SBCV & Liberty University strike covenant agreement

RICHMOND, Va. (BP)--The Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia's executive board voted unanimously Nov. 15 to accept Liberty University's invitation to submit two names for election to the trustee board of the Lynchburg, Va., institution founded by Jerry Falwell in 1971.

The action essentially makes Liberty University a Southern Baptist institution, said Doyle Chauncey, executive director-treasurer of the Richmond-based SBC of Virginia. The agreement, however, does not convey any financial support from the SBCV or the national Southern Baptist Convention, Chauncey said.

Southern Baptists comprise more than half of Liberty's trustee board, which voted unanimously to ask the SBCV for the two additional trustees. The addition of two people from the SBCV will increase the board's membership to 34.

More than 2,900 of Liberty's 5,200 students identify themselves as Baptists -- and a "significant majority of those are Southern Baptists themselves," said Falwell, chancellor of Liberty University, in comments to the SBCV executive board. About two-thirds of Liberty's professors voluntarily attend Thomas Road Baptist Church where Falwell is pastor. The church became a Southern Baptist church and joined the SBCV more than three years ago.

"We are deeply grateful to God for what has been happening in the Southern Baptist Convention in the past two decades regarding its return to historical orthodox Christianity and strong emphases on missions and evangelism," Falwell said.

"And we are equally grateful to be associated with the Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia, an organization that is effectively re-staking a claim for Christ's work through Southern Baptists in Virginia."

Falwell described Liberty as "a major university that attracts students from all 50 states and 74 countries, but we do not enjoy the endorsement of a major conservative denomination. I think we need the SBC as much as the SBC needs us. So in my heart and mind, this is a good match."

Falwell said he sees "no competition" between Liberty and any other Southern Baptist academic institution. "If there is a competition, it's a competition for the souls of those who do not know Jesus Christ personally," Falwell said. "That's a contest in which there are no losers."

Kelly Burris, SBCV president and pastor of Kempsville Baptist Church in Virginia Beach, said, "If our board members did not believe this agreement would better equip both the SBCV and Liberty University to reach spiritually hungry people with the saving message of Jesus Christ, both now and perpetually, then we wouldn't even have considered it.

"The SBC of Virginia is looking forward to our relationship with Liberty University," Burris said. "We intend to work closely together in reaching Virginia, our nation and the world for Jesus Christ."

The agreement includes a commitment to work together in church planting in Virginia and a commitment of prayer support.

Chauncey said, "Southern Baptists across Virginia and the United States will have for their benefit a top-flight university that offers a broad range of degrees -- both secular and religious -- while Liberty will enjoy our wholehearted recommendation and increased enrollment as more and more Southern Baptists attend an academically proven and theologically trustworthy institution."

Among Liberty University's 31,000 alumni are 2,000 senior pastors. "Significantly more than 700 of those pastors are serving Southern Baptist churches," Falwell said. Liberty University also impacts the corporate world with alumni working for such enterprises as IBM, Intel, Mobil Oil, Union Carbide and Chevron Corporation. Liberty's debate team is the United States champion five years running, competing with schools such as Harvard, George Mason, the University of Michigan and the United States Naval Academy.

In a letter of congratulations to Falwell, Southern Baptist Convention President Paige Patterson wrote: "For the great Liberty University to be a part of our Southern Baptist Zion and a part of one of the greatest church-planting movements in modern history through the Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia is an answer to prayer for us all." Patterson also is president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C.

Pending the submission of the two names from the SBCV, Liberty University will, upon approval, seat the new trustees in its next board meeting, May 12, 2000.

In other action the board approved the relocation of the SBCV's corporate headquarters just a few hundred feet from its current location in Glen Allen, Va. After Jan. 1, the SBCV's new address will be 4101 Cox Road, Suite 100, Glen Allen, Va., 23060.

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