman said. “The more of these perspectives we can gather, the richer the event will be for everyone.”

The symposium is free of charge.


Baylor University is a private Christian University and a nationally ranked research institution. The University provides a vibrant campus community for more than 17,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating University in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 80 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 12 nationally recognized academic divisions.


Launched in August 2004, the Baylor Institute for Studies of Religion (ISR) exists to initiate, support and conduct research on religion, involving scholars and projects spanning the intellectual spectrum: history, psychology, sociology, economics, anthropology, political science, epidemiology, theology and religious studies. The institute’s mandate extends to all religions, everywhere, and throughout history, and embraces the study of religious effects on prosocial behavior, family life, population health, economic development and social conflict. For more information,