Anne Graham Lotz has survived breast cancer and spent her life dedicated to serving the Lord. At 73, the author and daughter of evangelist Billy Graham is doing so as exuberantly as ever -- from behind the pulpit.
Lotz formerly belonged to the Southern Baptist Convention. The protestant denomination has recently been working through the question of women preaching the Gospel, including when, where, and to whom it is appropriate, reports Religion News Service.
But Lotz is clear on her purpose.
"If people get all weirded out by the fact that I’m a woman in the pulpit when men are in the audience," she said, "I just respect them but I agree to disagree, and I just have to follow the Lord and what he’s called me to do."
In her Facebook bio, Lotz calls herself a "Bible teacher."
On Mother's Day, Lotz spoke to Houston's Second Baptist Church's 83,000 congregants. Afterwards, she received an email from one of them.
"He said that morning, during the message, he was revived and brought back to the Lord, in confession of sin and repentance and just a recommitment to love and serve the Lord," Lotz says.
"And that was a man on Mother’s Day, with a woman in the pulpit."
Lotz's focus has never been on being a woman in ministry, but she has worked to serve in the capacity she feels God has called her to.
"I will tell you that I feel specifically God has forbidden me to be ordained," Lotz says, referring to having the authority in the church to marry, bury, and baptize.
"I feel like he’s withheld that from me. My call is to be faithful to give out God’s word to the people that he puts in front of me and try to do it without messing it up."
Lotz notes the difference between ordination and being a woman n the pulpit.
"Ordination of women, I’ll tell you this: I was at Amsterdam 2000, when they had 10,000 evangelists gathering. During one session, I was sitting in the main auditorium and they broke us up in groups to pray."
Lotz says she turned around to pray with those behind her and discovered an entire row of Chinese women who were pastors.
"I thought, 'Oh my goodness,' because so many men had been killed, or were imprisoned, persecuted, the women had risen up and taken on this position. And so I’m going to tell you I would never come out against women being ordained. Worldwide, that’s between a woman and God."
To Lotz, however, the question is not whether women are being ordained and who is ordaining them, but whether they as people are faithful to the Word of God, and are "people of integrity and character and point people to Jesus."
Calling the experience of preaching at Second Baptist "fabulous," Lotz says it was an affirming experience.
"(Second Baptist Senior Pastor) Dr. (Ed) Young has been asking me for three years to come down for Mother’s Day and I haven’t been able to do it. But this time I accepted and (he) could not have been more gracious," she says.
"When he introduced me, he came over to me, took me by the hand, led me up on the platform and then introduced me with me standing by his side. And he did that for all three services.
"It was an obvious statement that he was making, I felt, for women in ministry. I felt very affirmed and supported."
Lotz says she's received only positive reactions since her Mother's Day message.
"I just serve the Lord as he’s called me," she says.
It's a calling Lotz certainly has been gifted to pursue. Her father, Billy Graham, once called Lotz "the best preacher in the family."
"When he made that statement, 60 Minutes was getting ready to do a profile on me. And I believe he made the statement not because I’m the best preacher in the family but it was his way of giving his blessing to me and what God’s called me to do," Lotz explains.
"Nobody’s a better preacher than Daddy. If you judge the response of people to the messages, nobody, nobody was better than Daddy. But it was his way, in a sense, of just putting his hand on my shoulder and giving blessing to an outlet that would have a broad range."