Samaritan's Purse founder Franklin Graham and Georgia evangelist Keith Fordham expand the Hall of Faith to 36 members since its creation in 2008. Past inductees, 16 of whom are still living, range from Billy Graham to Ron Dunn and Jerry Spencer.
Receiving the award for Franklin Graham was his son, Maj. Edward Graham, who serves as a commander with the U.S. Army Rangers.
Graham said his father's tight travel schedule prevented him from attending the ceremony to accept the honor. He spoke briefly, acknowledging that he is the only son in the Graham family not to be serving in fulltime ministry.
"The key to my dad and granddad's success is the local church. That's who empowered and spread their ministries. It is the church who invited them to come share the Good News in communities large and small across America and around the world," Graham noted.
"I pray for the pastors and evangelists who serve together to win this nation for Christ because they are the individuals America needs today -- those who have been called to be fishers of men."
Fordham said he has testified to the life-changing power of the Gospel "since Jesus walked into my home and changed our family forever," he told the attendees at the banquet at the Hilton Conference Center Hotel.
Fordham told of his childhood with a father who was not a believer, but that changed when the family came to faith in Christ.
"Ever since Jesus walked into my home and saved my family I have spent my life telling others about how He can change their lives. It made that great of an impact on my life.
"For 46 years now I have been thanking God for His allowing me to be His mailman, carrying the Good News to those waiting to receive it."
Fordham, a member of Harp's Crossing Baptist Church in Fayetteville, Ga., has served in more than 1,500 revivals in the U.S. and India. He was the 2004-05 president of COSBE and, most recently, a trustee of the North American Mission Board. He was accompanied to the banquet by his wife Shirley.
Keynote speaker Ed Stetzer, president of LifeWay Research, told the attendees that the Southern Baptist Convention, also restored to its theological orthodoxy, has not been restored to its historically strong evangelical witness.
Addressing the steady decline in baptisms, Stetzer lamented that in the 1950s the denomination grew 4 percent, then 3 percent in the '60s, 2 percent in the '70s and only 1 percent in the '80s. Since then the denomination now is contracting at nearly the same rate as it grew.
"True, this year's decline was less than the previous year but it continues to trend lower. We have not reversed that trend, and that should concern us," Stetzer said.
"The reality is that we will soon catch up with the decline experienced by the Methodists, who we always used to use as an example of a formerly strong denomination.
"Southern Baptists love evangelism as long as someone else is doing it," he added. "We are dependent on evangelism for growth but are seriously uninvolved in living it."
In other matters, SBC Executive Committee President Frank S. Page welcomed the Hall of Faith's move to the SBC Building in Nashville, which received formal COSBE approval the next day, including placing COSBE materials in the Southern Baptist Historical Library and Archives in the building.
Page said COSBE's Hall of Faith and archives would provide greater visibility in Nashville than they currently receive at North American Mission Board's offices in Alpharetta, Ga. Page said NAMB President Kevin Ezell offered to pay all costs to transfer the exhibit and archives to Nashville this summer.
"It will be an honor to house these important materials in our building," Page said.
Joe Westbusy is managing editor of The Christian Index (www.christianindex.org), newsjournal of the Georgia Baptist Convention.
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