The following appears as the introduction to the May/June Edition of the Christian Legal Journal, written by General Editor Derek Ross:
Did you know that Rev. Billy Graham once presented a special message to lawyers? I was intrigued to recently learn that Rev. Graham once spoke to the American Bar Association. I couldn’t find anything about it online. The more I thought about it though, the more I wanted to know: what did the famous evangelist have to say to the legal profession?
I made an inquiry with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association of Canada (BGEA), who have been long-time friends of the Christian Legal Fellowship (CLF’s Ruth Ross serves on the BGEA Canada Board, as does Judge Darrell Riemer who shares some of his personal reflections and interactions with Billy Graham in the May/June issue of the Christian Legal Journal).
Staff at BGEA Canada were eager to help, and after some digging, were able to confirm that the message was delivered to the Annual General Meeting of the American Bar Association in 1975. And the next bit of news surprised me: the event took place in Montreal! Billy Graham delivered a message to the legal profession on Canadian soil. I had no idea!
Our friends at BGEA kept digging and reached out to the Billy Graham Center Archives at Wheaton College in Illinois. We thought it was a long shot, but the Archives confirmed they had a copy of Billy’s speech notes from the event. Better still, we were able to locate an audio recording of the message.
It was profoundly moving to read Rev. Graham’s speech notes, complete with his handwritten annotations. It was even more moving to hear those words come to life in the audio recording, through Billy’s trademark voice and style: powerful preaching that convicts the heart yet comforts the soul with fatherly wisdom and gentle humour.
Even more powerful were the relevance and timeliness of Billy’s message. Aside from some cultural references, it could have been written today, not 43 years ago.
The message was entitled “Freedom Restored”. Delivered just a few months after the end of the Vietnam War, in the wake of Watergate, and in the midst of growing Cold War tensions, Rev. Graham was well aware of the cultural malaise and spiritual uncertainty growing in the Western world. Rather than downplaying the existence of pressing social and legal problems, Graham highlights them, calling on lawyers to take action, noting that “the law profession can turn the tide of history.” But he stresses that change must start within our hearts: “Only in the Cross and the resurrection do we have the possibility of individual and national redemption.”
Rev. Graham’s message would have been heard by North America’s leading lawyers, judges, and politicians. Other notable speakers at the 1975 ABA AGM included four Supreme Court Justices (Thurgood Marshall, William H. Rehnquist, Potter Stewart, and Tom Clark), US Attorney General Edward H. Levi, Solicitor General Robert Bork, Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, and Montreal Mayor Jean Drapeau. It is unknown if each was present during Billy Graham’s address, but the consummate evangelist did not miss the opportunity to share the message of the Gospel:
When I shared with our friends at the BGEA that a new generation of lawyers needed to read this message, they heartily agreed. The Billy Graham Literary Trust have kindly granted CLF permission to reprint a transcription of Billy’s message in the special edition of Christian Legal Journal (May/June 2018 issue). We are privileged to share with you in the May/June issue of the Christian Legal Journal the typed transcript for Billy Graham’s message, "Hope Restored", delivered at the American Bar Association’s Annual General Meeting at a prayer breakfast on August 10, 1975, in Montreal, Quebec. Our prayer is that this message will be an encouragement to you and those you share it with.
The Christian Legal Journal is a collection of academic scholarship and spiritual teachings that equips and educates our members. This quarterly journal was first started in the 1990s and is complimentary to our membership. To obtain your copy of the Journal, apply to become a CLF member or contact the CLF team (firstname.lastname@example.org).
We'd love to get a copy into your hands!
The full, printed message available in the Christian Legal Journal was transcribed by the Christian Legal Journal's editorial team from an audio message available online, courtesy of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.
See also the original 'podium notes' written and used by Rev. Billy Graham during his address, courtesy of the Billy Graham Center Archives (Wheaton College).
Special thanks to the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association for their assistance in locating the written and audio recordings, and for helping Christian Legal Fellowship secure permissions to reprint this message in the Christian Legal Journal.