Liberty University names acting president; alumni group asks board to 'permanently remove' Falwell

L.U. monogram overlooking the Liberty University campus, Lynchburg, Virginia. | Liberty University

Liberty University in Virginia announced that its board has chosen an interim president to lead the school days after Jerry Falwell Jr. was asked to take an “indefinite leave of absence” from his roles as president and chancellor at the request of the board of trustees. 

In a news release late Monday, Liberty announced that Jerry Prevo, who has served as chairman of the university’s board of trustees since 2003, will immediately assume the role of acting president.

Prevo, who was appointed by the board’s executive committee, expects to work from the Lynchburg campus starting Aug. 17 and will step aside from his position on the board for the duration of the new role, according to the news release. 

He recently retired from the Anchorage Baptist Temple, one of the largest churches in Alaska, as the senior pastor, according to the university.

“Please pray for us as well as the Falwell family as we embark on our academic year and so we may continue to be united in our common purpose and our faith in Christ,” Prevo said in the news release.

The move comes just days after Falwell agreed to take an “indefinite leave of absence” from his roles as president and chancellor of Liberty University at the request of the board of trustees. 

Falwell had led the private evangelical university founded by his evangelist father, the late Rev. Jerry Falwell, for 13 years. In just over 10 years, the university has become the second-largest nonprofit university in the world and the second-largest private nonprofit university in the nation.

The board's request came days after Falwell expressed regret over posting a since-deleted photo of himself at a costume party on a yacht during his family's vacation. In the photo, Falwell wore a T-shirt and jeans that were unzipped to expose his abdomen and underwear. His right hand was around the waist of his wife's assistant, who was wearing a tank top and unzipped shorts, exposing her midriff.

He said in an interview with Lynchburg radio station WLNI that his wife’s assistant is pregnant and couldn’t get her pants zipped, and that he was imitating her, adding the photo was taken in “good fun.”

“I’ve apologized to everybody, and I’ve promised my kids … I’m going to try to be a good boy from here on out,” he told the interviewer.

Falwell was holding a glass filled with a dark liquid in the photo, which he said in the caption was “just black water…a prop only.”

Cries of hypocrisy were prompt, with some pointing out that Liberty University’s code of conduct prohibits students from consuming media that contains “lewd lyrics, anti-Christian message, sexual content, nudity, pornography” either on or off campus.

On Monday, a group of alumni calling themselves Save71 launched a website calling for the board to permanently remove Falwell “and replace him with a responsible and virtuous Christian leader.”

Liberty “needs to repent of its sins before seeking redemption,” the group posted on its website, adding that “The Board of Trustees must acknowledge the damage President Falwell has done to Liberty and the hypocrisy and corruption that has soaked into parts of its culture.”

The group clarified that their request "isn't just about one photo," citing a "pattern of behavior and toxic culture that trickled down from Liberty’s leadership into every area of the school."

In a statement to The Christian Post late Friday, Pastors Chris Williamson, Eric Carroll, and Maina Mwaura — the organizers of a June 1 letter to Falwell signed by 35 black pastors, ministry leaders and athletes who graduated from Liberty University and warned they'd stopped donating to the university because they disagreed with Falwell's political rhetoric and activism — applauded the board for requesting that Falwell step down. 

"We believe the Board of Trustees made the right decision in asking Mr. Falwell to take a leave of absence, and we are praying for him, his immediate family, and our entire Liberty family during this season," they said. "First and foremost, it is our desire that Mr. Falwell would experience healing and restoration that only God can give. Liberty is a special place, and the God that we serve is a powerful God to lead the school into its next season. Liberty University deeply impacted us as students and we hope that its leadership can return to a focus of training 'young champions for Christ' with Biblical conviction for the Gospel and justice."

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