NEW YORK -- Evangelist Billy Graham says he's weary of the world's iniquities and ready to move on to heaven. But he no longer talks about retiring.
"I've quit that because I feel so good," says the elder statesman of globe-trotting crusades for Christ. "I've slowed down a little bit. I've got more gray hairs. When I go down steps, I hold on to the rail."
But Graham, 69, is sticking to a heavy schedule, with a steady series of preaching forays planned in the United States and abroad next year.
"Most of my life has already been lived," he said in an interview here. "I'll be glad when the moment comes that the Lord calls me to heaven. I get tired down here sometimes . . . .
"I cringe at so much suffering and immorality, the fraud and all the things going on. The biggest problem facing America is the moral situation, the scandals in business, Wall Street, sports, in every area, even the church."
In a rare comment on the sex-and-money scandal that toppled the TV ministry of Jim Bakker and crimped contributions to some other TV preachers, Graham said:
"In its own back-handed way, I think it may help the church. It has caused everybody to realize there must be financial accountability."
Graham, who had spurred the formation in 1979 of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability, said he felt sorry for those who had failed to join in its strict financial reporting standards and who became tainted.
"I've prayed for them a lot," he said. "I had warned about this, and predicted it would happen unless there was a change. But I don't think the church-at-large has been hurt in any way.
" 'The gates of hell will not prevail against it,' Jesus said. Things like this have happened down through church history, Protestant and Catholic, but the work goes on . . . .
"The work of the Lord continues. One bad meal at a restaurant doesn't mean you quit eating."
Although some TV preachers have suffered drops in contributions, Graham said support for his organization has grown about 4 percent this year to about $75 million, including budgets of various subsidiaries, such as movie-making and evangelism-training.
Graham, whose organization is run by a 27-member board, gets an annual salary of $72,000, including housing allowance. He gives away his book royalties.
Although he sees general conditions of ethics as bleak, he said "I'm a little bit more hopeful about the world" after the arms-reduction pact signed by President Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev last month.
Graham, who has been urging elimination of all nuclear weapons of mass destruction, said, "We have a long way to go. But it's a lot better than it was a year ago. It's one real step toward peace."
Graham, who has preached several times in the Soviet Union, is scheduled to return there in June to help celebrate the 1,000th anniversary of Soviet Christianity. He then plans an August campaign in Finland.
In his 39 years of traveling evangelism, Graham has led crusades in all 50 U.S. states, completing that roster in 1987 with drives in Montana, Wyoming and the Dakotas, and in 64 foreign countries.
It's been a long road, he said, with some of his long-time close associates now dropping by the wayside. "So many of my people are retiring. Some are dying and we're all getting older."
Sometimes it seems that the rafters are caving in. "That happens when you get older," he said. "That's why you need to make young friends."
He has two sons, both in the ministry, three daughters, all Bible teachers, 18 grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
"It's all in the record book and can't be undone. I depend on the Lord, that his blood cleanses of all sin. I'm counting on that. I'm counting on God's love, God's mercy and God's grace."