Billy Graham's other preaching
child hopes to overcome barriers
___By Yonat Shimron
___Raleigh News & Observer
___AMSTERDAM, Netherlands (RNS)--Before launching into her lecture at the world evangelists' conference last week, Anne Graham Lotz paused to pray that God would break down barriers of race, language and gender as she spoke.
___Though race and language were important concerns, especially at a conference of
evangelists from 209 countries, it was the gender barrier that troubled her more.
|ANNE GRAHAM LOTZ
___As a woman, and as a powerful preacher, Lotz still struggles to be heard. And in the circles where she travels, it's a man's world.
___Among the 10,000 conference participants gathered in Amsterdam, at what is considered the world's largest school for evangelists, only 7 percent are women. And among the 300 speakers asked to lecture, Lotz, daughter of Billy Graham, is the only woman to address the entire assembly on her own.
___Evangelical Christians are divided on whether women should serve in positions of authority over men. For that reason, Lotz is something of a lightning rod. Her own denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention, has passed official statements declaring the office of pastor is limited to men and that wives must submit graciously to their husbands. But other evangelicals believe women are equally gifted in preaching.
___Lotz is one of them, and because of her lineage she may be in a position to do for women what her father did for ecumenical relations.
___A decade ago, as she was approaching the microphone to speak to a gathering of U.S. pastors from all denominations, a group of men turned their backs on her.
___More recently, she was invited to speak at another conference only to have the invitation rescinded when it became apparent some men would not hear her. These experiences have sent her back to the Bible and made her convictions on this matter even stronger.
___"I believe God has confirmed to me his call that I'm to go wherever he sends me and to give out the message he's put in my heart," said Lotz, 52, who lives in Raleigh, N.C. "He's responsible for the people in the audience. I'm responsible to give out his word."
___At last week's lecture, Lotz urged young pastors to be mindful that they are sinners just like their congregants, and that their ministry will falter unless they too repent and ask God to forgive them. Her 35-minute message, delivered without notes or an outline, hit all the bases, with time left over to round them out in a powerful summation. With the hand gestures and jabbing fingers so characteristic of her father, Lotz showed she was in a league with him--speaking eloquently and offering plenty of examples in rapid-fire succession.
___By all accounts, people liked what she had to say.
___"She had really good charisma," said Elias Burgos, a participant from Denver, Colo. "You could see her emotions when she preaches, and that's touching."
___Fellow lecturers thought highly of her too. "I find myself envious of her gift," said John Stott, a renowned British pastor and Bible scholar who has served as chaplain to the Queen of England.
___Indeed, despite criticism from some circles, Lotz is something of an international celebrity. From the minute she arrived in Amsterdam, Lotz patiently surrendered to countless interviews.
___With her perfectly blow-dried gray hair and fashionable suits, she could easily slip into a world of gloss and glamour, but she never strays far from her message. In the black tote bag she carries are an extra pair of shoes, a make-up bag and a well-thumbed Bible. As she walks from one interview to the next, clusters of conference participants follow her, waiting for the opportunity to get an autograph or pose for a picture.
___In part, that's because she is the second of Billy Graham's five children and shares a marked resemblance to his tall frame and chiseled good looks. In part, it's because she's built up a loyal following, especially among women, as a Bible teacher and author.
___Married to Dan Lotz, a Raleigh dentist, she was cast into a traditional role of wife and mother when she got engaged at the tender age of 17. She never went to college and never took a class in seminary.
___But soon after her son and two daughters were born, she felt trapped.
___"I felt frustrated in the home with young children," she said. "I was losing my temper. I was impatient. I knew my mother had drawn her strength by reading God's word and spending time in prayer. I just didn't have the discipline to do that."
___Lotz finally found a way to rekindle her faith--by teaching it. A Bible study she started once a week at her church grew from 150 people in its sixth week to 500 the following year. She ended up teaching that class for 12 years.
___Along the way, she developed a faithful following, especially among women who found in the Bible ways to cope with life's frustrations and small tragedies. Lotz's method of Bible teaching does not rely on scholarship or a historical or literary appreciation. It is mostly a devotional exercise intended to draw out personal lessons for the reader's life.
___At a workshop in Amsterdam, Lotz said she asks three questions when she approaches a passage from the Bible: What does it say; what does it mean; what does it mean to me?
___"We want to read so we can have God talk to us," she said. "This is the best way to transform the relationship of your heart."
___In 1988, Lotz founded AnGeL Ministries, an organization that handles her speaking engagements. (Its first, middle and last letters form her initials.) These days, she rejects 20 engagements for every one she accepts. She recently spoke in Australia at the Baptist World Congress and at an annual Bible conference in England.
___Lotz does not take money for these engagements. Nor does she draw a salary from the ministry. She says she is supported by her husband and the ministry grows through gifts. This fall, she will complete a five-city revival tour called "Just Give Me Jesus," which recently was in Fort Worth.
___Though she says she does not believe God called her to be ordained or serve as a pastor of a church, Lotz doesn't rule it out for other women. The key, she says, is to listen to God, to study the Scriptures and find a way to make peace with them.
___But there is one biblical figure she encourages both men and women to examine. That woman is the New Testament figure of Mary Magdalene, an early follower of Jesus.
___"Jesus commissioned Mary to share his word and her personal testimony," Lotz said. "If the church has gotten more strict than that, we need to examine what we base that on."
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