September 11, 2015 : By Ted Allen - Office of Communications & Public Engagement
On the 14th anniversary of the terrorist attacks that destroyed the World Trade Center in New York City, brought down Flight 93 in Pennsylvania, and battered the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., Liberty University held a special tribute to the victims and heroes of Sept. 11, 2001, during Friday’s Convocation.
As usual, Convocation was held in the Vines Center, which served as a sanctuary for students, faculty, staff, and the Lynchburg community at large in the immediate aftermath of 9/11.
Fourteen years ago, classes were canceled and students assembled for a prayer vigil led by Liberty founder and Chancellor Dr. Jerry Falwell.
Today, students watched a video produced by the Office of Spiritual Programs featuring interviews with faculty and administrators, as well as Friday’s Convocation speaker Jonathan Falwell, senior pastor of Thomas Road Baptist Church (TRBC). Col. Richard Hinkley, Liberty’s chief of police, joined Rev. Falwell on stage and received a standing ovation.
Back in 2001, Hinkley was an officer on campus. Senior Vice President for Spiritual Development David Nasser honored him along with U.S. law enforcement, fire, and emergency personnel on what has become known as Patriot Day.
“Fourteen years ago on this very day, we saw the course of history change on a day that will forever be known as 9/11, a day that brought us to our knees and awakened us to a greater need than just security in a great nation,” Nasser said. “Our lives will never be the same.”
Prior to Friday’s Convocation, students helped commemorate the occasion and remember the victims of 9/11 by decorating the lawn outside Jerry Falwell Library with thousands of miniature American flags.
After a visit from former Ethiopian Prime Minister Tamrat Layne, who exhorted students to become leaders who go out and change the world for Jesus Christ, President Jerry Falwell had the privilege of introducing his younger brother.
“My father had figured out that (Jonathan) had all of the attributes and the traits of a pastor,” said President Falwell, who succeeded Dr. Jerry Falwell Sr. as Liberty’s Chancellor following his death in 2007. “He has a pastor’s heart; he’s a peacemaker. He’s always looking for ways to get people to get along, no matter how contentious the situation is. I’m proud to call him my pastor.
“The thing I appreciate most about him is that the theme of his sermons are always centered around the Great Commandment of Jesus, to love God and love others. That’s what Christianity is all about. That’s where we want this university to go.”
Pastor Falwell started his message by applauding Wednesday’s Convocation speaker Dr. David Platt, president of the International Mission Board, who passionately shared his vision to send student missionaries out into the world, and Nasser, who introduced LU Send Now, Liberty’s new emergency relief initiative, in last Friday‘s Convocation.
He said while many students in the Vines Center were not old enough to remember the events of 9/11, they do realize how the country changed that day.
“One thing I know that sticks out in my mind more than anything is the commonality, the togetherness that we in our country felt at that time,” he said. “It didn’t matter what you believed. It didn’t matter where you stood. It didn’t matter whether you were a Republican or a Democrat. People were of one purpose, brought together by one single event. We were gathered together, and we believed, and we stood together and even though we disagreed, perhaps, we were Americans and we stood together.”
Since then, said Falwell, that sense of united purpose and hope has been lost on a national level.
“Here we are 14 years later, and we see a country that’s very much divided,” Pastor Falwell said. “Why is that so? I believe it’s because we’ve lost hope. I will tell you today that the only hope for the world is the hope that is found in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. That message hasn’t changed.”
He challenged the student body to become world changers by uniting with the body of Christ and being transformed to live like Jesus.
“It is impossible to have global impact until we have local impact,” Pastor Falwell said. “It is impossible to change the world until we allow God to change us in a very real way.
“If we’re going to transform the world — if we’re going to change the world with the Gospel of Jesus Christ — we better be passionate, we better be deliberate in allowing God to change us from the inside out.”
Before his brother spoke, President Falwell expressed his excitement over the entire fall lineup of Convocation speakers, including Monday’s visit from Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders.
“I want to reach out to people on all sides of the aisle — people with different viewpoints — because there are so many universities in this country that claim to be open-minded, claim to have academic freedom, claim to be open to any point of view, but the fact is they really are not open to certain types of views,” President Falwell said. “They’re not open to hearing from conservatives.”
He remembers the reception Jerry Falwell Sr. would receive when he spoke at many secular schools.
“When my father would speak at colleges and universities, Ivy League schools in the ‘80s, he was booed and hissed because of his conservative and Christian views,” President Falwell said. “So we want to set an example this semester. We’ve got lots of polarizing speakers, conservative and liberal, both sides, and we need to show the world that Liberty really is open-minded. We’re what all of those other universities claim to be in that we show Christian love and respect to everybody, no matter what they believe.”