Billy Graham's daughter takes new approach to family business

Saturday, May 4, 2002

RALEIGH, N.C. -- Anne Graham Lotz says she doesn't have the gifts that made her father the 20th century's most famous evangelist.

And she never sought the mantle that brother Franklin has taken, leading the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association into the 21st century. Yet the revival speaker from Raleigh has still followed her father and brother into the family business -- with her own style.

"There are a lot of people who feel like I do," she said. "They're longing for a fresh touch from God."

Holding meetings in large arenas, writing books and speaking at venues such as the United Nations and the National Cathedral, Lotz's ministry is slowly becoming a force in the American evangelical movement -- and she has become something of a trailblazer.

"What she has done at some degree is broken down the gender barrier in evangelicalism, (though) not completely," said Randall Balmer, a Barnard College professor and expert on the evangelical movement. "Her name makes that possible."

While Lotz has carved out her own ministry, being the second child of Billy and Ruth Graham has helped her gain attention and access to events where she might otherwise not have been on the speakers' list.

Her preaching inflections, sharp business suits and polished looks remind revival participants of her father's persona during his crusading heyday. Lotz shies away from such comparisons.

"I don't think anybody will ever be like Daddy," she said.

Lotz said she's never sought the spotlight: She holds meetings only in places where she's been invited, and after prayer, where she says God has told her to go.

"When I get up on the platform in the arena I'm not pointing my finger at them and telling them what they need," Lotz said in an interview peppered with biblical references. "I'm telling them where I've been and this is what I need and it makes a difference.

Lotz's message is one that conservative Christians -- particularly women -- say they can relate to.

In the late 1990s, Lotz said, her aging parents had health setbacks, her son was diagnosed with cancer and her husband's dental office burned to the ground. The weight of her family troubles and job took a toll on what she calls her personal relationship with God.

"Under all the pressure, I just wanted him in a clearer, simpler, more satisfying, deeper way," Lotz said. "That began to be my heart's cry."

That cry led her to study the Bible and write the book, "Just Give Me Jesus," a study of the New Testament Gospel of John. That, in turn, led to revival meetings, at which Lotz preaches to crowds she says want a similar relationship with God.

"She is a compelling communicator," said Leigh O'Dell, director of a Lotz revival last month in Raleigh. "She presents the message that God has given her in a powerful way."

Lotz, who turns 54 this month, got married at 18 to a former University of North Carolina basketball player, Danny Lotz.

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