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Published Date: 11 Sep 2014

Presentation Date: 11 Sep 2014

Event: Charles Perry Lecture

Preaching and Politics in Billy Graham’s 1969 Melbourne Crusade

The Melbourne Cricket Ground’s largest ever crowd came not to watch a game or hear a rock star but to hear an American evangelist preach a sermon from the Bible. Billy Graham’s famous 1959 Crusade made a significant impact on the churches, public culture, and the lives of over 130,000 Australians who made a ‘decision for Christ’. The historical importance of this event continues to be debated. But what happened when the evangelist returned ten years later? What did it mean to ‘Hear Billy’ for the second time, in the very different world of late-1960s Melbourne?

This lecture explores such questions against the fascinating backdrop of Australia’s changing relationship with the United States. Facing a growing sense of Australian ‘new nationalism’, which spurned subservience to American foreign policy abroad and acquiescence to ‘Americanization’ at home, Graham’s ability to communicate his message effectively was contingent on the crafting of his political persona and purposes, both by his American colleagues and his Australian hosts. Drawing on extensive archival material from the Billy Graham Centre at Wheaton College, this lecture examines Graham’s return visit within a complex global narrative of American influence on post-Imperial, post-Christendom Australian Protestantism – a window into the rich relationship between preaching and politics.

Hugh Chilton is a Research Fellow at The Scots College, Sydney, and in the final stages of a PhD in History at The University of Sydney. His doctoral thesis is entitled ‘Evangelicals and the End of Christian Australia: Nation and Religion in the Public Square, 1959-1979’.
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Building on the legacy of Charles Perry, first Anglican Bishop of Melbourne, our biennial lecture named in his honour seeks to explore the origins and development of evangelicalism in Melbourne. Conversations concerning the explosion of Christianity in the majority world, Christian influence in American politics and the vitality of evangelical churches in our own country make research in evangelical history increasingly important. Our lecture contributes to the vision of the founders of our city who wanted to create in Melbourne a model of Christian civilisation.

The Charles Perry Lecture is sponsored by the Jonathan Edwards Center at Ridley Melbourne, St James’ Old Cathedral, West Melbourne, and the Evangelical Fellowship in the Anglican Communion.

Previous lectures in this series include presentations by David Bebbington, Stuart Piggin, Ken Cable, Patricia Grimshaw, Bob Evans, and Darrell Paproth.

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