In 1971, Pastor Jerry Falwell, Sr. challenged his congregation at Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Va. to establish a Christian college whose students would “go out in all walks of life to impact this world for God.” Soon after, he and Dr. Elmer Towns (the only full-time professor at the time) co-founded Lynchburg Baptist College. With 154 students enrolled, many of its first courses centered on ministry training. The college was renamed Liberty Baptist College in 1976 during the Bicentennial of the United States.
In 1973 Dr. Jerry Falwell, Sr. envisioned a place for men and women to receive graduate level, Christ-centered education. The Lynchburg Baptist Theological Seminary later named the Liberty University Baptist Theological Seminary, was founded.
In 1985 Liberty Baptist College became Liberty University. The distance learning program, now known as Liberty University Online, began as the Liberty University School of Lifelong Learning. The distance learning program was designed to bring an accredited University program to non-traditional learners at home, military personnel, and Christian school teachers. The courses were adapted from those offered on the University campus. The initial programs offered were the A.A. in Religion, B.S. in Church Ministries, and M.A. in Counseling. Fourteen hundred students were registered for its initial semester.
In March 2015 President Jerry Falwell, Jr. announced in March that the undergraduate School of Religion was joining with the Seminary to form a new school of divinity under the leadership of Dr. Ed Hindson, who had succeeded Dr. Towns as the Dean of the School of Religion in the fall of 2013. Later that year ground was broken for the Freedom Tower, the new home for the newly named Rawlings School of Divinity.
The John W. Rawlings School of Divinity provides Christ-centered education and is committed to academic excellence with a focus on equipping the whole person for local and global ministry. Divinity students residentially and online have the opportunity to study under some of the world’s leading evangelical professors and have access to all the facilities of the largest private, nonprofit, four-year college in the country.