Liberty University Still Claims to be World’s Largest Christian University

Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon University in Phoenix is the world’s largest Christian university

Over the weekend Jack Jenkins of Religion News Service reported that Liberty University can no longer be considered the “world’s largest Christian university.”  That designation now belongs to Christian for-profit powerhouse Grand Canyon University (GCU).  We covered this here.  (Grand Canyon is trying to return to its original non-profit status).

Apparently the folks at Liberty were not very happy about the story.  Liberty president and prominent court evangelical Jerry Falwell Jr. contacted Religion News Service “questioning whether GCU meets Liberty’s definition of a Christian school.”

Apparently GCU does not meet the Falwell Jr. standard of doctrinal purity.

Jenkins has written a follow-up piece to his story.  I was happy to contribute.  Here is a taste:

“Our definition of a Christian university only includes universities who hire faculty who adhere to fundamental Christian doctrine. GCU does not. Liberty does,” Falwell said in a statement provided to RNS.

GCU officials said they do require faculty to sign a statement saying they understand the school’s Christian values.

When told of Falwell’s statement, GCU officials said they have the “utmost respect for Liberty and its mission as a Christian university,” but disputed Falwell’s characterization of their school.

“As a Christian institution, GCU is committed to distinctively Christian approaches toward education that are grounded in theological conviction, development of sound character, and the capacity to live in ways that honor God, benefit others and contribute significantly to the common good,” reads a statement from GCU.

Falwell said his definition of “fundamental Christian doctrine” was based on his own school’s doctrine of faith, and he “may not understand GCU’s hiring policies.”

He also said “Liberty’s definition of a ‘Christian’ university for identification purposes refers to evangelical Christian universities.”

John Fea, professor of history at Messiah College and an expert on American evangelicalism, said Falwell’s reaction reflects broader debates over the definition of “Christian,” including some evangelicals who “do not see Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, or even mainline Protestantism as true Christians.”

“Why would you argue over such semantics?” Fea continued. “Why would it be important to claim that you are the largest Christian university in the world other than to use this as a platform for your own theological and, in Falwell’s case, political agenda?”

Read the entire piece here.

Is Liberty University Still “The World’s Largest Christian University?”

Liberty U

Apparently Liberty University has lost so many students in recent days that it now has fewer students than Grand Canyon University, a for-profit Christian college in Phoenix.  Here is a taste of Alison Parker’s piece at Shareblue Media:

Liberty University has long touted itself as the “world’s largest Christian university.” It’s president Jerry Falwell Jr. has also been a proud supporter and defender of Trump. But now, the school is trying to scrub an embarrassing drop in enrollment from its website and press releases.

As Jack Jenkins reports at Religion News Services (RNS), Liberty has used the superlative for at least six years. Journalists often repeat the claim, and Falwell pushed it in his speech at the 2016 Republican National Convention.

And when Trump gave a commencement speech at Liberty in May 2017, he also parroted the line.

Now it appears the claim is no longer accurate. And Liberty is trying to remove all references to it as quietly as possible.

The line had appeared in the “Quick Facts” section of the school’s website as recently as January 2018. But it “has since been removed, and no longer appears on Liberty press releases,” Jenkins notes.

Read the entire piece here.

So what does this have to do with Jerry Falwell Jr.’s support of Donald Trump?