Liberty University Took Some of the Old Southwestern Seminary Stained Glass Windows

Stained glass

Watch this video.

Last month I wrote a post titled “Big Changes at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.”  I wrote about the Fort Worth, Texas seminary’s decision to remove stained glass windows devoted to two architects of of the conservative takeover of the Southern Baptist Convention: Paige Patterson and Paul Pressler.  Both men were accused of sexual misconduct last year and Patterson was ousted as president of the seminary.   Jacob Lupfer wrote about this here.

In addition to Patterson and Pressler, there were also stained-glass windows removed with images of Jerry Falwell Sr. and Jerry Vines, a former president of the Southern Baptist Convention and a member of the conservative resurgence.  Jerry Falwell Jr. now has the Falwell Sr. and Vines windows.  They are on display at Liberty University.

In the video, Falwell Jr. praises the conservative resurgence of the Southern Baptist convention and mocks the “new regime” at Southwestern Theological Seminary who removed the windows.  He even calls the new administration a Southern Baptist “deep state.”

As Southwestern Theological Baptist Seminary tries to move beyond a horrendous year in which multiple cases of sexual harassment were revealed, the authoritarian leadership of Paige Patterson was exposed, and financial difficulties rocked the school, Jerry Falwell Jr. wants to keep that legacy–the darkest parts of the conservative resurgence in the SBC– alive and well at Liberty University.  Is it only a matter of time before the Patterson and Pressler stained glass window make their way to Lynchburg?

Here is a taste of a Liberty University press release:

At Liberty University’s Baccalaureate Service on Friday night, President Jerry Falwell made a bold statement to the Southern Baptist Convention when he displayed two stained-glass windows that were recently removed from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s chapel. The windows feature Liberty’s founder, Dr. Jerry Falwell, and Dr. Jerry Vines, who delivered the Baccalaureate address.

The two windows were part of a larger collection that honored the leaders of the Conservative Resurgence among Southern Baptist churches. Installed only a few years ago, the Falwell window was made possible by financial contributions from Liberty University.

 In a SWBTS press release from 2015, the seminary stated: “In order to pass along the story of the SBC’s Conservative Resurgence, Southwestern has dedicated stained-glass windows in MacGorman Chapel to those who played a major role in turning the convention back to a high view of Scripture.”

But on Friday, just moments before black drapes were removed, revealing the two large windows behind him on the stage, President Falwell said that “unfortunately, a new generation has taken the Convention away from those values in many ways.” He said the windows have been “removed by the new regime.”

Falwell demanded that SWBTS return the money donated for the windows and sent a plane to Fort Worth, Texas, this week to retrieve them. They will go on display in the Jerry Falwell Museum on campus.

12 thoughts on “Liberty University Took Some of the Old Southwestern Seminary Stained Glass Windows

  1. Falwell’s demand to get the donated funds back makes no sense. He got the actual windows. Those funds went to the artists and craftsmen who designed and built the windows and they earned every penny.

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      • Another important point is that, Falwell, Jr, is not a pastor but, a lawyer and university administrator. I’m pretty sure a lot of people did not know that fact.

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        • Good point, Don. I don’t generally follow Young Falwell’s remarks except on Dr. Fea’s site, but from what I can read, he comments far more on secular rather than Biblical or spiritual subjects. Was the other son of Jerry, Sr., the brother who became a preacher?

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  2. I certainly understand his desire to get back the donated funds. And I’m also OK with him displaying these in their museum (I’d think differently if it were in a chapel or other place of worship, as they were at SWBTS).

    What I don’t really understand are his statements that some “deep state” in the SBC is steering the convention away from conservative values. Admittedly I’m on the outside looking in, but as I see internal discussions among SBC members, and as I hear pronouncements from their leadership, I’m not sure that I am seeing any kind of sea change in that denomination other than perhaps some very mild acknowledgements regarding some of the recently exposed abuses tolerated over the years in SBC churches and institutions. It seems like the SBC is every bit as conservative as it has been since the Resurgence. Are we completely missing something, or is this the product of an imagination that sees liberal threats lurking in every single corner?

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    • Dave H.,

      As an outsider here is an opinion——for what it’s worth.

      The SBC seminaries have not officially abandoned Biblical inerrancy which was the big issue in the 1970s. Furthermore a few of the more vocal liberal congregations have withdrawn from the Convention. Many of the sexual predators have been identified and removed. That is the good news.

      On the negative side growth in membership is not soaring. While the SBC is not hemorrhaging members like the Mainline Protestant churches, neither is it vibrantly growing. Many younger Christians are turned off by denominational labels and prefer to affiliate with independent churches. In parts of the country, especially the traditional South, there is often an unhealthy blending of SBC Church and culture which alienates more spiritually minded believers.

      Unfortunately, the leadership is trying to create the image of a “kinder and gentler” form of nonjudgmental Christianity. Apparently, Russell Moore of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission and others in his orbit want a Convention which maintains a modicum orthodoxy but is viewed by the unbelieving world as “nice.” His strategy has yet to work and probably will never work unless it ends up creating Mainline Protestantism Lite.

      There are also a couple of celebrity authors who have made big names for themselves but are promoting certain non traditional ideas in their books and speaking.

      Personally, I don’t think the future of the SBC is bright. Jerry Falwell Senior made “his deal with the devil” by affiliating with them and ironically is now having his stained glass glass image removed from the property.

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      • I see in further tweets by Jerry Falwell Jr that he has specifically taken up labeling this as the “Russell Moore deep state regime trying to subvert the will of the church members.”

        Given the fact that Falwell seems to speak almost entirely (at least in public platforms) about the “earthly kingdom” rather than the “heavenly kingdom” in his bifurcated “two kingdoms” view, it seems this has far more to do with political partisanship than any particular theological issue. Moore is one of the few SBC leadership voices who has been willing on occasion to speak critically about some policies advanced by the current administration. Even a hint of criticism is intolerable in Falwell’s view, so it appears he is taking the administration’s political attack line that anyone who utters a word of criticism is automatically part of some deep-rooted conspiracy, and bringing this line to bear in the SBC world.

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        • Dave H.,

          I can understand why you have your perception about this matter. Allow me to put things possibly in a bigger perspective.

          Jerry, Jr., if I am not mistaken is a lawyer and not a cleric. Russell Moore, on the other hand, is an ordained SBC minister. It follows that young Falwell will make wide-ranging comments on society. The fact that he is in charge of a Christian school hardly qualifies him as a Bible scholar or even as a lay preacher.

          Russell Moore has a tough job. He has to keep all of the factions within the SBC happy. After all, Baptist polity makes it relatively easy to disassociate from the Convention. What are the advantages of staying vs. leaving? If Moore’s policies vex one group or another, he risks shrinking the size of the denomination.

          Accordingly, Moore has attempted to thread a moderate course which placates all factions insofar as possible. I don’t envy him for the ecclesiastical diplomacy he has to practice. On one hand, he has spoken critically of some of Trump’s behavior (as you said), while at the same time holding a strong line on other traditional moral issues. He apparently wants to come across as a “thoughtful conservative” tempered by sweetness and open-mindedness. Certain traditional congregations have hinted at withholding funds from the cooperative programs of the SBC. Mr. Moore might never be able to strike the right balance.

          It is probably unduly hyperbolic if Jerry, Jr. said that Moore is running a “deep state” at SBC HQ. I do think that Moore likes to see himself as an “enlightened” Baptist. Taking this role too seriously might well end up pleasing no one.

          James

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    • “What I don’t really understand are his statements that some “deep state” in the SBC is steering the convention away from conservative values.”

      The Junior Falwell is going further and further down the rabbit hole where any unwelcome, visible change is the consequence of a vast liberal conspiracy to corrupt the church and the nation. His personal trajectory seems pretty iconic of what is happening to evangelicalism as whole at this point. Seems like a good historical illustration demonstrating the gradual fusion of conservative politics and religion into one homogeneous and compromised platform.

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      • Justin,

        If you were to spend the next ten Sunday mornings in various conservative Biblical churches, I doubt you would hear a lot of official sermonizing about political matters. Accordingly, young Falwell is not representative of Christians in that way. He puts a far greater percentage of his verbal energy into political subjects than most church leaders. Let’s keep in mind that he isn’t technically an ecclesiastical figure as his father was. Any university president touches a range of subjects which just don’t overlap with straight homiletic matters.

        James

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        • James,

          “Accordingly, young Falwell is not representative of Christians in that way. He puts a far greater percentage of his verbal energy into political subjects than most church leaders.”

          That’s a good point, and not too far removed from what I was thinking myself (although you don’t really need to be a ‘minister’ to be a church leader, since people will follow icons whether or not they are ordained)—the older Falwell started out largely religious or spiritual, and seemed focused on the moral wellbeing of individuals, but over time he helped establish a cultural center and movement that has gradually become more publicly embroiled in political affairs, to the point of being coopted by predatory politicians and salesmen. His son’s violent careen into politics and the culture wars is pretty emblematic of what has happened to the evangelical movement in large pockets of America. Started pious, now political.

          You mentioned that politics don’t come up in church that often, at least not officially from the pulpit (at least when there’s no election going) and you might be right about that (although I see and hear plenty of politically oriented things when I visit churches of any kind). But one hour on Sunday morning at “Church” is really not where the majority of “Christianity” takes place–there are 23 other hours on Sunday, filled with dinners and potlucks and naps and conversations, and six other days of the week, where believers are driven by other social engines like Twitter and Focus on the Family and Joel Olsteen and Liberty College and Jerry Falwell Jr., who bears the Falwell emblem in this generation. It doesn’t matter very much if preachers represent themselves apolitically on Sunday morning if their Twitter feed or their radio programs or their television shows are pumped full of Republican propaganda. It seeps into the culture from a network of rivers.

          A few months ago I visited my father-in-law at his home. He is a conservative evangelical and a kind soul. On the stand next to his chair was the “Patriotic Bible” or some such, richly decorated and leather-bound, filled with commentary from and about our Founding Fathers regarding Christianity, framing American history to create the impression that conservative Christianity and the United States are pretty much symbiotic entities. I took a picture of it so I would remember it was real. When I think about the real state of evangelicalism in America, I think about that abomination of a Bible being sold nationwide to elderly blue-collar people who don’t know any better. It is emblematic of a fictitious past and the longing of a fading population to return to an America that never really was, the product of a political culture and a commercial industry willing to sell them that vision for personal and corporate profit. If Trump is still signing Bibles, his name belongs in that one.

          Pax Christi,
          Justin

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  3. It is interesting that Jerry, Sr. or Thomas Road Baptist had no formal affiliation with the SBC until late in his life. Throughout most of his ecclesiastical career, he was an Independent Baptist. Those on the outside may be unaware that most true believers within the Independent movement have long regarded the SBC as unacceptably liberal.

    When Jerry, Sr. first made overtures to the Convention, Liberty University was in a strong growth spurt. I often wondered if Jerry’s purpose was to tap into a far larger potential student pool than was available among Independent Baptists. After all, the size of the SBC dwarfs that of the diffused Independents.

    Interestingly, when the elder Falwell did make his SBC move, he was criticized by many of his former Independent associates. Although he was a man of no small religious conviction, he was also an entrepreneur who saw market potential.

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