Graham, Houghton to Headline Opening Night of Assembly

Franklin Graham, leader of the well-known ministry Samaritan’s Purse, will be the featured speaker for the July 28 opening night of the 73rd Church of God International General Assembly which will be conducted in Orlando, Florida. Leading worship on the same night will be contemporary Christian artist Israel Houghton.

The General Assembly opens on the morning of July 27 with a meeting of the General Council. The group of ordained bishops will meet in three sessions that day, including a rare evening session.

William Franklin Graham, III, is the fourth of five children born to evangelist Billy Graham and his wife, Ruth Bell Graham. Raised in a log home in the Appalachian Mountains outside Asheville, North Carolina, Franklin now lives in the mountains of Boone, North Carolina.

He was born into a heritage rich in Christian ministry. By the time of Franklin’s birth, Billy Graham was already known around the world as a spiritual leader, but he wasn’t the only spiritual giant in the family. Franklin’s maternal grandfather, Lemuel Nelson Bell, was a medical missionary to China for more than 20 years, a respected moderator of his denomination, the Presbyterian Church in the United States, and a co-founder and executive editor of Christianity Today.

At age 22, after a period of rebellion and traveling the world, Franklin committed his life to Jesus Christ while alone in a hotel room in Jerusalem. Soon after that, Dr. Bob Pierce, founder of Samaritan’s Purse (and World Vision), invited Franklin to join him on a six-week mission to Asia. It was during that time that Franklin felt a calling to work with hurting people in areas of the world affected by war, famine, disease, and natural disasters. In 1979, after the death of Pierce, Graham became president of “Samaritan’s Purse.” Graham now also serves as the organization’s CEO, and heads efforts on behalf of the organization in more than 100 countries, including programs such as “Operation Christmas Child” and the “Children’s Heart Project,” among others.

As a young man, Graham was actively mentored by two senior members of the Billy Graham Team; Roy Gustafson and John Wesley White. These men worked alongside Billy Graham and had a desire to positively affect the life and ministry of the eldest son of their longtime friend and colleague. Franklin began conducting events for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association in 1989 and became the CEO in 2000 and its president in 2002. Each year, he conducts at least five Graham Festivals around the world as an evangelist associated with the BGEA. Some of Graham’s more notable speaking engagements include the 1999 Columbine High School memorial, and the opening prayer at the 2001 inauguration of George W. Bush.

Israel Houghton is known for injecting contemporary gospel and worship with a blazing, youthful energy that has made him among the most influential tastemakers in his field. As a singer, composer, multi-instrumentalist, producer and worship leader, he has created a canon of songs that have become standards in houses of faith around the globe. He has accomplished this largely as the leader of “Israel and New Breed,” a Grammy, Stellar and Dove Award-winning musical ensemble and ministry organization that has amassed gold-selling albums and critical platitudes reserved for the best of the best.

Over the past six years, Israel has amassed a legion of fans while blasting down musical barriers, and drawing together people of all races, ages and cultures through worship. He has two Gold-selling albums, six Dove Awards, two Stellar Awards, a Soul Train Award, and two Grammy® Awards – one for “Best Pop/Contemporary Gospel Album” for A Deeper Level and one for “Best Traditional Gospel Album” for Alive In South Africa. Ironically, there is very little that is “traditional” about the way Israel approaches music and ministry, defying categorization with an ease that other artists envy.

“It’s not a white sound or black sound, it’s a Kingdom sound,” explains the songwriter and producer. And it is because of this progressive connection to now-generation believers that Israel’s music has been embraced around the globe.

For his most current musical offering, Israel steps away from the members of New Breed, who are themselves active in their own ministries, to record a solo project that is his most personal effort to date. The album, Power of One, challenges people to change the world. “I strongly believe that those of us who consider ourselves worshippers need to have a heart for social justice,” says Israel who penned the CD’s title song specifically around that theme for the album.

As part of his personal effort to change the world, Israel supports a variety of compassion-focused ministries including the international relief and aid organization World Vision and a medical missions ministry birthed out of Houston’s Lakewood Church where he serves as a worship leader.

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