This post is a look at the group called Save 71. Stood up in August of 2020 its designed to bring about reform and change to Liberty University. This post looks at Dustin Wahl, Alexandra Green, Justin Winter and Calum Best. There are a number of issues that need to be probed at Liberty University. And challenges are deeply embedded which this blog is doubtful they can be overcome. However, this blog hopes it can be proven wrong and wishes Saving 71 success as it tackles the concerns which exist at Liberty University.
“Youth has no age.”
“The Youth of a Nation are the trustees of posterity.”
You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.
Isiah 26:3 NIV
Jerry Falwell Jr.
When the dust settlers down this blog is going to sit down and do a deep dive into Jerry Falwell Jr’s departure from the family business – Liberty University. However in reading and researching this situation this blog has noticed a new organization that has emerged that deserves a look. The name of the organization is called Save 71, and references the founding of Liberty University by Jerry Falwell Sr. in 1971.
What is Save 71?
Save 71 is a group of students, faculty and alumni who are concerned about the direction of Liberty University under the leadership of Jerry Falwell Jr. The organization stood up on August 10, 2020. Here is how the organization announced itself on Twitter.
The four individuals who founded Save 71 are Dustin Wahl, Calum Best, Alexandra Green and Justin Winter. This blog will write about all four individuals below. Save 71 has called out Jerry Falwell Jr’s abuse of Liberty University for years and outlined its objectives in a letter to the Board of Trustees.
Over the past several years, President Jerry Falwell Jr. has damaged the spiritual vitality, academic quality, and national reputation of Liberty University. We are a group of Liberty alumni, students, and faculty calling on the Board of Trustees to permanently remove President Falwell and replace him with a responsible and virtuous Christian leader.
To do this, the Board should appoint an independent committee of leaders from within the Liberty community, as well as leaders outside of it, to begin the search for a new president. We will put forth names of people we believe should be nominated to this committee in the coming days.
Liberty University, like any institution or person, needs to repent of its sins before seeking redemption. 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.
There is much to admire about Liberty, its students, and its professors. But for too long, Liberty’s leaders have used the school’s virtues to shield its sins and used its power to cloak its failures. That must end now. We put no faith in riches or comfort, in status or power.
We put our faith in Christ alone, and we want Liberty University to follow Him.
Save 71 is based in the Washington, D.C. area specifically Alexandria, Virginia.
A Closer Look at Save 71’s Leaders: Justin Winter, Alexandra Green, Calum Best and Dustin Wahl
There are four driving personalities behind Save 71. This is an examination at Dustin Wahl, Alexandra Green, Calum Best and Justin Winter.
Dustin Wahl appears to be the individual who organized Save 71 according to what he said on his Facebook page. Here is how he announced Save 71 on Facebook.
Dustin Wahl comes from Sioux Falls, South Dakota and studied political science at Liberty University. At Liberty he was a strong supporter of Florida Republican Senator Marco Rubio, and was active on the club on campus. When Jerry Falwell Jr endorsed Donald Trump, Dustin Wahl was horrified that Liberty was being tied to such an individual. Dustin got involved in Liberty United Against Trump. This is how he described it.
Alexandra Green graduated from Liberty University this past spring. She does the editing for the organization, Below are her thoughts on the turmoil of Jerry Falwell Jr resignation.
It appears she was involved in forensics and an instructor for the Washington Urban Debate League. In addition she also served as a research associate for Dr. Karen Swallow. This fall Alexandra starts Yale University and is in the Masters of Divinity program studying religion and literature.
Calum has written a piece about the Jerry Falwell Jr zipper picture for the The Bulwark which was founded by Charlie Sykes of Milwaukee. For those who do not know Charlie Sykes is a well known Never Trumper who authored a raw book called, “How the Right Lost Its Mind.” The article Calum wrote is called, “Jerry Falwell’s Zipper Has Been Down for Years.” This blog appreciated how that Bulwark article ended.
“Really, the only unassailably true things about Falwell are that he dismisses his faith at every turn, disavows his spiritual responsibility, and finds great fulfillment in the pursuit of political influence and prosperity. Just watch Convocation (the twice-weekly event required for all LU students) and note how Falwell is ever-absent for the sermons but ever-present for the politics. Beyond the spiritual dimensions of Falwell’s failure, it’s worth noting that an average person would be fired if they damaged the reputation of their employer half as much as Falwell has.
To my fellow members of the Liberty community: If anyone tries to downplay this latest incident to you (and they will; take my word for it), you should gently remind them that Falwell’s recent public indecency isn’t just a one-off parody but part of a long pattern. According to Falwell, his Instagram post was embarrassing to the young woman he was pictured with, but not to Falwell himself. And why would he be embarrassed? After all, Falwell’s zipper has been down for a long time. We’ve seen everything, and it’s too disturbing to stay quiet.
This blog would encourage interested readers to check out the entire article.
Calum graduated with a B.A in finance and accounting from Liberty this past spring. He was active in student government and residential hall leadership. He is involved in Teach for America in Memphis, Tennessee and this fall he is starting graduate school at the University of Pennsylvania School of Education.
Justin Winter is the last individual to make up Save 71. Justin graduated from Liberty in 2010 and does operations for the organization. Justin comes from West Palm Beach and currently lives in Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina. At Liberty he studied marketing and Biblical studies. He is the co-founder and owner of a start up of what appears to be an e-commerce company in North Carolina. Also according to my research it appears as if Justin Winter calls J.D. Greear’s The Summit home. J.D. Greear’s church recently hired Bryan Loritts who this blog has been writing about for the last couple of years. Bryan Loritts co-led an Acts 29 church in Memphis. Tennessee called Fellowship Memphis in 2010. His brother-in-law Rick Trotter was engaged in voyeurism and the manufacturing of child pornography inside a church restroom. Bryan Loritts allegedly covered it up and helped him get another job where he engaged in more criminal activity before being arrested and prosecuted in Tennessee. One of the bigger initiatives inside the Southern Baptist Convention, called Caring Well which deals with sex abuse has been called into doubt because of J.D. Greear’s church hiring of someone involved with the covering up of deviant sex crimes. You can read more about this in the following posts.
- “Bryan Loritts is Joining J.D. Greear’s The Summit Church on June 1, 2020. So Much For Caring About Sexual Misconduct and Sex Abuse Inside the Southern Baptist Convention.”
- “Of all the Scandals Written About at The Wondering Eagle, Bryan Loritts is the Most Disturbing. Here’s Why.”
- “Due to His Narcissism Bryan Loritts Over-Extended Himself with The Summit in Raleigh-Durham. And How Loritts Hiring is The Most Important Issue Inside the Southern Baptist Convention.”
- “A Damning Indictment: How J.D. Greear’s Southern Baptists Are Losing an African-American Pastor John Onwuchekwa While Hiring an African-American Pastor Bryan Lorits Who Allegedly Covered Up Sex Crimes. Plus How the Hiring of Loritts Will Tragically Reinforce Racism Against Blacks.”
This blog would recommend that Justin Winter find a new church. Its hard to say that you are against abuse at Liberty when you are involved in a church that hires questionable pastors who cover up sex crimes.
Why It Will Be Hard to Save Liberty
While the efforts of Save 71 are noble and this blog encourages them, it must also be said that it will be highly unlikely that the changes will be made. The problems with Liberty University run deep and are cultural. Liberty was founded as a family business of the Falwells and nepotism is deeply embedded into the culture. Fundamentalism and nepotism go hand in hand. And even though Falwell has left this blog has its doubts about the long term. Organizations like Liberty need deep transparency and examination and the culture is authorterian and dismissive to that needed policy. Culture is one of the hardest aspects to change. People have tried to change the culture of organizations like Sovereign Grace, Acts 29, Harvest Bible Chapel and others and they often come up short. Organizations like those do not change. Others will also resist the change as well as some have married politics and faith. The Save 71 organization will be badly misunderstood. While its encouraging that people are speaking up many people in this stream are not conditioned for independent thought.
Questions Save 71 Should Ask
There are some of the questions which need to be probed and asked. These are but a few and perhaps a launching point. Perhaps a diverse commission can be established which can look at some of the issues below and offer guidance. It needs to consist of outsiders to Liberty and indeed evangelicalism. Those outside the echo chamber can offer a much needed perspective.
- How much money was mishandled at Liberty University when Jerry Falwell Jr ruled there? Brandon Ambrosino’s Politico article made it clear that Falwell treated it like his own personal hedge fund. Save 71 should demand a full accounting that is independent and done by a secular outside organization. Leave ECFA out of it as ECFA has been found to be a joke after the Mars Hill Seattle, Gospel for Asia and Harvest Bible Chapel scandals. But a full accounting of the finances and the question did Jerry Falwell Jr violate Liberty’s 501(c)93) status need to be examined.
- Since Jerry Falwell Jr has walked away with $10.5 million dollars the question needs to be raised. What about those who faced discipline and expulsion from 2012 until 2018? Liberty owes them an apology and also debt relief or loan forgiveness if their life was harmed by Liberty’s actions. If that does not happen this blog suggest a class action lawsuit against Liberty due to the double standard. That issue has been looked at in, “What About Those Students Disciplined or Expelled at Liberty University From 2012 Until 2018?”
- Discussions between Falwell and the Board of Trustees and how a financial agreement was decided upon. All discussions need to be made available and brought out into the open.
- In light of the Giancarlo Granda story the question needs to be asked. Did Donald Trump learn of Jerry Falwell Jr’s affair and did he blackmail him to get an endorsement from Liberty? If Falwell was indeed blackmailed and there is truth to this story what will Liberty’s response be? Will it be to kick it under the carpet and say “aw shucks…” Will it face the information and work to right the wrong? Will Liberty apologize to the rest of evangelism for being used for political purposes? Or will Liberty go after Falwell in a lawsuit if such information comes forward? It takes bravery to face dark information and my question is the following. Is Liberty up to it?
- Will Liberty probe the racial issues and systemic racism that permeates the culture? There has been a departure of a number of African-Americans from Liberty. While African-Americans are a minority at Liberty and many will dismiss this point, this blog hopes that racial injustice can be examined.
- In addition to the previous question will Liberty University acknowledge the racial and other issues that went along with Jerry Falwell Sr and his legacy? Will they admit and have an open and honest discussion about the baggage of Jerry Falwell Sr had and the problems he contributed to? I will illustrate this point in the below section.
Jerry Falwell Sr blaming gays, feminists and others for September 11, 2001.
Justin Winter, Alexandra Green, Calum Best and Dustin Wahl Need to Understand the Larger Problem of Liberty University
Justin, Alexandra, Calum and Dustin are looking at many of these issues from the perspective of being alumni. But there is another angle that needs to be considered. All four of those individuals need to consider and acknowledge the harm Liberty has done to evangelicals, churches, and other ministries. The problems of Liberty extend far from Lynchburg and are exported both to Virginia, the East Coast and as I once learned even as far away as Wisconsin. Let me illustrate this by sharing two examples from my life.
At 27 I was a graduate student living in Milwaukee, Wisconsin working to plant a Campus Crusade for Christ chapter at Marquette University. When I was at Marquette September 11, 2001 occurred. On that dark day in American history 2,977 individuals were killed. I saw a campus go into a shock and mourning by what took place. One day I was walking through the student union and saw one of the television sets established for students to watch the 9-11 coverage. On CNN I watched the news clip that I have above. Jerry Falwell Sr was giving his commentary and claiming that September 11, 2001 occurred because of feminists, gays, the ACLU, People for the American Way and more. I was shocked to hear that information from Falwell. It bothered me deeply. However, what I did not realize as a para-church planter/student leader in Crusade is how much harder Jerry Falwell Sr made my job. When I interacted with some of the students from Marquette a couple of times people asked what I thought about what Jerry Falwell Sr said about September 11 being responsible because of gays and liberal organizations. It killed evangelism and I had to spend time distancing myself from Liberty and keep in mind this was in Southeastern Wisconsin. And in what Jerry Falwell Sr said no one in conservative evangelicalism said that the deaths of people at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon is not due to those who are gay or the ACLU. No one pushed back. No one corrected the record. In my particular situation at the time I was lumped into Liberty’s theology even while living in SE Wisconsin at the time. Jerry Falwell Sr. was cancerous in many ways.
Then when I moved to the Washington, D.C. area the problem changed. Liberty University after all is now in my backyard. As I went and tried differing churches I ran into Liberty alumni or students and I noticed some of the politicization a couple of times follow people who graduated from Liberty. Before I walked away from evangelicalism at my final church my small group leader was from Liberty University. I heard and listened to him talk about how wonderful the school is and I would sit there in a Bible study and think of what Jerry Falwell Sr shot off on Twitter earlier that day or the previous day. There were a couple of times I wanted to ask my Bible study leader, are we on the same planet? Are you seeing the Liberty that I am seeing? As the problems from Liberty continued to hemorrhage out I began to look at those who graduated from Liberty as persona non grata. It was that toxic. Many people from Liberty and evangelicalism operate inside a bubble. So these views may be hard to process or digest. But to the outsider Liberty became a stumbling block to the Christian faith.
The writer of this blog is done with evangelicalism due to the intellectual problems or spiritual abuse which is rampant inside evangelicalism. You can read more in, “Reflecting on My Decision to Reject Evangelical Christianity. Its Too Corrupt, Political and Intellectually Shallow.” The focus of this blog is not Liberty. Instead its the Evangelical Free Church of America, issues with the Neo-Calvinist movement, churches in the Washington, D.C. area and modern evangelicalism. Yet the problems of Liberty fall inside modern evangelicalism. And yet despite that this blog hopes that Dustin, Alexandra, Justin and Calum will achieve a measure of success in pursuing needed reforms at Liberty. Their work stands before them and this will no doubt be a difficult challenge. Yet from all that I have read they appear more than ready for the challenge. So this blog wishes them well and hopes they can make a difference in the issues hemorrhaging from Liberty University.