Evangelist Billy Graham preached a message for disarmament in Moscow's only Baptist church today as a hymn-singing overflow crowd held an extraordinary service behind the police barricades in the street outside.
In his sermon Graham told the 1,000 worshipers that while their first commitment was to Jesus Christ they must also remember that the Bible calls on them to "obey the authorities."
Speaking on a major Soviet public holiday--the anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany--he sought to use the memory of U.S.-Soviet wartime friendship for a new joint disarmament effort.
"At that time the United States and the Soviet Union were allies against Nazi Germany," he said. "Now we have another common enemy--the possibility of a nuclear holocaust."
At the end of his 45-minute sermon, which was simultaneously translated into Russian, a woman in her early twenties unfurled a banner from the balcony reading, in English, "We have more than 150 prisoners for the work of the Gospel." The banner apparently referred to Baptists who have been imprisoned for preaching and holding services without permission.
Another banner, also in English, was simultaneously raised in the aisle directly in front of Graham. It read, "Deliver those who are driven away to death."
Graham said later he did not read the messages. He also declined to approach about 250 persons outside the church, many of whom said they traveled hundreds of miles to hear him speak but could not enter the church without tickets.
An aide to the evangelist said privately that Graham did not want to offend his hosts during his one-week visit because "he wants to develop this relationship," implying that he expects to return to the Soviet Union presumably for a preaching tour.
Religious services outside registered churches are forbidden in the Soviet Union, and several believers said a service in a Moscow street had not been heard of since the 1917 communist revolution.
The woman who unfurled her banner in the church was detained by plainclothes officers after the service. It was not known whether she was released.
The service, originally planned for this evening, was rescheduled for 8 a.m., apparently because that was the time Voice of America erroneously announced it would be held.
During his sermon and later in an address at services at the Yelohovski Russian Orthodox Cathedral, Graham did not mention religious or human rights.
Instead, he told the audience, "God can make you love people you normally would not love. He gives you the power to be a better worker, a more loyal citizen because in Romans 13 we are told to obey the authorities."
Both churches were heavily guarded with police sealing off all roads leading to them. Hundreds of KGB security agents, mostly young and well-dressed, were in the congregation, which included a large number of foreigners. Only about one-third of the people were local worshipers; most of them were women.
Graham and numerous other religious leaders are here for a conference opening Monday that will discuss reducing the threat of nuclear war. The conference is organized by the Russian Orthodox Church, which is paying the bills for more than 400 foreign visitors representing many religious groups from all parts of the world.
Perhaps because of his prominence in the United States, Graham is regarded as a star attraction at the conference. He has been allotted 20 minutes for his speech instead of the 10 minute slots all other clerics were allowed. He also is being driven around Moscow in a Chaika limousine while the others are shepherded around in a fleet of buses.
In contrast with the somewhat austere atmosphere at the Baptist church, Graham spoke at a splendid service in the Yelohovski Cathedral with bearded bishops in rich vestments led by Pimen, patriarch of all the Russians, in attendance.
It is unclear whether Graham plans to see six Soviet Baptists who took refuge in the U.S. Embassy here more than three years ago. They are seeking to emigrate on grounds that they were victims of religious persecution.
There are 500,000 Baptists in the Soviet Union, many of whom are members of unregistered and therefore illegal congregations. Moscow's official Baptist community numbers about 5,000.