Christians Wrestle With Billy Graham's Legacy

(Photo: New York Daily News Archive via Getty Images)
(Photo: New York Daily News Archive via Getty Images)

Rev. Billy Graham, the famous evangelist who died on Wednesday, was a charismatic preacher, a counselor to presidents, and a leading figure in American evangelicalism.

As news of his death spread, many Christians took time to reflect on the 99-year-old pastor’s long life and legacy.

During his more than six decades as an evangelist, Graham invited millions of people to make a personal commitment to Christ during revival meetings around the world, which he called crusades. Thousands responded to his altar call, often to the tune of one of his favorite old hymns, “Just As I Am.”

But the gospel of salvation that Graham preached never invited queer Americans to come the altar just as they were. The pastor also held conservative views about women. And while he opposed racial segregation, he was not as active as other Christian leaders during the 1960s civil rights era.

Still, with his crusades and fiery preaching, he inspired a spiritual revival in the lives of generations of Christians. He’s praised for being nonpartisan about politics, at least later on in his life ― meeting with every president from Harry Truman to Barack Obama.

On Wednesday, many reposted on Twitter a quote attributed to Graham, in which the pastor reveals his beliefs about death.

Others quoted a well-known Bible verse to honor Graham. In the parable, an employer congratulates his servant for wisely using the gifts given to him, saying, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

The tributes poured in from prominent evangelical leaders ...

... and from other strains of American Christianity.

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Some pointed out that his legacy was mixed, especially for LGBTQ Americans and others who are harmed by conservative interpretations of Christianity.

But many gave him his due as a towering figure in America’s religious history.

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Future evangelist Billy Graham at six months old in this photograph with his mother, Mrs. Morrow Graham. He was born on Nov. 7, 1918, and christened William Franklin Graham, Jr.
Future evangelist Billy Graham at six months old in this photograph with his mother, Mrs. Morrow Graham. He was born on Nov. 7, 1918, and christened William Franklin Graham, Jr.
Graham wears a cap and gown at age 17 on his graduation from Charlotte High School. Shortly before this date, Billy had embraced a charismatic, evangelical form of Christianity at a local revival meeting.
Graham wears a cap and gown at age 17 on his graduation from Charlotte High School. Shortly before this date, Billy had embraced a charismatic, evangelical form of Christianity at a local revival meeting.
As a young Baptist evangelist, Graham preaches to a large crowd in Los Angeles, California, in 1949. The event drew thousands and helped to kickstart his career as a preacher.
As a young Baptist evangelist, Graham preaches to a large crowd in Los Angeles, California, in 1949. The event drew thousands and helped to kickstart his career as a preacher.
A canvas tent, seating over 6,000, was erected for Graham's revival in Los Angeles, California, in 1949.
A canvas tent, seating over 6,000, was erected for Graham's revival in Los Angeles, California, in 1949.
About 4,000 students and faculty members listen to Graham at MIT on April 21, 1950.
About 4,000 students and faculty members listen to Graham at MIT on April 21, 1950.
Graham at home with his wife on March 13, 1952.
Graham at home with his wife on March 13, 1952.
Kneeling in prayer on the White House lawn after their meeting with President Harry Truman are left to right: Jerry Beaver; Cliff Barrow; Dr. Billy Graham, and Grady Wilson. The Baptist clergymen prayed with Truman for aid in the Korean War.
Kneeling in prayer on the White House lawn after their meeting with President Harry Truman are left to right: Jerry Beaver; Cliff Barrow; Dr. Billy Graham, and Grady Wilson. The Baptist clergymen prayed with Truman for aid in the Korean War.
Graham addresses an estimated crowd of 30,000 people at the U.S. Capitol, calling on Truman to proclaim a day of national prayer in the U.S.
Graham addresses an estimated crowd of 30,000 people at the U.S. Capitol, calling on Truman to proclaim a day of national prayer in the U.S.
Then-Vice President Richard Nixon sits with Graham, left, and National Commander Merton B. Rice, at a memorial service during the Veterans of Foreign Wars Convention at Boston University on Aug. 28, 1955.
Then-Vice President Richard Nixon sits with Graham, left, and National Commander Merton B. Rice, at a memorial service during the Veterans of Foreign Wars Convention at Boston University on Aug. 28, 1955.
A 35-year-old Graham with a smile upon his arrival in Southampton, England.
A 35-year-old Graham with a smile upon his arrival in Southampton, England.
Graham addresses a crowd in Trafalgar Square in London.
Graham addresses a crowd in Trafalgar Square in London.
Crowds listen with rapt attention to a Graham sermon at Wembley Stadium in London on May 16, 1955.
Crowds listen with rapt attention to a Graham sermon at Wembley Stadium in London on May 16, 1955.
Nixon chats with Graham at a huge Yankee Stadium rally arranged by the minister to cap a six-week tour in New York. Nixon flew in from Washington, D.C., to appear beside him and lend his personal support to the campaign.
Nixon chats with Graham at a huge Yankee Stadium rally arranged by the minister to cap a six-week tour in New York. Nixon flew in from Washington, D.C., to appear beside him and lend his personal support to the campaign.
More than 30,000 people jammed Wall Street to hear Graham preach what he termed his 'greatest service' of his New York Crusade. The evangelist gave a 20-minute extemporaneous sermon from an improvised pulpit on the steps of the Federal Hall Memorial. In the foreground of the picture is the foot of the George Washington Statue. At rear is the New York Stock Exchange.
More than 30,000 people jammed Wall Street to hear Graham preach what he termed his 'greatest service' of his New York Crusade. The evangelist gave a 20-minute extemporaneous sermon from an improvised pulpit on the steps of the Federal Hall Memorial. In the foreground of the picture is the foot of the George Washington Statue. At rear is the New York Stock Exchange.
Graham raises his fist as he speaks to members of the 24th Infantry Division in Korea in February 1956.
Graham raises his fist as he speaks to members of the 24th Infantry Division in Korea in February 1956.
Graham, wearing a garland presented to him by welcomers in New Delhi, raises his hands in Indian greetings to crowds on hand for his arrival.
Graham, wearing a garland presented to him by welcomers in New Delhi, raises his hands in Indian greetings to crowds on hand for his arrival.
Graham meets former Japanese Prime Minister Tchiro Hatoyama in the latter's office.
Graham meets former Japanese Prime Minister Tchiro Hatoyama in the latter's office.
Graham embraces his family upon his return from his 'Crusade for Christ' tour in the mid-1950s. Clockwise from left: His wife Ruth, daughter Anne, Graham, daughter Ruth, and daughter Virginia.
Graham embraces his family upon his return from his 'Crusade for Christ' tour in the mid-1950s. Clockwise from left: His wife Ruth, daughter Anne, Graham, daughter Ruth, and daughter Virginia.
In spite of the 90-degree-plus heat, 100,000 people packed Yankee Stadium to hear Graham warn that America 'is facing its gravest crisis in history.' Police reportedly turned thousands away. The Graham organization requested that planes departing from Laguardia Field avoid flying over the ball park.
In spite of the 90-degree-plus heat, 100,000 people packed Yankee Stadium to hear Graham warn that America 'is facing its gravest crisis in history.' Police reportedly turned thousands away. The Graham organization requested that planes departing from Laguardia Field avoid flying over the ball park.
Graham preaches on May 20, 1957, at Madison Square Garden in New York.
Graham preaches on May 20, 1957, at Madison Square Garden in New York.
Graham and U.S. President Lyndon B Johnson talk together at the Annual Presidential Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 5, 1964.
Graham and U.S. President Lyndon B Johnson talk together at the Annual Presidential Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 5, 1964.
President Ronald Reagan presents the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Graham at the White House.
President Ronald Reagan presents the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Graham at the White House.
Graham with his four children and wife at his home in North Carolina.
Graham with his four children and wife at his home in North Carolina.
Graham looks at some racy magazines and books in a bookstore during a stroll through New York's Times Square. "Anyone walking down Times Square can see why New York is in need of a great spiritual and moral awakening," he said.
Graham looks at some racy magazines and books in a bookstore during a stroll through New York's Times Square. "Anyone walking down Times Square can see why New York is in need of a great spiritual and moral awakening," he said.
Graham unveils the plaque commemorating the site of his first crusade that launched his career. At the ceremonies, he preached part of the same sermon that he gave in 1949, warning that America must repent of its sins or face the judgement of God.
Graham unveils the plaque commemorating the site of his first crusade that launched his career. At the ceremonies, he preached part of the same sermon that he gave in 1949, warning that America must repent of its sins or face the judgement of God.
Graham meets privately with Texas Governor and Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush, on Nov. 5, 2000, in Jacksonville, Florida.
Graham meets privately with Texas Governor and Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush, on Nov. 5, 2000, in Jacksonville, Florida.
Graham (second left) with his wife Ruth and the Queen, Prince Philip and the Queen Mother, when he preached at Sandringham Parish Church. The Rector of Sandringham, Rev. Gerry Murphy, is on the right.
Graham (second left) with his wife Ruth and the Queen, Prince Philip and the Queen Mother, when he preached at Sandringham Parish Church. The Rector of Sandringham, Rev. Gerry Murphy, is on the right.
Graham delivers a message on Sept. 20, 1986, in Paris, France.
Graham delivers a message on Sept. 20, 1986, in Paris, France.
Graham gives the invocation at the beginning of the inauguration ceremony for Bill Clinton's second term as president.
Graham gives the invocation at the beginning of the inauguration ceremony for Bill Clinton's second term as president.
Graham (left) is joined by His Eminence William Cardinal Keeler, Archbishop of Baltimore (center) and Orthodox Church of America Archbishop of Washington, Metropolitan Herman, during the 55th Presidential Inaugural Prayer Service at the National Cathedral in Washington on Jan. 21, 2005.
Graham (left) is joined by His Eminence William Cardinal Keeler, Archbishop of Baltimore (center) and Orthodox Church of America Archbishop of Washington, Metropolitan Herman, during the 55th Presidential Inaugural Prayer Service at the National Cathedral in Washington on Jan. 21, 2005.
Former U.S. presidents George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter pose with Graham and his son Franklin Graham before the Billy Graham Library Dedication on the campus of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association in Charlotte, North Carolina, on May 31, 2007.
Former U.S. presidents George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter pose with Graham and his son Franklin Graham before the Billy Graham Library Dedication on the campus of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association in Charlotte, North Carolina, on May 31, 2007.
President Barack Obama meets with Graham at his house in Montreat, North Carolina, in this handout photograph taken and released on April 25, 2010.
President Barack Obama meets with Graham at his house in Montreat, North Carolina, in this handout photograph taken and released on April 25, 2010.

This article originally appeared on HuffPost.