Billy Graham announced Thursday, July 20 that he will not attend Amsterdam 2000, an upcoming world conference on evangelism, due to health considerations. In a press release, Graham's doctors at the Mayo clinic, where he has been a patient since June 7, said they "believe that continuing his current program of physical therapy and surveillance will best ensure his ongoing ministry."Graham is expected to remain at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, for three to four more weeks as he regains his strength from a series of diagnostic and therapeutic treatments he has been undergoing for the past month.Instead of travelling overseas, Graham still hopes to participate in the two-week summit for evangelism via a satellite-beamed television linkup. More than 10,000 participants from 190 countries are expected to participate in the Amsterdam gathering. Graham says that while he is disappointed at the turn of events, he has great peace that this is God's plan for himself, as well as the conference. Graham entered to Mayo Clinic at the conclusion of his last domestic crusade in Nasheville in June. During a crusade in St. Louis, Missouri last fall, Graham told reporters that his health was excellent, apart from a few conditions "such as Parkinson's Disease, prostate problems, high blood pressure and various problems that come with age." The last time Graham was hospitalized was in 1997 in Jacksonville, Florida, when he developed a severe case of pneumonia. He is still scheduled for a Jacksonville evangelistic crusade in November."I have experienced several deep spiritual moments during my hospitalization," Graham says, "and feel that God has given me new vision and new strength for extended ministry in the future."Promoters of Amsterdam 2000 have been marketing the international conference of evangelists as Graham's swan song."That's probably more of a promotional hype than an intentional focus of the conference," says John Corts, general director of Amsterdam 2000 and president of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. Besides, he says, "we heard the same questions [over whether this would be Graham's last event] fifteen years ago at the last Amsterdam conference."The by-invitation-only gathering is expected to bring 10,000 evangelists, church leaders, and theologians from 185 countries together for training, equipping, and encouragement."We expect the major focus to be on encouraging these evangelists and helping them find their place in the family of God," says Corts. Training seminars in everything from theological concepts to how to craft a sermon will fill most of the conference, though Corts says, "it's a little presumptuous to say you're going to train evangelists in everything they need in nine days."Though Graham has been the focus of the buzz surrounding the meeting, other luminaries are scheduled to speak, including Luis Palau, J.I. Packer, John Stott, Ravi Zacharias, and George Carey. That the majority of plenary speakers are coming from developed Western countries while about 70 percent of the attendees are from the developing world has not gone unnoticed by the planners. The plenary speakers were chosen largely because of their name recognition, says Corts. But he adds that all but one of the "Master teachers" leading the seminars are from outside the United States.
For more information on Amsterdam 2000, see Amsterdam2000.org. The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association Web site has a press release about Graham's health.Graham's health also kept him from the National Prayer Breakfast earlier this year.Christianity Today sister publication Christian History has a biographical sketch of Graham as part of its " 10 Most Influential Christians of the 20th Century" issue.ChristianityToday.com will have daily updates from Amsterdam 2000 starting July 31.
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