To no one's surprise, evangelist Billy Graham is the choice of 30 religion writers and editors as the most influential person in American religious life today.
Graham's name led the list of 10 persons chosen in the poll conducted by The Christian Century, an ecumenical weekly based in Chicago. The results appeared in this week's issue.
The others, listed in the order in which they were ranked in the poll, are:
Martin E. Marty, author, lecturer and professor of the History of Modern Christianity, University of Chicago.
President Jimmy Carter.
Marc Tanenbaum, director of interreligious affairs, American Jewish Committee.
The Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh, C.S.C., president, University of Notre Dame.
Oral Roberts, evengelist, founder and president of Oral Roberts University.
Bill Bright, founder and president of Campus Crusade International.
The Rev. Jesse Jackson, head of Operation PUSH (People United to Save Humanity).
Anita Bryant, singer.
William P. Thompson, stated clerk of the United Presbyterian Church and president of the National Council of Churches.
THe honorees make an interesting mix that probably shoudl not be taken too seriously. The magazine suggests the results of the poll "give us some awareness of where we are at this particular point in our national religious journey."
Ommission from the list of any parish pastor, priest or rabbi is an indicationof the decline in influence of the pulpit in recent decades.
Carter and Bryant appeared on the list for stands taken and attitudes expressed as rank-and-file church members rather than professional leaders. Some respondents in the poll, which allowed votes for good and bad influence, cited Bryant's anti-homosexual crusade as influential but negative.
The list includes four Baptists, a Presbyterian, a Lutheran, a Methodist, Catholic and a jew, and one, Bright, who lists no denominational loyalty in his official biography.
Conspicuously missing from the list are representatives of denominations recently considered pacesetters in American religious life - the United Church of Christ, the Disciples of christ and the Episcopal Church.
THe list's sole theologian is Marty, who may be described more accurately as a church historian probably known best for his ability to place in perspective religious and secular contemporary events.
At least half of the 10 persons named are listed because of their prowess in condemning contemporary society, although they have not necessarily contributed to moving society forward.
With the possible exception of Marty and Tanenbaum, none of the 10 was honored for contributionsto the advancement of religious thought.
Catholics are poorly represented, in part because of personnel shifts in the two top positions of the American hierarchy - president and general secretary of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops. The newcomers to these posts have not held office long enough to make their presence felt.
For what it's worth, every one of these 10 religious leaders has some kind of publicist at hand to tout his or her accomplishments.