Liberty University cuts staff from divinity school as seminary enrollment drops

Liberty University
The Freedom Tower at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia. The Tower is the home for Liberty's School of Divinity. |

Liberty University, a prominent evangelical institution, is cutting a dozen faculty members from its divinity school. 

Faculty members who teach at the Rawlings School of Divinity learned at the end of last month that their contracts will not be renewed, according to a report from Inside Higher Ed on Monday.

Despite the increased national profile of Liberty and a large student body, both online and offline, the school of divinity has seen a decrease in enrollment, noted Inside Higher Ed.

Liberty University's President Jerry Falwell Jr. explained to Inside Higher Ed that the cuts were “a purely business decision” that should have been “made three-four years ago.”

“It’s a cultural shift from full-time ministry workers to Christians in all professions working to make a difference,” explained Falwell.

The Christian Post reached out to Liberty University on Tuesday for this story. A University spokesperson declined comment, stating that Liberty does not publicly discuss internal matters.

News of the cuts come weeks after Liberty held what was, according to the university, its largest graduation class in its history.

For its 46th commencement, Liberty had approximately 20,000 students graduate from the school, with about 8,000 of those graduates attending the May 11 ceremony.

The largest majors for the class of 2019 were interdisciplinary studies, business, psychology, human services counseling, and masters of business administration.

Liberty’s Rawlings School of Divinity joins many seminaries in the United States across the theological spectrum that are experiencing decline in recent years.

For example, Episcopal Divinity School of Cambridge, Massachusetts, announced in 2017 that they were merging with Union Theological Seminary after reporting a net loss of about $7.9 million in assets since 2015.

The Rev. Kelly Brown Douglas, the first dean of "EDS at Union," said in a statement released in May 2017 that she was "excited for the challenge" and that "this isn't the typical bad news of a small seminary closing."

"This is the news that this place believed enough in its mission that it went out and found a way to carry that mission forward in a viable fashion, and found a way for the mission to grow," Douglas said at the time.

"EDS is going to continue. The EDS community has found the platform to do that, and they have found a partner in Union that shares their mission. I feel privileged to be a part of this next chapter in EDS' life."

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