Letter Explains Mitt Romney for Commencement Speaker at Liberty University

Mitt Romney at Liberty University

Every since Liberty University announced that Mitt Romney was going to be the Commencement Speaker (see also the Washington Post, the Huffington Post, the CBS News, and even the POLITICO) for this year’s graduation class [some] people have been in an uproar (so says the Daily Kos anyway, the people I know had no problem with it at all). Most of the uproar comes in the form of the fact that Romney is a Mormon, and doesn’t align with Liberty’s theological vision, which is correct, he is, and he doesn’t.

Yesterday, the Office of the Chancellor, or Jerry Falwell, Jr. addressed concerns with the statements below. I guess at some level an explanation was needed, but the one presented below is a great example why this is no different than any other speaker Liberty has had in the past. I for one am glad that they have such a wide variety of speakers at Liberty. I’m sure there are those who can shred the theological explanation below, but it’s good enough for me, and it goes beyond just the criticism of having a Mormon speak at graduation, the letter explains why Liberty’s mission statement, to train Champions for Christ, includes welcoming Mitt Romney, regardless of his faith or politics.

Dear Students,

My office has received hundreds of messages from students and 2012 graduates who are thrilled and honored that the presumptive Republican nominee for president of the United States will be our Commencement speaker. Some graduates have also inquired about Liberty’s policies regarding the doctrinal beliefs of graduation speakers. These same questions seem to surface every spring and I am writing you in response to those inquiries.

First of all, it is important to remember that Liberty actually has two Commencement speakers each year. Long ago, most universities ceased their practice of including a Baccalaureate service during their Commencement weekend, but we have insisted on keeping this service as a demonstration of our Christian commitment to the Great Commission and the Great Commandment.

This year our Baccalaureate speaker is Luis Palau. Dr. Palau is an evangelist who has preached the Gospel to a billion people. Palau is often considered second only to Billy Graham in his influence for the Gospel, and, as is our tradition, he will be clearly delivering the Gospel at Baccalaureate.

For twenty-five years Liberty has traditionally had leaders from the worlds of politics, business, and entertainment speak during the Commencement ceremony on Saturday. Most of these leaders have not traditionally shared Liberty’s doctrinal convictions. In the last few years, our Commencement speakers have included an evangelical filmmaker (Randall Wallace), a Mormon commentator (Glenn Beck), a Jewish economist (Ben Stein), an evangelical actor and athlete (Chuck Norris), an evangelical – now Catholic – politician (Newt Gingrich), a Catholic commentator (Sean Hannity), a Southern Baptist senator (John McCain), and an Episcopalian chief of staff to President Bush (Karl Rove). In all, at least 20 of Liberty’s 38 Commencement speakers have fit in this category.

My father’s vision for Liberty University was both a theological and a cultural vision. Theologically, it was to found the world’s preeminent Christian university where every faculty member professed faith in Jesus Christ, agreed with our doctrinal statement, and sought to fulfill the Great Commission and live the Great Commandment. Culturally, it was to found a university that held in high regard our nation’s founding principles of limited government, the free enterprise system, and individual liberty. Liberty’s tradition has been to focus on the first part of this vision during the Friday night ceremony and the second part on Saturday morning.

Liberty’s commitment to an annual Baccalaureate service has ensured that we have never held a Commencement that did not include a strong gospel message from an evangelical leader.

I am sure that members of the Liberty University community will treat Gov. Romney with the respect he deserves, regardless of whether they agree with his religious or political beliefs.

When my father traveled the nation speaking at many secular universities, he was often met with boos and hisses by those who held different theological beliefs than he. I am so proud that Liberty students have gained a reputation for treating those whose beliefs are different than their own in a Christ-like manner. You have shown respect to speakers as divergent from Liberty’s worldview as Ted Kennedy, Bob Beckel, and Tim Kaine.

Gov. Romney is a man who has excelled in business, governed a state, and even managed the Olympic games. He has been faithfully married to his wife, Ann, for 43 years, and they have 5 sons and 16 grandchildren. Gov. Romney is a leader of global significance, who might eventually be the leader of the free world, and we are honored that he accepted our invitation.

An invitation to speak at Commencement is not an ad-hoc endorsement of a presidential candidate or even of that particular speaker’s religious or political views. The ultimate purpose of having a prominent Commencement speaker is not to promote the speaker or his views but rather to inspire and challenge the graduates and showcase Liberty and its mission.

My prayer is that having the presumptive Republican nominee as our speaker will cause many who have never heard of Liberty to take notice of what Liberty is doing to train a generation of Champions for Christ. Perhaps, many of them will consider a Christian education over the secular alternative.


Jerry Falwell, Jr.
Chancellor and President

That explanation won’t cut it for some, but for many, no explanation would suffice at all.

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Cornerstone as a Multisite Church Only Weeks Away

It always seems that the busier things get the less time I have to just post a simple photo and put a caption on it. I’m sure this is the same with every blogger I just try to keep up regardless of my schedule, oh well. My house went from a nice calm state over the new year holiday to crazy in a matter of a few days once the semester started back up again, but one other reason is pictured above. I took that photo with my iPhone about a week ago during a planning meeting for Cornerstone at Lee-Scott, our new multi-site location, and right where I am standing is where we will begin worshipping in February. The sheer volume of things to be done by everyone has grown wildly, but the time to open is almost here.

I have been reading Matthew for the last few weeks and this morning I ended with those famous words Jesus spoke after the resurrection in Matthew 28. In the Greek πορευθέντες (poreuthentes) is difficult to determine a proper tense, but when you try to translate it to English, it all comes out to be an action. Having gone, as you go, while you are going, and go therefore, are all common translations, but “GO” puts the emphasis on the imperative character, which gives the sense of a strong “go” in the missionary command.[1]

That’s a complicated way to say, it’s an exciting time at Cornerstone when 9-10 months of planning comes down to two characters in the English language… G-O. That work has been going on for a while, and that part is almost here. Make disciples… (over at Lee-Scott), that work is just about to begin. Today this image servers also as my Project 365 [Day 50] photo (see the rest of the P365.me :2012 here).

[1] A More Accurate Look at Matthew 28:19, By John A. Finton.

Is Mission Work a Success Without a Tangible Objective?

It’s hard for me to believe that in just three weeks our next team will be on our way to Uganda. I am basically still processing what our previous team did while we were there in early August, but our next team has been meeting now for months to prepare for our trip, which leaves on October 5th. The mission of these two teams couldn’t be more different in planning, people, and objectives, while all being unified under the banner of Matthew 28:19.

Over the last few weeks I have been trying to figure out how to explain, in actual words, what it means to “go”, at least in the context of going to Uganda. Since coming back from my last trip I have been asked many different questions, but the questions that are the most difficult for me to answer are the ones that require a tangible objective reached to be valid. They are perfectly valid questions when it costs so much to “go”, but it’s also mutually exclusive to the directive in Matthew 28:19, and a tangible result (or lack of one) doesn’t always equate to success or failure of the mission.

There are so many different churches, groups, and organizations working in places all over the world like Uganda that most “trips” are setup to specifically achieve objective A-B-C, and when they get back, they can say, it was a success, we did A-B-C. These are “clean straight lines” as our beloved staff member likes to say. Problem is, as I have learned, it isn’t that clean, and the lines are rarely straight. They aren’t arranged efficiently to move down from point A to point B while all done in the proper order. Of course this is mainly because we are dealing with people here, not data points or entries on a balance sheet to put it in accounting terms I’m familiar with myself.

No one travels over 16,000 miles without planning and preparation, and specific objectives they would like to see accomplished, but the words of Matthew that say “make disciples of all nations” isn’t a precise checklist, thank goodness. I took many classes in seminary that were specifically discipleship classes, and one basically spent the entire semester discussing those five words. For some teams “make disciples” means installing rain catch systems, for others it’s digging a well, or building a church building, or playing soccer. Sometimes, “make disciples” means building relationships, and how do you quantify that into points A-B-C, and why would we want to. And that’s what I love about our mission. We have done and are doing the specifics, but it’s for the purpose of building relationships with those brothers and sisters in Christ and for those who have yet to hear the Good News, and the results are not always quantifiable in western terms.

Our team that leaves in three weeks has every single day cram-packed at this point. For the first time we are going to be working with 60 Feet, an organization that “bring[s] hope and restoration to imprisoned children“, research in the science of clean water at the university level, and a host of other things in Buloba and the orphanage. Will these translate into tangible objectives reached? I have no idea, and I am starting to ask why it is so important other than to satisfy our western view of productivity and progress. If we were a corporation it would be totally different, but we aren’t, we are working for the objective of Matthew 28:19. Accountability and using the always limited resources of any non-profit is of the utmost importance to everyone, but I still think the end result has to be balanced with the goals of Matthew 28:19.

Years ago I probably wouldn’t have ever written this post, but then, a few months ago, I met the girl in the photo I took above, and realized that she doesn’t care about any of that. David Platt did a much better job explaining this than I just did in his book I reviewed back in March, Radical. This journey didn’t start for me back in March, or during this previous trip in August, and I don’t expect it to end with this next trip in October, because this is what God has commissioned us to do for those who believe in Him, and I hope I will always be involved in God’s objectives, tangible or intangible.