NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Leaders of several Southern Baptist entities voiced their appreciation for Jerry Falwell in the hours following his death May 15. Their comments follow.
— Daniel L. Akin, president, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C.:
“Dr. Jerry Falwell was a man who loved Jesus Christ, the Bible, his Family and America. Those who knew him personally saw a gracious and generous person who never forgot how God’s grace had transformed him. Dr. Falwell was a great visionary and innovator. Southeastern’s family sends its condolences to the Falwell and Liberty University family”
— Geoff Hammond, president of the North American Mission Board:
“Jerry Falwell’s death is a huge loss for Southern Baptists, evangelical Christians and for our nation. His death is also a very personal loss for me and my family since our son, Timothy, attends Liberty University. I, along with the staff and missionaries at the North American Mission Board, want to extend our deepest condolences and sympathy to Jerry’s wife, Macel, his children, Jerry, Jr., Jonathan and Jeannie, and all those who loved Jerry so dearly.
“While Jerry will forever be known in many circles for the positive change he brought to the American political landscape, I will always remember him as a church planter whose church became one of the greatest in America. Not only that, but in his role as founder and chancellor of Liberty University, Jerry has trained up tremendous young champions for Christ who are planting churches and sharing the light of the Gospel around the world. Our prayers will be with Jerry’s family and all those who will be grieving his loss in the days ahead.”
— O.S. Hawkins, president of GuideStone Financial Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention:
“He was a dear and trusted friend, a faithful preacher, a man of humor and humility and a visionary with no peer. I loved Jerry Falwell and already feel the void he will leave in my own heart.”
— Chuck Kelley, president of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary:
“What I will always remember the most about Jerry Falwell is his passion for preaching the Gospel and reaching lost people for Christ. Much of the conversation about him will be about his political impact, his skill as a fundraiser, his vision-casting expertise and so forth. But the essence of Jerry Falwell is best seen in the fact that he built a great church far out of proportion in size and influence to its community. How? He preached the Bible week by week and he did everything he or anyone else could think of to introduce lost people to Jesus. One can never truly understand Jerry Falwell without understanding he was a gospel preacher and soul winner before all other things. From that foundation came all else we remember about him. We will not see his like for a long time.”
— Paige Patterson, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas:
“I have lost a great friend. America has lost a great patriot. Nevertheless all followers of Jesus rejoice for Dr. Falwell today even as we sorrow together with his entire family over our loss. Dr. Falwell’s shadow falls across the face of the rebirth of conservative values in our nation, in the Southern Baptist Convention, and in the entire evangelical world. Only once in a generation will a man of his stature arise. We all owe him a debt of eternal gratitude.”
— R. Philip Roberts, president of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Mo.:
“We as friends, family in Christ and indeed all of the Southern Baptist community have lost a giant and shining example in the faith. Dr. Falwell will remain forever in our thoughts and memories. His leadership as a conservative televangelist who founded a movement that helped mold the religious right into a political power has endeared him in our hearts. We were also honored to have Dr. Falwell as our President’s Convocation speaker in Fall 2006.
“Although we are saddened by his passing, we rejoice knowing that one day all of us who knew Dr. Falwell, and who know the Savior whom he served, the Lord Jesus Christ, will find ourselves together again -– lost in wonder, love and praise at the throne of our Lord. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Falwell and Liberty University families in their great loss. We give thanks to God for the life and ministry of Jerry Falwell.”
Several other noted Southern Baptists also issued statements.
Evangelist Billy Graham:
— “Jerry Falwell was a close personal friend for many years. We did not always agree on everything, but I knew him to be a man of God. His accomplishments went beyond most clergy of his generation. Some of my grandchildren have attended and currently attend Liberty University. He leaves a gigantic vacuum in the evangelical world. I am praying for his family, and especially the university that he headed.”
— Doyle Chauncey, executive director-treasurer of the Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia state convention:
“Dr. Jerry Falwell was a true friend and supporter of the Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia. While we mourn this tremendous loss, we rejoice in the many years we had with this local church pastor and man of God. In fact, his was one of the first phone calls pledging support for the formation of the SBCV in 1996. Our hearts and our prayers go out to his family as well as the Thomas Road Baptist and Liberty University families.
— Anthony L. Jordan, executive director-treasurer of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma:
“Dr. Jerry Falwell was a very influential leader among conservative Christians. Many will remember him as a lightning rod on moral issues. But for me, his greatest legacies and life impacts are the establishment of one of the great churches in America, a world-class university and a myriad of ministries to hurting humanity. Above all, Dr. Falwell was committed to carrying the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the ends of the Earth. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family, and while we grieve here on Earth, we receive comfort in knowing he is with our Lord.”
— David Dockery, president of Union University in Jackson, Tenn.:
“Jerry Falwell was a visionary leader and faithful pastor, who had become the visible representative of Christian fundamentalism in this country over the last three decades. Falwell was the William Bell Riley of this age. His founding of the Moral Majority, his influence on American politics and his continual media presence over the years all helped to expand his impact on Christians, on the churches and society at large. In recent years, Rev. Falwell had attempted to shed his fundamentalist image. Historians will likely debate for years to come his place in the history of the church and his influence on this country, particularly in the last decades of the 20th century. His lasting legacy will no doubt be the ongoing work of Liberty University.”
— Evangelist Freddie Gage, who knew Falwell personally and preached revivals at his church, said Falwell was “just the complete opposite” of what his detractors said he was. Gage recalled a day he and Falwell flew to New Albany, N.Y.
“When he got off the plane it was cold, a horrible day, and there were homosexuals and lesbians and demonstrators. They were throwing eggs at him. When he got down, he wiped all that off, walked over and started shaking hands with them. … If you were a multi-millionaire or if you were a bum on the street corner, Jerry Falwell would be there to help you. He was a man of mercy, he was a man of grace, he was a man of compassion. … The greatest thing I can remember about Jerry Falwell was in the revivals I had with him — how he would open up his Bible and sit down with people and go through the plan of salvation. He was never afraid of confrontational evangelism.”