Ruth Graham visits George Fox to discuss Transparent Ministries
Daughter of famed evangelist Billy Graham tells George Fox Evangelical Seminary staff of her desire to see people in the church be ‘open and real’ while finding acceptance and accountability
Ruth Graham, daughter of famed evangelist Billy Graham, visited George Fox Evangelical Seminary Friday, April 15, to discuss her efforts with Transparent Ministries. Graham said her hope is to give people in the church the opportunity to openly address real issues in their lives in order to bring them closer to Christ.
Graham began her lunchtime talk by recounting her own life struggles. She grew up trying to display an “everything’s OK” face at church. After all, she was Billy Graham’s daughter. She felt a constant pressure to be perfect. After two failed marriages and her family in turmoil, she came to realize that God loved her in the midst of her brokenness. She opened up to the people around her, revealed her pain and began her journey to healing.
“Ruth is a person of immense courage,” Seminary Dean Chuck Conniry said. “Rather than letting personal tragedies and setbacks define her, she has turned them on their head, using them as a platform of personal transparency and strength.”
Graham said her father was influential in showing her a message of grace that helped her find the courage to be transparent. When she fled in fear from her second husband, Graham drove two days to her parents’ home. She was afraid they would scold her for her poor decisions. But when she stepped out of her car, her father hugged her and said, “Welcome home.”
“My father is not God,” she said, “but he showed me what God’s love is.”
The ability to be open and real while finding acceptance and accountability is a message Graham said she wants to help spread through the church. Everyone, from church members to the pastor, needs people they can come to with their struggles. She said she wants to use her platform to spread the idea of Transparent Ministries.
Last month, Graham flew Conniry and MaryKate Morse, professor of leadership and spiritual formation, to the Billy Graham Training Center in Asheville, N.C., to be a part of a small focus group to help her with the launch of Transparent Ministries. Conniry and Morse joined a small group of pastors, authors and academicians.
“We reflected on several aspects of transparency, including how seminaries like George Fox can incorporate that into our theological curriculum,” Conniry said. “She correctly believes that if we prepare men and women to be transparent leaders of their churches, it will make a big difference in the overall health of Christ’s Body.”
Graham then contacted the seminary and asked to visit the campus since she had a speaking engagement at Living Hope Church in Vancouver, Wash. Conniry quickly arranged to have leaders within the George Fox community, along with presidents from Warner Pacific, Corban and Western Seminary, to hear Graham’s vision.
“Ruth believes that the church desperately needs what it lacks the most: authentic relationships,” Conniry said. “And transparency is a fundamental prerequisite of authenticity. She is convinced that ‘The Transparent Church’ is the next wave of evangelism.”
For more information about Transparent Ministries, visit transparentministries.org.
George Fox Evangelical Seminary offers a Doctor of Ministry (DMin) degree in leadership and spiritual formation, leadership and global perspectives, and semiotics and future studies. Also offered is a Master of Divinity degree and Master of Arts degrees in theological studies, spiritual formation and ministry leadership. Students also may earn a certificate in spiritual formation and discipleship.
To learn more about the seminary in Oregon, visit seminary.georgefox.edu.