Now that Jerry Falwell, Jr. has stepped away from Liberty University — after a series of bad decisions that ranged from promoting racism to taking a picture with his arm around his non-wife with “black water” in his hand and his fly unzipped — more than 50 pastors who graduated from Liberty are demanding his permanent removal from the school.
The group modeled its request after a similar one from Save71, which consists of Liberty alumni (including non-pastors). Their website also has a timeline of Falwell’s bad behavior.
The alumni told the university that the Lynchburg, Virginia-based evangelical Christian school needed “new leadership that represents the heart of Liberty University’s mission.”
“It is because of our deep love for Liberty University and our great optimism for its future that we write to you today to urge you, the Board of Trustees, to permanently remove Mr. Falwell as president and chancellor and replace him with a new leader,” read the letter, in part.
The letter echoes the demands of a website called Save71, a group of alumni who posted a statement arguing for Liberty to “remove President Falwell and replace him with a responsible and virtuous Christian leader.”
“To do this, the board should appoint an independent committee of leaders from within the Liberty community, as well as leaders outside of it, to begin the search for a new president,” the group states on its website.
It’s really not asking much that the president of a Christian university — or even a “Christian” university — to hold himself to the same standards that the school expects of its students. Liberty grads have pointed out that students have been disciplined or even expelled for far less scandalous infractions of the behavior code, which includes spaghetti strap tank tops for women and same-sex romantic relationships.
We’ve seen this narrative play out before in American Christendom, however. A prominent figure (typically a white male) gets caught doing something wrong. He announces he’s stepping down from his position and falls off the public radar for a short amount of time — maybe six months to a year. Then he makes a grand return, claiming changed behavior and repentance. (Sometimes this return comes with an apologetic book tour. What else are you going to do during your time off? Improve yourself? Please.)
For what it’s worth, Liberty’s Board of Trustees met on Friday and said they were seeking the “Lord’s will” for how to move forward:
… the Board intends to use this time of leave to look into them as part of the process of determining what is in the best interest of Liberty University. The Board and its Executive Committee contemplate this being a careful and deliberative process, but one that will yield a result that honors God and is befitting one of the largest Christian universities in the world.
That honoring God ship sailed a long time ago. At this point, they’re likely just trying to balance keeping students under control without having to get rid of their biggest name and fundraiser.