North Carolina Gov. Mike Easley and Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory joined some 550 civic, business, and religious leaders in officially welcoming native son Billy Graham home to Charlotte today. At a groundbreaking ceremony on the 63-acre site that will serve as the new headquarters for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA), Franklin Graham, president and CEO of the association, announced that the facility would be named the Billy Graham Center for World Evangelism.
After more than 50 years of operation in Minneapolis, Minnesota, the BGEA announced one year ago its decision to relocate to Charlotte. The transition has already begun with some 70 employees working out of a transition office across the street from the new property. Construction of the new Center for World Evangelism should begin in the spring and be completed in June 2004.
Speaking to guests gathered under a large tent, Billy Graham noted his organization’s enthusiasm for moving to Charlotte, saying that, “Our staff has a vision for our work that could mean some of our best years may be ahead of us. I believe that vision will be accelerated as a result of this move. And under Franklin’s leadership, we are developing a much larger and deeper vision for the future.”
Graham concluded by saying, “The building for which we are breaking ground today is an important step in making that vision a reality. In a real sense, Charlotte once again becomes our home. But it also becomes our foundation for the future, and we look forward to sharing that journey with you.” (Full text of Graham remarks available at www.billygraham.org.)
At the ceremony, the BGEA unveiled architectural plans and drawings for the new campus. The primary building will be approximately 232,000 square feet and will house approximately 400 employees, nearly half of whom are moving from Minneapolis. A two-story Billy Graham Library of approximately 50,000 square feet will also be constructed on the site and will house most of Mr. Graham’s memorabilia and personal papers.
Thousands of visitors are expected to pass through the library each year, a facility that will chronicle much of the history of evangelism in America and of the BGEA throughout the world over the past 50 years. The opening of the library is anticipated in early 2005.
In welcoming the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association to North Carolina, Gov. Easley presented Mr. Graham with a proclamation declaring Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2002, as “Rev. Billy Graham Appreciation Day in North Carolina.” Reading from the proclamation, Easley said, “I commend this ‘favorite son’ for his faithful service to the Gospel of Christ for more than 50 years.”