35 African-American alumni from Liberty University sign a petition calling on Jerry Falwell Jr to repent and take down his tweet about wearing a blackface mask involving the Virginia Governor. The petition calls out Jerry Falwell’s racism and two of the signers are Eric Saunders and Gavin Davis from McLean Bible Church.
“Collective fear stimulates herd instinct, and tends to produce ferocity toward
those who are not regarded as members of the herd.”
And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place[a] of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people,[b] and God himself will be with them as their God.[c] 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
Revelation 21:2-4 ESV
Jerry Falwell Jr.
As you recall Jerry Falwell Jr made a racist joke the other day on Twitter that created quite stir. It led to a Liberty University professor resigning and brought out a lo of criticism. You can read about the situation in the following blog post, “Jerry Falwell Jr’s Racial Blackface Joke with a COVID-19 Mask Results in an African-American Liberty Professor Resigning in Protest.” As a result of Jerry Falwell Jr’s behavior 35 African-American alumni put together a letter and called out Jerry Falwell Jr’s behavior. They are wanting him to repent and take down the blackface tweet he did on Twitter. Two of those individuals who are participating are Eric Saunders and Gavin Davis from McLean Bible .
Who is Eric Saunders and Gavin Davis?
Eric Saunders and Gavin Davis are two African-American pastors at McLean Bible Church. Eric Saunders is the lead pastor at McLean Bible Arlington. This blog has written about Eric Saunders previously in, “Eric Saunders Recent Message on Biblical Membership to McLean Bible Arlington Must be Rejected. Today’s Wondering Eagle Explains Why.” This blog analyzed Eric Saunders sermon and encouraged people to soundly reject what he was teaching about membership. Previously Eric was in pastor roles in Raleigh, North Carolina and Hampton Roads, Virginia. Gavin Davis leads worship at all services at Prince William County. Gavin grew up in Southern Virginia. He has been involved in music ministry in different capacities over the course of time. Gavin graduated from Liberty University in 2007. He came to McLean Bible in September of 2014 from Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg.
Preserving the Letter That Eric Saunders and Gavin Davis Signed that was Given to Jerry Falwell Jr.
Eric Saunders and Gavin Davis as African-American alumni of Liberty University added their names as some of the alumni requesting that Jerry Falwell Jr. repent and take down his tweet about wearing a blackface mask. You can read the entire letter below. I snagged this from Warren Throckmorton’s blog. But since this blog writes about issues and developments with McLean Bible I decided to take a different aspect to this story. You can read Warren’s blog post in, “Petition from Former Athletes and Alums Calls on Falwell to Retract Blackface/KKK Mask Tweet.” Also if you want to see the change petition you can do so here.
This letter was sent to Liberty University President Falwell on June 1, 2020 by 35 African-American pastors, ministry leaders, and former athletes who graduated from Liberty University. L.U. students, alumni, staff, and parents of any race or ethnicity who agree with this message are encouraged to sign this petition.
Dear President Jerry Falwell Jr,
We are all African-American Evangelical pastors, ministry leaders, and former athletes who are alumni of Liberty University, and we are grateful for our college experiences. These experiences have shaped us in deep and profound ways and have equipped us to engage our local context with the Gospel of Jesus, both thoughtfully and unashamedly. The school’s mission is to educate and train champions for Christ to impact the culture, and we believe the objective has been achieved for many years. While we rejoice in God’s grace in advancing this mission, we, however, have been disappointed and deeply grieved by your incendiary rhetoric over the past several years.
The latest example is your May 27 tweet of a face mask with an image of two people, one in a KKK robe and hood and one appearing in blackface. While your tweet may have been in-jest about Virginia’s Governor, it made light of our nation’s painful history of slavery and racism. It is what we’re called to reject as followers of Christ – “Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place…” (Ephesians 5:4, ESV). The reckless nature of this tweet is a microcosm of the past several years of divisive rhetoric that does not display the kind of Christian witness that the Gospel demands of us, nor does it represent the Christlike leadership that Liberty University deserves. It has brought further disgrace to Jesus Christ and Liberty University.
For several years, you have said and defended inappropriate statements that represent Liberty and our faith very poorly. You have belittled staff, students and parents, you have defended inappropriate behaviors of politicians, encouraged violence, and disrespected people of other faiths. We were all taught at Liberty about the sanctity of life (Jeremiah 1:5) and the dignity of every human – made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27), and yet, you have repeatedly violated and misrepresented core Christian principles (Romans 12:9-21) through brash tweets and statements that harm our Christian witness.
While students, professors, and alumni have urged you to alter your rhetoric and repent, sadly nothing has changed. The unfortunate fact of the matter is that Liberty University is a family-owned organization and you are the sole authority. The Board of Trustees has no power to influence your behavior or hold you accountable. So, the objective of this letter is to appeal to you and your spiritual conviction.
We are writing to urge you to stop this infantile behavior and lead our alma mater with dignity as your father did. Jerry Falwell Sr was more focused on preparing the next generation to courageously engage the culture as “ambassadors for Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:20). He wasn’t perfect, but he was humble enough to confess ungracious and unbiblical comments, and apologize when he was wrong. The KKK robe and hood and blackface face mask tweet may seem funny to you, but this tweet is the action of a political commentator or activist and is not fitting nor acceptable for the leader of one of the largest Evangelical Christian schools in the world. A review of your social media and statements during your presidency would lead many to believe that you care much more about politics than Jesus Christ, Evangelism, and the discipleship of students. It has become obvious to many that your heart is in politics more than Christian academia or ministry, so we would encourage you to leave the position of school president and pursue politics full-time.
Your statements hurt the ability of Liberty alumni to obtain jobs and have a voice in the culture. Having the school’s name on a resume can be a liability to many of our graduates. As much as you say that your statements and activism do not reflect the mission, values, faculty, staff, students and alumni of the Liberty University as a whole, this is a misguided position because everything you do and say is a reflection of Liberty University, whether you want it to be or not. You are the president of a Christian university with a platform of great influence and you have the unique responsibility to steward that role in a way that honors God first and foremost.
Lastly, we leave you with this. Because of your callous rhetoric, we can no longer in good faith encourage students to attend our alma mater or accept athletic scholarships. There are many Christians of color who worship in our churches and communities; we will not recommend their attendance at L.U. as long as you continue the unChristlike rhetoric. We will no longer donate funds to the university. We will also actively encourage Christian leaders to decline the invitation to speak at Liberty if you continue to insist on making unChristlike and inappropriate statements that are misrepresentative of Biblical Christianity.
In closing, we ask you to withdraw your racist tweet immediately and make a public apology. If you decide to stay at Liberty, this coalition stands ready to meet with you in order to provide counsel on ways for L.U. to best move forward in these racially-charged and divisive times. Liberty University deeply impacted us as students and we hope that you can return to a focus of training “young champions for Christ” with Biblical conviction and Christlike character and humility. Our ultimate goal is for Jesus to be glorified in all that we say and do. We pray that is your desire as well.
In His grace,
Dr. Chris Williamson (Strong Tower Bible Church, TN), Class of ‘90 & ‘92
Pastor Eric Carroll (The Ascension Church RVA, VA), Class of ‘91
Eric Green (former NFL player, Liberty University Hall of Fame), Class of ’90
Pastor Eric Saunders (McLean Bible Church, VA), Class of ‘07
Walt Aikens (NFL player, football student-athlete), Class of ’14
Latasha Morrison (Founder, Be The Bridge), Class of ‘13
Minister Myles “Mac” Lawhorn (Epiphany Fellowship Church, PA), Class of ‘00
Obehi Idiake (Christian speaker, podcaster), Class of ‘14
Minister Maina Mwaura (author, speaker), Class of ‘97
Pastor Marcell Howard (Woodhaven Bible Church, MI) Class of ‘03 & ‘10
Lezlyn Parker (author, speaker), Class of ‘89
Richard Shelton (former NFL player, football student-athlete), Class of ’89
Khambrel “Kham” Rembert (Christian musician), Class of ‘17
Pastor Gavin Davis (McLean Bible Church, VA), Class of ‘06
Dorena McFarland Williamson (author, speaker), Class of ’91
Rev. Dr. Johnny Parker (author, speaker), graduate student ‘05
Dr. Joy Hervey (author, speaker), Class of ‘18
Johnny T. White (H.S. Coach, football student-athlete),Class of ‘93
Shomari Dixon (ministry leader), Class of ‘19
Wayne Haddix (former NFL player, football student-athlete), Class of ’88
Rev. Brian D. Woolfolk (First Mt. Zion Baptist Church, VA), Class of ‘92
Minister Tiffany Croom, Class of ‘13
Patrick Nelson (former NFL player), Class of ‘92
Shelton Lewis, (football student-athlete) Class of ’93
Carroll L. Ward (football student-athlete), Class of 90
Pastor James Hobson Jr. (Hill City Community Church, VA), Class of ‘11 & ‘17
Curtis Artis (Christian nonprofit leader), Class of ‘91
Keith Vinson (football student-athlete), Class of ’91
LaTasha Washington (Christian counselor), Class of ‘16
Allan Louder (Basketball Student-Athlete), Class of ’91
Dr. Andre Sims (Christ the King Bible Fellowship, WA), Class of ’88 & ’91
Pastor Jua Robinson (Charles River Baptist Church, MA), Class of ’04 & ’05
Joshua McMillion (Christian musician), Class of ‘17
Pastor Marion Mason (former LU Assistant Track Coach), Class of ‘06
Corey Rice (football student-athlete), Class of ‘93
Good Luck with the Pushback and Some Thoughts on the Situation
First of all this blog would like to commend both Eric Saunders and Gavin Davis for pushing back and calling out Jerry Falwell Jr’s racism. Its commendable as often times many evangelicals look the other way. From the C.J. Mahaney Sovereign Grace Ministry scandal to Mark Driscoll’s Mars Hill Seattle scandal how many people whether it be sex abuse, racial issues or more many evangelicals look the other way? So in an effort to be fair this blog wants to commend both McLean Bible pastors.
However, when I read that letter up top while I hope Falwell accepts, because of his narcissism I don’t expect him to do so. And that raises another issue. This blog from the perspective as an outsider is baffled as to why anyone would want to attend Liberty University. If someone went to Trinity International University I could respect that. The same applies to Fuller, Wheaton, Moody, BIOLA, Calvin University in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Liberty is a school that really doesn’t deserve that much respect. I see Liberty not so much as a school but as a political tool in the culture wars. By the way what type of Christian university would drop its philosophy program? You can read more in, “Liberty University Axes its Philosophy Department.” Liberty cheapens education by claiming its about education. A degree from Liberty cheapens my degree from college. What should happen is that a degree from Liberty should also add an “LOL” on the diploma. But in that petition it mentions some interesting things about Jerry Falwell Sr. For Eric Saunders and Gavin Davis do you know how ridiculous it was to work at planting a Campus Crusade for Christ chapter in a university in Wisconsin in the September 11, 2001 era and have to deal with the fallout of Jerry Falwell Sr’s words about September 11? If you forget Falwell said that the World Trade Center in Manhattan was destroyed because of feminists, gays and the ACLU. You can read about it here. That came up from time to time and it was embarrassing. Liberty has long been damaged goods and those who claim otherwise are dealing with cognitive dissonance. They are too invested to be able to say otherwise. Well this blog wishes you well as this situation advances it will be interesting to see how things develop.